The Hong Kong British National Overseas Visa
The UK Government have outlined details for a new immigration route for British National (Overseas) (BNO) citizens from Hong Kong. The new route has been put in place in response to the unprecedented circumstances in Hong Kong and the imposition by the Chinese government of a national security law. The new law restricts the freedom and rights of citizens of Hong Kong, and due to the UK’s “moral and historic commitment to BNO citizens” the UK Government have introduced the new visa route.
Applications for the Hong Kong BNO visa will be accepted from January 2021. From this date, successful applicants will be able to move to and live in the UK for a specified period of 2.5 years or 5 years. After 5 years of living in the UK, visa holders will be permitted to apply for indefinite leave to remain. BNO citizens already in living in the UK on another visa will also be able to apply and switch to the Hong Kong BNO visa from within the UK from January 2021.
Overview of requirements for a Hong Kong BNO visa
Status: The Main Applicant must be a British National (Overseas), but does not necessarily need a current BNO passport.
Dependents: Family members can apply for dependent visas if they are the main visa holders partner, spouse, child under 18, child over 18 who is still dependent, some older relatives.
Residency: The Main Applicant and Dependants must be “ordinarily resident” in Hong Kong.
Financial: Proof should be provided that the visa holder and applicant can accommodate and support themselves in the UK for at least six months.
English: There is no English language requirement but English proficiency will be required if applicants go on to apply for settlement.
TB: The applicant and dependents must show a valid TB Certificate.
Fees: The applicant will be expected to pay an application fee and Immigration Health Surcharge fee.
Who is eligible for the Hong Kong BNO visa?
The visa rules specify that the main applicant for this visa must be a British National Overseas citizen. This means that individuals born after 1997 will immediately not qualify. Applicants do not need to hold a valid BNO passport, however if they have an expired BNO passport, it is recommended to provide this to aid the visa application. The UK government have confirmed that where a BNO passport has been lost, eligibility checks can be made using historical records held by Her Majesty’s Passport Office.
Applicants for this visa must be “ordinarily resident in Hong Kong”. This means in order to apply for this visa route, applicants must have “a regular habitual mode of life” in Hong Kong, even if this is dispersed by temporary or occasional absences. Although the government has not relayed concrete advice on this yet, this could mean that BNO’s living outside of Hong Kong could still be eligible to apply for the visa under some circumstances.
There is no English language requirements for the visa, but after living in the UK for five years, visa holders who want to apply for indefinite leave to remain will need to be able to show a “good knowledge of the English language”.
How does the application process work for the Hong Kong BNO visa?
Applicants for the British National (Overseas) visa will be able to apply online, submitting an application form and supporting documents including a scan of their passport, facial images and a tuberculosis test certificate. Successful applicants will receive a digital only visa which can be accessed online. It is expected that more details will be unveiled by the UK government in Autumn.
Unlike some other visa applications, BNO applicants will not be required to provide fingerprints. However BNO family members who are applying as dependents will have be required to go to a visa application centre to provide them.
How long does the BNO visa last?
Applicants will be given the option to apply for the British National Overseas visa for either 2.5 years or 5 years. If the 2.5 year option is chosen, visa holders will be able to renew the visa after 2.5 years for the same duration again, taking them to a total of 5 years in the UK. Applicants can choose a full 5 year visa from the outset, but it is expected this will be at a higher cost financially.
Can you bring my family to the UK on a Hong Kong BNO visa?
The British National (Overseas) visa allows individuals to bring their family members to the UK with them. Family members will need to apply for visas as dependents of the main application. Visa holders will be permitted to bring their non-BNO partners, children under the age of 18 and children over the age of 18 if they are still dependent. Certain adult relatives will also be permitted to apply under this route if they meet the dependent criteria.
Can you work in the UK on a British National (Overseas) visa?
BNO visa holders will have the right to work in the UK, either through employment or self-employment. Individuals will also be permitted to apply to higher education institutions to study in the UK. Children can be enrolled in state schools.
How much does the British National (Overseas) visa cost?
A concrete cost for the visa has not yet been outlined by the UK government and it is expected that more information on this will be released in Autumn. Guidelines suggest that applicants and their dependents will need to prove that they are able to support themselves in the UK for at least six months.
BNO visa holders will not have access to public funds such as benefits, income support or tax credit. They will have access to the National Health Service and will have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge of £1,560 per person for a 2.5 year applicant, or £3,120 per person for a 5 year applicant.
At Westkin, we can provide applicants with an assessment for £400 + VAT. For full assistance with the visa from our expert team, we charge £2000 per applicant, or £2500 for applicants with dependents. Assessments are not required for simple cases but for more difficult ones, it may be necessary. Please get in touch with our team if you require any assistance.
What are the options for Hong Kong citizens who don’t qualify for BNO?
This visa route has been specified by the UK Government as one which is only viable for Hong Kong citizens who have a British National Overseas passport. If you don’t have a BNO passport but are still considering your options for moving to the UK, there are other visa routes which may be suited to you and your situation such as:
If you are unsure whether you are eligible for a BNO passport or would like to explore your options with other visa routes, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
How Westkin Associates can help you
Applications for the Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa are not yet open, and will be as of January 2021. Considering a new visa under the complex nature of the UK immigration system is a daunting process and makes room for many pitfalls.
At Westkin, we understand the complexity of the situation and the BNO visa route. Our lawyers have a background of dealing with complex nationality cases and can guide you through the process. Through our network of contacts in Hong Kong who can assist with document certification and other needs, we aim to make the process smoother.
We have been advising our existing Hong Kong clients from the moment that the news of the BNO visa route broke. Our lawyers are trained in bespoke legal representations and finding solutions to complexities. We can guide you through the process and answer your questions on preparing to apply for a BNO visa.
5th Floor, Maddox House,
1 Maddox Street
0207 118 4546