Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa – BN(O) citizens

The United Kingdom (‘UK’) government have created a new bespoke immigration route for Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas) (‘BN(O)’) to settle with their families in the UK.

The new Hong Kong BN(O) visa route will open from 1 January 2021.

The new route will apply to anyone who was a British Dependent Territories citizen through a connection with Hong Kong and was able to apply to register as a BN(O) citizen prior to the handover to China on 1 July 1997.

According to the UK government, approximately 3.4 million people obtained BN(O) status pre 1997.

Status of BN(O) citizens

Current BN(O) citizens can hold a British passport and get consular assistance and protection from UK diplomatic posts.

BN(O) citizens are also entitled to visit the UK for up to 6 months without a prior visa. However, BN(O) citizens are subject to immigration control and do not have a right of abode in the UK.

However, in accordance with the new visa route for Hong Kong BN(O) citizens, the UK Government will provide an opportunity to apply for a visa which will enable BN(O) citizens to come to the UK with a view to settling here permanently and then apply to become full British Citizens.

Length of the visa

The Hong Kong BN(O) visa will be valid for up to 5 years, during which time the visa holder is subject to UK immigration control.

However, during the 5 years of temporary residence in the UK, BN(O) citizens will be permitted to work as employed or self-employed persons, have access to the National Health Service (‘NHS’), and school aged children of BN(O) visa holders will have access to public education.

After completing 5 years continuous residence in the UK, and provided they have stayed free of criminality, established that they have supported themselves financially, and complied with the terms of the visa, visa holders will be able to apply for settled status also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain (‘ILR’).

In order to qualify for settled status after 5 years, visa holders cannot have absences for more than 180 days in any consecutive 12-month period.

However, if after 5 years, the visa holder does not apply for ILR or is refused, they will be expected to leave the UK and may be removed.

Eligibility

BN(O) citizens and their dependents, e.g. spouse or partner, and children aged under 18, will be eligible to apply for the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa.

The UK Government are aware that there will be cases where the dependent children of a BN(O) citizen will not normally be eligible because they were born after 1997 (so are not BN(O) citizens) and are over 18 and therefore, would not ordinarily be considered as a dependant in the UK’s immigration system.

As a result, where there are dependent children over the age of 18 or parents and grandparents involved as part of the same family unit, visas may still be granted by the discretion of UK Visas & Immigration (‘UKVI’) with regard to ‘compelling and compassionate’ circumstances.

Key requirements for the BN(O) citizens and their dependents

  • The main applicant must hold BN(O) status, regardless of whether they hold a current valid passport. 

  • Be ordinarily resident in Hong Kong, which includes those currently in the UK but who are ordinarily resident in Hong Kong.

  • Be able to demonstrate the ability to accommodate and financially support themselves in the UK for at least six months.

  • Demonstrate a commitment to learn English in the UK where appropriate.

There will be no English language requirement for entry clearance purposes but applicants will require a good knowledge of the English language if they choose later to make an application for settled status (ILR) after five years.

  • Provide a current tuberculosis test certificate from a clinic approved by the Home Office.

  • Have no serious criminal convictions and/or be subject to other general grounds for refusal set out in the Immigration Rules.

  • Pay the relevant application visa fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge fee at the time of submitting the application.

BN(O) citizens in the UK

BN(O) citizens who are already in the UK, e.g. on a different visa, will be able to apply and switch to the Hong Kong BN(O) visa from within the UK from January 2021.

BN(O) citizens already in the UK whose leave is due to expire before the Hong Kong BN(O) visa is available should consider whether they could extend their leave in line with the rules of their existing route and then apply for the Hong Kong BN(O) visa.

Application process

The application process for the Hong Kong BN(O) visa will be via a digital online application.

There will be no requirement for applicants to apply for or hold a valid BN(O) passport and successful applicants will be able to travel on a valid Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Passport.

However, valid or expired BN(O) passports should be kept and submitted with an application as evidence of BN(O) status.

Where a BN(O) passport has been lost, eligibility checks can be made using historical records held by Her Majesty’s Passport Office (‘HMPO’).

Applications for the Hong Kong BN(O) visa can be made from Hong Kong, from within the UK, or elsewhere.

How we can help

Our immigration experts have substantial experience and knowledge in advising BN(O) citizens.

If you are a BN(O) citizen from Hong Kong and require further advice, please contact us on +44 161 826 6922 or complete your details below and one of our lawyers from our business Immigration team will contact you.