New British National (Overseas) visa for Hong Kong nationals

In a recently published detailed guide, the Home Office officially opened The Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa on the 31st of January 2021, which is a new visa exclusively for Hong Kong nationals with a BNO Passport. This article aims to summarise the main points, but if you have further queries, you may want to contact a qualified UK Immigration Lawyer for details on how it will affect you.

The Backdrop

Hong Kong has a long history with Britain and was a part of the British Empire from 1845 until 1997, when it was handed over to China with the special agreement that Hong Kong would maintain separate governing and economic systems from that of mainland China, under the principle of “one country, two systems“.

What is BNO

In 1985 Britain created a special type of British nationality that people in Hong Kong could apply for before the 1997 handover to China, so that they could retain a link with the UK. This was what is know as British National Overseas (BNO).

This a class of British nationality that was granted by voluntary registration to Hong Kong residents who had been British Dependent Territories citizens before the transfer of sovereignty to China in 1997. This did not make such holders actual British citizens, they have remained subject to UK visa requirements when entering the United Kingdom and do not have the automatic right of abode, but BNO Passport holders enjoy British consular protection when travelling abroad. In practice this passport only really entitles its holders to visit the UK for six months without a visa.

China New Security 2020

Controversial security laws were imposed on the Special Administrative Region in 2020 by China, which in effect breached the agreed terms under which the country was handed over by the UK government in 1997.

New Visa Status: BNO visa

The BNO visa scheme aims to provide a pathway to UK citizenship for some three million Hong Kong nationals, allowing BNO citizens and their close family to apply for periods of up to five years to live and work in the UK.

After the first five years, BNO visa holders are then eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain, which would allow them to live and work in the UK permanently, without reapplying for a visa, as well as to apply for British citizenship after one year of being granted indefinite leave to remain.

Who can Apply

Applicants must be a British national (overseas) aged 18 or older. They must also have their permanent home in Hong Kong, unless they are applying from within the UK, in which case their home must be in the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, or Hong Kong.

BNO applicants can also bring eligible family members, such as:

  • a husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried partner
  • children or grandchildren under 18
  • children of 18 or older, born on or after the 1st of July 1997 (and their partner or child under 18)
  • parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, sons or daughters (18 or older) if they live with the applicant and are very dependent on them for their care

NB: family members MUST apply at the same time as the main BNO visa applicant, as they can not apply after the main applicant has received a decision about their visa application.

Terms of Visa

BNO visas can be applied for either for a period of 2.5 years or 5 years, with the ability to apply to extension of the visa as many times as required. During the term of the visa the holder would have largely unrestricted rights to work, live or study in the UK, but would have not access to welfare state benefits.

Other Requirements

While this visa has minimum relative requirements, an applicant must also show:

  • Proof of their permanent home address
  • Proof that they have enough money to support themselves and their family for the first six month – e.g. £2,000 for a single adult. Applicants will be exempt from this requirement if they have been in the UK for the last 12 months
  • Evidence of the relationship if family members are applying together
  • A TB test certificate – especially if applying from abroad

Application Cost

The cost of this visa depends on the option the applicant chooses to apply for, but it is arguably one of the cheapest visa applications, costing £180 for each applicant for 2.5 years or £250 for each applicant for 5 years. There is also a fee of £19.20 for biometric enrolment if applying from within the UK.

Unfortunately, the total fees significantly increase once you include the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge, which applicants need to pay as an upfront contribution to use the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. This works out as follows:

Each Adult applicant :£1,560 if you’re staying for 2 years and 6 months
£3,120 if you’re staying for 5 years.

Each child applicant :£1,175 if you’re staying for 2 years and 6 months
£2,350 if you’re staying for 5 years.

NB: you have a choose to apply for a 2 and half year visa first then renew it at a later stage instead of applying for a whole five years you can space out the application costs, making it more affordable.
You pay the healthcare surcharge as part of your online visa application.

Parting Shot

This is a relatively simple way for a Hong Kong BNO passport holder who wants to relocate or stay in the UK to do so, with very generous terms and relatively minimum requirements. If you are not sure whether you would qualify or have any questions, then we recommend that you contact a qualified Immigration Solicitor for detailed advice and guidance.

It is envisaged that quite a few people will take advantage of this visa, in light of the online situation in Hong Kong following China’s recent and ongoing action.

Please feel free to share and comment to raise awareness of these changes. Also, if you have been affected by any of these immigration rule changes and need a quick chat with a UK Immigration Solicitor, do not hesitate to contact Tito Mbariti for a free one-off, no-obligation general immigration advice consultation via either phone,WeChat, Facetime or Skype. 

You may contact us by filling in our Quick Enquiry form any time you need professional support or have any questions. Alternatively, you can call us during office hours on 07544669131 / 0116 3800 744