From 31 January 2021, the UK will open a new immigration route for British nationals (overseas) (‘BNO’) ordinarily resident in Hong Kong and their close family members, allowing them to move to the UK on a path to British citizenship.
The BNO nationality status was created by Article 4(1) of the Hong Kong (British Nationality) Order 1986 which came into effect on 1 July 1987. The status could be acquired through registration by adults and children who were British Dependent Territories Citizens by connection with Hong Kong. Holders of the BNO status are entitled to hold a passport.
BNO status holders and their close family members can apply for the new BNO visa. Applicants can use a valid or expired BNO passport to confirm their status. If they do not have a BNO passport, the Home Office may be able to check their status without it. Applicants will still require a valid travel document or passport as proof of identity. From 23 February 2021, applicants who hold a biometric BNO, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or EEA passport will be able to use a smartphone app to complete their application from home rather than having to attend a visa application centre.
Close family members will include spouses, civil or unmarried partners, children under the age of 18 and adult children born on or after 1 July 1997 (and their immediate dependants). In exceptional circumstances, where a high level of dependency can be demonstrated, other family members such as parents and grandparents, may also be included in the application.
With the exception of those who have lived in the UK for more than a year before applying, applicants will need to demonstrate that they are able to accommodate and provide financial support for themselves and any family members applying with them for a period of at least 6 months in the UK. They can use money held in a bank account, income from employment in the UK, other types of income (such as rental income) or offers of third-party support or accommodation to satisfy this requirement.
The do’s and don’t
BNO visa holders will have the opportunity to work, study and use NHS services whilst in the UK. Additionally, their children will be given the opportunity to attend school (if they are under 18), or undertake education and training (if they are 16-19 years of age). However, they will not be allowed to have resource to public funds.
Applications will open on 31 January 2021. BNOs will be able to apply for the BNO visa from both inside and outside the UK subject to standard criminality and immigration checks. If applying from outside the UK, applicants and their family members must be ordinarily resident in Hong Kong. If they are already in the UK, then they must be ordinarily resident in the UK, Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man or Hong Kong. A family unit must apply together. If applying separately, family members will not be able to apply for the BNO visa to join the applicant later.
Period of leave and costs
Successful applicants will be given the opportunity to enter or stay in the UK for either a period of 30 months (which can be extended for a further 30 months), or a period of 5 years. Subsequently, BNO visa holders will be able to apply for settlement upon completing the 5-year qualifying period, and British citizenship 12 months after becoming settled in the UK.
It costs £180 to apply for a 30-month visa; and £250 to apply for 5-year visa. Applicants and their dependants must also pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (adults - £1,560 if applying for 30 months or £3,120 if applying for 5 years and children under the age of 18 - £1,175 if applying for 30 months or £2,350 if applying for 5 years).
Alternative routes for Hong Kong citizens
Hong Kong citizens who do not hold BNO status can come to the UK under other immigration categories including the youth mobility scheme and the new simplified points-based system.
Contents of this note are intended for general information only and must not be used as a substitute for legal advice. You should always take legal advice which is tailored to your specific needs and circumstances.
If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised, please contact our immigration team:
Elena Tsirlina | Solicitor, Head of Immigration and Asylum
firstname.lastname@example.org | +44 7891 857588
Sadia Ahmed | Solicitor
email@example.com | +44 7462 116621