What You Need to Know About the New Visa Route for BNO Citizens from January 2021
It is now well known that at the end of June 2020 China passed its highly controversial and wide-ranging national security law for Hong Kong, a move which some believe will lead to the demise of the Special Administrative as we know it. The new law criminalises [PM1] any act of secession, subversion, terrorism, or collusion with foreign or external forces.
In direct response to the actions by the Chinese authorities, the British Government outlined its immigration plans to give some Hong Kong citizens a path to citizenship. China said the UK would “pay the price[PM2] ” if it implemented what they see as a hostile policy towards Beijing.
Despite the threats by the Chinese, the British Government has continued to develop further its policy for a Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa which will open for applications in January 2020. In this article, we will outline what is known of the new visa from the Home Office’s policy statement on 22nd July 2020.
A “Generous” Offer to BN(O) Citizens
The policy statement by the Home Secretary makes it clear that the new visa for Hong Kong citizens is already at an advanced stage of development. It also makes clear [PM3] that the Home Office will not impose especially onerous requirements on those who are eligible; “My offer to BN(O) citizens is a very generous one. I am not imposing skills tests or minimum income requirements, economic needs tests or caps on numbers. I am giving them the opportunity to acquire full British citizenship. They do not need to have a job before coming to the UK - they can look for work once here. They may bring their immediate dependants, including non-BN(O) citizens”. Applicants will still need to pass checks on criminality and good character, however.
Many who were born in Hong Kong after 1997 may not see the new policy as generous. This is because the Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa is only open to BN(O) citizens, this only applied to those born before 1997 and the status cannot be passed to children. In response to this obvious area of concern, the Home Secretary stated the following, “We understand there will be cases where the children of BN(O) citizens will not normally be eligible because they were born after 1997 (so are not BN(O) citizens) and are over 18 so they would not normally be considered as a dependant in the UK’s immigration system. Therefore, in compelling and compassionate circumstances, we will use discretion to grant a visa to the children of BN(O) citizens who fall into this category and who are still dependent on the BN(O)”.
How Will the Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa Work?
The new visa will be open to BN(O) citizens and their spouses or partners and children aged under 18. The policy statement explains that other dependants such as grandparents or other relatives will not be able to apply for the visa unless they are BN(O) citizens in their own right. Applicants will need to be:
- 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 their ability to accommodate and support themselves in the UK for at least six months
- demonstrate a commitment to learning English in the UK where appropriate – on entry, there will be no English language requirement, but applicants will require a good knowledge of the English language if they choose later to make an application for settled status (indefinite leave to remain) after five years
- hold a current tuberculosis test certificate from a clinic approved by the Home Office1
- pay a fee for the visa and the Immigration Health Surcharge both payable in full at the point of the visa application
- have no serious criminal convictions, have not otherwise engaged in behaviour which the UK Government deems not conducive to the public good, and not be subject to other general grounds for refusal set out in the Immigration Rules
Can I Bring my Son or Daughter if They Over 18 but Still Dependant?
There will be situations whereby a BN(O) citizen wishes to apply for a visa, and they have a dependant son or daughter who is over 18 years but is not yet classed as independent. In such situations, the Home Office states the following:
“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 so would not ordinarily be considered as a dependant in the UK’s immigration system. We do not wish to split family units where there are dependent children over the age of 18, given the particular challenges linked to the timing of obtaining BN(O) status. In compelling and compassionate circumstances, we will therefore use discretion to grant a visa to the children of a BN(O) citizen who fall into this category and who are still dependent on the BN(O) citizen. We will limit this discretion ordinarily to children of BN(O) citizens who were born after the 1 July 1997 who will also be able to apply as dependants, if one of their parents holds BN(O) status and they apply together as a family unit. In exceptional circumstances of high dependency, other adult dependants of a BN(O) citizen applying for the visa may also be eligible at the UK Government’s discretion, considered on a case by case basis”.
If you are planning to apply for the new Hong Kong BN(O) Visa, and you have dependant children over the age of 18 who you want to bring with you to the UK, it is recommended that you engage the services of a London based immigration Solicitors who will be able to assist you with your application. UK law Lawyers understands how to ensure that applications contain sufficient detail and evidence to pass the dependant child threshold.
More details on the new Hong Kong BN(O) Visa will be announced in the coming weeks, including the application fee and process. We will keep you up to date with policy information as it emerges.