- Overview of Migrating to the UK from Hong Kong
- British National Overseas Visa
- Skilled Worker Visa
- How Do I Apply for a Skilled Worker Visa?
- Other UK Work Visas for Hong Kongers
- UK Business Visas for Hong Kongers
- High Potential Individual Visa for Hong Kongers
- UK Spouse Visas for Hong Kongers
- UK Family Visas for Hong Kongers
- How Can IAS Help?
- Frequently Asked Questions
Overview of Migrating to the UK from Hong Kong
The UK and Hong Kong have historically had a strong and close political and social relationship.
The UK is one of the most popular destinations for Hong Konger expats after China, the US and Canada, and Hong Kong-born residents have enjoyed restriction-free travel to the UK since the Nationality Act of 1948.
This link was cemented in 2020 with the introduction of the British National Overseas (BNO) visa, which saw around 40% of eligible Hong Kongers considering moving to the UK, according to the Migration Observatory.
Aside from the BNO visa, however, there are still a wealth of routes and pathways for Hong Kongers to make the UK their home.
These include a variety of visas for skilled workers, business visas for entrepreneurs, and also family visas for those with family already in the UK.
Hong Kongers will also be reassured to learn that there are a number of groups and organisations in the UK dedicated to helping Hong Kongers settle and transition to life in the UK. These groups also aim to help connect the Hong Konger expat community at large.
Do Hong Kong Citizens Need a Visa for the UK?
Whether or not you’ll require a visa to come to the UK depends on the type of citizenship you have, the type of travel document you own, and the reasons for visiting the UK.
If you simply wish to visit the UK for a period of 6 months or less for things such as tourism, visiting family and friends or certain business activities, the guidelines are as follows:
- If you’re a Hong Kong citizen travelling with a Hong Kong passport, you will not need to apply for a Visitor visa to visit the UK.
- If you’re a Hong Kong citizen travelling with a Hong Kong travel document, you:
- May not need to apply for a Visitor visa if you’ll be travelling with a family member who is a British citizen or from another European country
- Will need to apply for a Visitor visa if you’re not travelling with an eligible family member
- If you’re a Hong Kong (British national overseas) citizen, you will not need to apply for a Visitor visa to visit the UK.
If you’re travelling to the UK and you wish to work, start your own business, study for longer than 6 months, get married or intend to settle in the UK permanently, you must normally apply for a dedicated visa.
British National Overseas Visa
The British National Overseas (BNO) visa is a special visa specifically for those who hold British national (overseas) status.
It allows status holders to live, work and study in the UK, eventually allowing you to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
The deadline for most people to apply for British national (overseas) status was 1 July 1997. However, if you don’t have the status but your family member does, they may be able to get a BNO visa and bring family members such as their spouse, partner, children or adult dependent relatives with them to the UK.
The main eligibility criteria for the Hong Kong BNO visa are relatively simple. You must:
- Have British national (overseas) status
- Normally live in Hong Kong if applying from Hong Kong or currently live in the UK on another valid visa if you’re applying from inside the UK
You’ll need to provide proof of your BN(O) status, proof of address, and also prove that you have enough money to support your family members in the UK.
Skilled Worker Visa
If you’re not eligible to apply for a BNO visa, there are still a wide range of options available to you if you wish to move to the UK.
For example, the Skilled Worker visa is a route for all Hong Kong residents regardless of whether they have BNO status or not.
To be eligible for this visa, you must have a certificate of sponsorship from a Home Office-approved employer, and have a job that’s on the eligible list of occupations.
The list of eligible occupations, far from being restrictive or exclusionary, covers a huge range of different occupations in a variety of industries and areas.
As a result, there’s a good chance that you will be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa if you can identify career opportunities for your profession in the UK.
The Skilled Worker visa will allow you to stay in the UK for up to 5 years, after which you can either extend it or apply for indefinite leave to remain. You will also have to update or extend your visa if you switch jobs, or if you decide to switch to another visa, such as a Spouse visa.
How Do I Apply for a Skilled Worker Visa?
The Skilled Worker visa operates on a points-based system to assess potential candidates. This means that you will have to attain the minimum number of points necessary in order to qualify.
You can gain points based on factors such as the following:
- If you have a valid job offer from an approved sponsor
- Your English language ability
- Your expected salary for your new job
- If your new job is in an industry with a shortage of workers
- If you have a PhD
Some of these, such as having a valid job offer and meeting the minimum English language ability, are mandatory to apply for the Skilled Worker visa.
However, other factors are ‘tradeable’, which means that you will have the freedom to make up the rest of the points across various categories based on where your strengths and experience lie.
You will normally have to attain a minimum of 70 points to be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa.
Once you’ve established that you meet all the eligibility criteria and gathered proof of your suitability, you can apply for the visa online through the Gov.uk website.
Other UK Work Visas for Hong Kongers
The UK also offers a variety of other work visas that are more specialised than the Skilled Worker visa.
For example, the Scale-Up visa would suit Hong Kongers who specifically wish to support rapidly growing businesses in the UK. This visa also requires you to have a sponsored offer of employment from an authorised employer, but only for the first 6 months.
The Senior or Specialist Worker visa would also be a good fit for those who wish to come and work in a UK-based branch of their existing employer.
Finally, the Health and Care Worker visa is an ideal choice for those with experience in health and care professions. It’s similar to the Skilled Worker visa in that you must have a certificate of sponsorship from an approved employer in order to be eligible, as well as meeting the rest of the eligibility criteria.
