In light of the Chinese government’s decision to impose a new National Security Law on Hong Kong, the UK government has created a bespoke immigration route for British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) citizens, and their dependants, to enter or remain in the UK. This article explains the new Hong Kong BN(O) visa route and provides an overview of the eligibility requirements for prospective BN(O) visa applicants.
The new BN(O) visa route will open from January 2021 and will provide BN(O) citizens, and their immediate family members, with the right to live, work and take up long term study in the UK. BN(O) citizens are currently only permitted to stay in the UK as visitors for up to 6 months and are restricted in the activities they can undertake.
From next year, applicants will be able to apply for this visa either from outside or inside the UK. Permission to enter and/or remain in the UK will be granted for an initial period of 30 months and will be extendable by a further 30 months, or alternatively a single period of 5 years will be granted. Individuals will have the opportunity to settle in the UK (otherwise known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’) once they have accrued 5 years of UK residency, with options for British Citizenship after spending a further 12 month period with ILR status.
BN(O) visa applicants will need to show:
The application will be digital and successful applicants will be issued a ‘digital online visa’. This visa route will involve a fee which will be announced in due course.
Entering the UK before the Hong Kong BN(O) visa is available
Whilst the Hong Kong BN(O) visa route will become fully operational from January 2021, the UK government recognises a number of BN(O) citizens may wish to travel to the UK at an earlier date. These individuals have the opportunity to apply at the UK border for permission to enter in a general category outside the scope of the normal rules. The decision whether or not to grant permission will be at the discretion of Border Force Officers who may consider granting BN(O) citizens, and any accompanying dependants specific permission for a period of 6 months, provided they meet the eligibility criteria listed above.
BN(O) citizens in the UK
There may be BN(O) citizens who are currently in the UK and may wish to apply for the Hong Kong BN(O) visa. From January 2021, BN(O) citizens already in the UK in a different immigration category will be able to switch to the Hong Kong BN(O) visa from within the UK.
What steps can you take to prepare now?
The UK government has not yet released any information on the costs of the visa or about the digital application process. However, BN(O) citizens either inside or outside the UK should now consider their eligibility for the visa by ensuring they have access to a valid or expired BN(O) passport. We recommend they also begin gathering evidence of their normal residence in Hong Kong, in addition to documentation that demonstrates their ability to afford life in the UK.
How can we help?
At Newfields, we can provide individuals with a checklist of documents and review the evidence you gather to assess whether it will meet the BN(O) visa requirements.
Register your interest in this route by contacting us and we will contact you once further information about the digital application is released. We will complete the application for you, and we will liaise with the Home Office if they have any queries in respect of your application. We will maintain contact with you over the subsequent years as you navigate your pathway to indefinite leave to remain and British Citizenship, updating you of any regulatory changes that might affect your immigration status. Our support will extend to family member dependants and through our trusted networks, we will be able to refer you onto UK-regulated solicitors who can advise on other areas of law, from conveyancing and succession planning, to business and corporate matters.
Let us know what you need, and we’ll be in touch as soon as possible.