UK visas for Hong Kong BNO citizens – Details Announced
The British Home Secretary, Priti Patel recently revealed further details surrounding UK visa procedures for nearly 3 million Hong Kong nationals who hold the BNO (British nationals overseas) status. Her statement follows the new security laws that have been placed on Hong Kong by China where she said that the UK would warmly welcome Hong Kongers who hold the BNO status to come to live, work and eventually settle in the UK.
When will the BNO scheme start and who can apply?
The new BNO scheme is set to start from January 2021. However, exceptions will be made those Hong Kongers who feel they need to leave Hong Kong beforehand who can do so “outside of the rules” as long as they apply for the BNO route as soon as it is possible for them.
The scheme is open to all Hong Kong citizens who apply for the BNO status, for more info on how to apply, please click here. Those who have held this status since Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 will be allowed to come to the UK with their spouse and any children living in the same household as them, even if a child is over the age of 18.
Is entry to the UK for BNO status holders conditional?
Gaining entry clearance into the UK for having a job or a particular skill does not apply to Hong Kong BNO status holders. However, once they are in the UK, they will have no recourse to public funds for five years, so they must support themselves during this time.
How much will it cost?
The actual cost of the BNO status route to UK citizenship is still to be determined however it is very likely that it will cost a few if a few hundred pounds to process the actual application with the UK Home Office (plus lawyer fees if you choose to hire one). Furthermore, everyone who applies through this route and is given entry clearance to the UK will have to pay £624 a year for immigration health surcharge (the new cost of the surcharge as of October 2020). After five years, all those who have come to live in the UK under the BNO scheme will be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain which costs £2,389 and then later for UK citizenship which costs £1,206.
What are the current rules for BNO status holders?
BNO status holders from Hong Kong are currently offered the following limited rights
- Right to enter the UK without a visa for up to six months (but this will now be one year with the possibility of extensions up to 5 years)
- Subject to immigration controls with no right to live or work in the UK.
- No right to switch from being a visitor to study or work while in Britain.
- Must pay for NHS care if ill during a visit.
- Not considered a British citizen by the European Union and as a result, cannot benefit from free movement rules.
- If wishing to come to work, study or join family, must apply for a visa under the same rules for other citizens who are not from the European Economic Area.
As featured on Bloomberg Radio
We are keeping up to date with all the latest information about immigration changes for Hong Kong residents and BNO status holders. Our legal experts are often invited to share their views and expertise on UK immigration issues on various news networks and have spoken about the issue on Bloomberg radio, click here to listen.