IAS can help you determine your eligibility for UK work visas and assess which one would be the best fit for you for your move to the UK. For more information about our services and to arrange a one-to-one consultation with an immigration adviser, reach out to us on +44333 305 9375, or contact us online.
UK Business Visas for Hong Kongers
If a UK work visa isn’t right for you, you may be interested in a business visa if you wish to come and establish a new business after emigrating to the UK.
The Start-Up visa allows you to set up a new and innovative business in the UK that sets itself apart from anything else already in the market.
This visa will require sponsorship from an authorised body, such as a higher education institution or a business organisation with a history of supporting UK entrepreneurs.
However, note that the Start-Up visa can’t be used to eventually apply for settlement in the UK. Instead, you may switch to the UK’s other business visa instead, which is the Innovator visa.
The Innovator visa will also require you to have sponsorship from an authorised body, in addition to at least £50,000 in investment funds.
You will be free to extend your Innovator visa as many times as you like, as long as you still have the original endorsement for your business.
You will also be free to apply for indefinite leave to remain after you meet the minimum residency requirements.
High Potential Individual Visa for Hong Kongers
The High Potential Individual (HPI) visa is a special UK visa specifically aimed at high-achieving individuals.
Only those who have qualifications from certain eligible universities may apply for the HPI visa. The list of universities changes every year based on the most recent global university rankings.
Both the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong have appeared on the list of eligible universities in the past. However, you must ensure that your university is on the current and most up-to-date list if you wish to apply for the HPI visa.
The list of eligible universities changes on 1 November every year.
If you do manage to apply for an HPI visa, you will be entitled to come to the UK for a period of 2 months, after which you may switch to another visa, such as the Skilled Worker visa or a Spouse visa.
You will be able to work most jobs, be self-employed or volunteer with very few restrictions while you’re in the UK.
UK Spouse Visas for Hong Kongers
If you’re the spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner of someone who is a British citizen or Irish citizen, or someone with settled status in the UK, you may be eligible for a Spouse visa.
The Spouse visa is one of the most popular visa choices for foreign nationals coming to the UK. It allows you to be sponsored by your spouse or partner to come and live and work in the UK, eventually applying for indefinite leave to remain after 5 years.
In order to be eligible, you will have to prove that your relationship is genuine, as well as demonstrating that you meet the minimum English language and financial requirements.
You will also be able to bring your dependent children to the UK, if you wish.
The Spouse visa can be one of the best ways for you to settle in the UK permanently. However, the eligibility requirements can be complex and difficult to navigate, which is why seeking the help of a professional immigration lawyer may be your best route. Reach out to IAS on +44333 305 9375, or contact us online for help and assistance with your visa application.
UK Family Visas for Hong Kongers
If you have close family members who are already in the UK, you may instead prefer to apply for a general Family visa instead.
This will be an incredibly popular option for many Hong Kongers, as there are an estimated 100,000 Hong Kongers currently residing in the UK, not including those who are here on a BNO visa.
In order to be sponsored by a family member, you must be the child, parent or adult dependent relative of a British or Irish citizen or someone with settled or pre-settled status in the UK.
Note that this pathway is a different pathway to applying as someone’s dependent family member on a BNO passport. However, both routes will allow you to live and work in the UK and eventually apply for indefinite leave to remain.
Note that there is a range of different eligibility criteria depending on how you’re related to your sponsor. For example, if you’re applying to be sponsored as a parent, your child must be under 18 on the date of your application or have been under 18 when you were first granted leave and not live an independent life.
How Can IAS Help?
The UK is a highly desirable destination for Hong Kongers to move to and live in. However, the process of migrating to another country can often be a daunting proposition. If you require additional assistance with your move to the UK, including expert advice on UK visas and immigration and which immigration route would be the best fit for you, IAS can help.
We are expert and professional immigration lawyers with extensive experience working in UK immigration. Whatever your needs as a Hong Konger emigrating to the UK, we can provide bespoke services and advice to ensure that your move is as smooth and stress-free as possible.
Whether you need assistance with having documents and forms translated, advice on how to fill in your application, or help with assembling your supporting documents for your visa application, we’re on hand to help and support you in any way we can.
Last modified on July 17th, 2023 at 7:26 am
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There are a variety of groups and organisations that operate in the UK dedicated to supporting the Hong Konger expat community.
By far the most notable is Hongkongers in Britain, which is a group that aims to help Hong Kongers integrate, settle and develop in the UK. It does this by providing a range of services, community events and events to Hong Konger expats.
In addition, the Sutton Hongkongers Group supports the rapidly-growing community of Hong Kongers in the south-west London borough of Sutton.
Other organisations also include HKARC, Hong Kong Link Up and D4HK.
The overwhelming majority of Hong Kongers speak Cantonese, with English also being an official secondary language.
However, over 300,000 residents in the UK also speak Cantonese as a first language, which may be reassuring if you’re anxious about adjusting to a primarily English-speaking country.
In most cases, you will have to apply online through the Gov.uk website.
There, you will have to fill in an application form and provide your personal information, supporting documents and pay the application fees.
You may also have to attend a visa application centre (VAC) in order to give your biometrics data to the Home Office and the UK government in the form of your fingerprints and a photograph.
There is one UK VAC in Hong Kong, which is located in North Point.