Yesterday (22 July 2020) the government provided further detail on the new Hong Kong BN(O) visa, which will enable British National Overseas (BNO) citizens ordinarily resident in Hong Kong to begin a new life on British shores.
This tailor-made immigration route was first conceived by the British government when the Chinese government announced their decision to impose a new National Security Law on Hong Kong.
The new Hong Kong BN(O) Visa constitutes a significant change to the UK immigration system- it will allow BN(O) citizens to apply for either two periods of 30 months’ leave or 5 years’ leave. The new immigration route affords BN(O) citizens the right to live and work or study in the UK, and provides a path to full British citizenship.
The route will also provide those born after 1 July 1997 to a BN(O) registered parent with the ability to relocate to the UK.
Discussing the new Hong Kong BN(O) Visa, Home Secretary Priti Patel had this to say:
‘The UK has a strong historic relationship with the people of Hong Kong and we are keeping our promise to them to uphold their freedoms.
BN(O) citizens will now have a choice to come and live, work and study in the UK, building a new life for them and their family.
We look forward to welcoming BN(O) citizens to the UK.’
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said:
‘Today’s announcement shows the UK is keeping its word: we will not look the other way on Hong Kong, and we will not duck our historic responsibilities to its people.’
Those who use the new immigration route will have access to the labour market at any skill level and without salary thresholds, but will not be permitted to claim public funds. According to the UK government, this will enable those who want to live in the UK to do so and become ‘valued members of society’.
The Hong Kong BN(O) Visa is similar to that of a number of other visas in that Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) can be applied for after five years of continuous and lawful residence in the UK. Once ILR has been held for 12 months, full British citizenship can be applied for.
Use of the new immigration route is not contingent upon holding a valid Hong Kong BN(O) passport. Applicants will require a valid passport in order to show proof of identity, but this can be any applicable nationality passport. A valid or expired BN(O) passport can be used to show proof of BN(O) status, however the Home Office may be able to check the status of those who do not possess a BN(O) passport of any kind.
Those born after the 1 July 1997 were not eligible to be BN(Os) as they were born after the UK’s handover of Hong Kong.
The new visa route is set to open in January 2021. Those who are eligible can apply for the route both inside and outside the UK.
The UK government has stated that those who wish to travel before the route opens will be able to do so, subject to the usual immigration checks. BN(O) citizens are permitted to enter the UK as a visitor for up to six months without a visa, or apply for an existing visa route. Those who do not meet the Immigration Rules may be granted Leave Outside the Rules at the border. Eligible BN(O) citizens will be able to switch onto the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa from within the UK once it opens.
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