The Home Office is expecting around 300,000 people to exercise a newly offered right to move to the UK and eventually seek citizenship in the next five years. The scheme was announced last July in response to the worsening security situation in Hong Kong, as the Chinese government tightens its control over the city with national security laws. The UK says it is fulfilling a historic and moral commitment to Hong Kong people after Beijing imposed the security law on the semi-autonomous city which the UK says breaches the terms of agreements under which the colony was handed back to China in 1997.
As a holding measure since last summer, BNO citizens have been able to get leave outside the Rules at the border, which allows people to stay in the UK legally while waiting for the BNO visa category to open formally. The Home Office has extended that concession until “after the route becomes fully digital”.
Online applications for the scheme – which is open to about 5 million Hongkongers who hold a British national overseas (BNO) status, or are their dependants – finally opened on Sunday.
The ‘BNO visa’ as it is known allows a BNO with links to Hong Kong to live, work and study in the UK so long as their permanent home is in Hong Kong, if you’re applying from outside the UK, or in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, or Hong Kong, if you’re applying in the UK. Prior to 31 January 2021, BNO passport holders could visit the UK for up to six months without a visa. However if they wished to live in the UK they would have had to qualify for a visa under the immigration rules, which in reality was limited to being offered sponsored employment or being able to invest funds in a UK business.
The BNO visa allows them to stay for either two years and six months or for five years. It can be extended if they want to stay longer and can be extended an unlimited amount of times. Family members are also eligible but must apply at the same time as the main applicant.
The positive features of this new immigration category are:
- Lenient eligibility criteria – There are no skills or minimum income requirements to be met. There is however a Maintenance requirement to be met by some applicants, depending on where they are applying and the number of dependents
- Dependants also eligible – Applicants can bring their immediate dependants, including non-BNO citizens, and the definition of dependent is wider than other immigration categories (spouse/partner, child/grandchild under 18, dependent parent, grandparent, brother, sister, or child over 18)
- No job or sponsorship necessary – Applicants will not need to have secure a job before they apply – they can look for work once they are here
- No BNO passport necessary – Applicants do not need to have a BNO passport to be eligible for the Hong Kong BNO visa
- Route to settlement & citizenship – After 5 years in the UK under the Hong Kong BNO visa, holders can become eligible for indefinite leave to remain. After 12 months with ILR, they can become eligible for British citizenship
- Apply in the UK or from overseas – Applications can be made from within the UK or outside
- No restrictions on employment – Applicants will have access to the job market at any skill level and without salary threshold, and can be self-employed
Our Immigration lawyers have the knowledge and experience to guide you through these challenging times and have been ranked in the Legal 500 for their expertise.
If you are in need of advice or assistance on any of the issues mentioned in this article please contact Mariam or another member of our expert Immigration Team on 020 7631 4141 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The above is correct as at 04 February 2021. The information above may be subject to change as this is a constantly evolving situation.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case by case basis.