The United Kingdom Government has opened a new bespoke Visa route for British Nationals (Overseas), which has been available from 31 January 2021. This new option for Hong Kong nationals was announced in light of the recent National Security law which China has now imposed on the people of Hong Kong, and in recognition of the long-standing ties the UK has with Hong Kong and its residents.
This new Visa will allow individuals to enter or to remain in the UK for an initial period of 30 months, which can then be extended by an extra 30 months, or for a single period of 5 years.
Those wanting to apply for the Visa are able to do so from both inside and outside the UK. By permitting BN(O) citizens to reside within the UK for 5 years under the new Visa route, this will allow them to apply for indefinite leave to remain’, with the additional option of applying for British Citizenship once they have retained this status for 12 months.
This new Visa route provides more allowances as to what you are able to do as a BN(O) citizen. Currently, as a BN(O) citizen, you are able to stay in the UK as a visitor for up to 6 months without a Visa. However, you are subject to immigration control and, as a visitor, you do not have the right to live, work, or take up long-term studies in the UK.
Under the guise of the BN(O) Visa, citizens are now able to; work, study (including applying for higher education courses), and use the National Health Service (NHS). Children of those who apply for citizenship will be able to attend school if they are under 18 and attend education and training if they are aged 16-19. You will, however, still not be able to claim any public funds such as social welfare benefits.
To be eligible to apply for this Visa route you will need to show or provide various pieces of information;
- BN(O) status – You don’t need valid a BN(O) passport to show this and you won’t need to request a new passport if it’s expired or has been lost.
- Current residency – You must be able to show that you currently reside in either Hong Kong or the United Kingdom.
- Financial Stability – You must be able to show that you can accommodate and support yourself financially in the UK for at least 6 months.
- A commitment to becoming a British Citizen – Once you have lived in the UK for 5 years you will be able to settle in the UK (also called ‘indefinite leave to remain’) To accomplish this you will need to meet several requirements.
- Tuberculosis checks – You must be able to show a (TB) test certificate from a clinic approved by the home office.
You will also need to show evidence of these requirements for any non-BN(O) dependants that are linked to you when travelling to the UK together.
BN(O) citizens who are already in the UK
If you are already residing within the UK, you can apply for the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa from within the UK. You will also be eligible to apply from within the UK if you were granted ‘Leave Outside the Rules’ at the time of your arrival.
BN(O) Visa applicants will be required to pay a fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) – once paid, the IHS, will allow you to use the National Health Service (NHS) whilst residing in the UK.
This information has been provided based on the most recent update from the UK Government initially published in July 2020, and then further updated in February 2021. As such, the rules and guidelines detailed above are subject to further change.
If you have any questions regarding the Hong Kong BN(O) visa route or would like specific, bespoke advice on any UK immigration matters, please contact Ian Cook, of Animo Legal, by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by filling out our contact form below.