BNO Visa Application Guide for Hong Kong British Nationals
The British Nationals Overseas visa (BNO visa) allows British Nationals (Overseas) citizens in Hong Kong to live, work, and study in the UK. The British National (Overseas) visa or BNO visa for Hong Kong nationals was launched on 31st January 2021 as a way of assisting those adversely affected by the new national security laws implemented in Hong Kong.
There is no cap on the number of BNO visas for Hong Kong nationals, and the eligibility rules are relatively relaxed. For example, there is no need to have an offer of a job in the UK or meet a skill or minimum income requirement. In addition, BNO visa applicants are able to bring their immediate dependants with them to the UK, including non-BNO citizens.
It is important to note that under the BNO visa leave outside the rules (LOTR), BNO nationals and their family members were previously able to enter the UK by applying for ‘leave outside the rules’ for a period of 6 months at the UK border, but this ended on 19th July 2021. British Nationals (Overseas) now require a BNO visa.
Those granted a Hong Kong BNO visa are permitted to:
- Stay in the UK for 2 years and 6 months or 5 years
- Work in a job at any level or pay (the only exception being it is not possible to work as a professional sportsperson or sports coach) and change jobs without restriction
- Study (i.e. school, college or university)
- Apply to settle in the UK after 5 years
- Access the UK’s National Health Service
- Access public funds (e.g. benefits) in limited circumstances – for example, if you do not have a place to live and cannot afford one
Who can apply for the BNO Visa UK
The BNO visa is open to British Nationals Overseas citizens from Hong Kong who are 18 or older. The BNO visa is also open to eligible family members of BNO citizens, including your:
- your husband, wife, civil partner, or unmarried partner
- your civil partnership or marriage must be recognised in the UK, or you must have been in a relationship and have been living with your partner for at least 2 year
- Child under 18
- Grandchild under 18
- Child who is 18 or older and born on or after 1st July 1997 (and their partner or child under 18)
- Parent, grandparent, brother, sister, son, or daughter (18 or older) if they live with you and are highly dependent on you for their care
Applicants will need to be ordinarily resident in Hong Kong if applying from outside the UK. It is also possible to apply from the UK if your permanent home is in the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man or Hong Kong.
There is no English language requirement for a BNO visa, 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.
Applicants also need sufficient funds to support themselves and their family members in the UK. There is no set level of funds an applicant must show when applying for a BNO visa, but they must have enough money to accommodate themselves in the UK for a period of at least 6 months without accessing public funds. This requirement can be met by using income, savings, or financial assistance from your family or friends.
Applicants must also 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.
How to apply for a BNO Visa
The application process for the BNO visa for Hong Kong nationals is as follows:
- Complete the online application form on the UK Home Office website. The application you need to use depends on whether you are applying from outside the UK1 or inside the UK2
- Pay the required fees (see below)
- Upload your documents (see below)
- Arrange an appointment with a visa application centre (if outside the UK) or a UKVCAS centre (if inside the UK) to have your biometrics taken (fingerprint and photo)
- Attend your biometric appointment
- Wait for a decision on your application – this can take up to 12 weeks to process
Documents required for a BNO Visa UK application
The Home Office will explain which documents you need to provide to support your BNO visa UK application; these may include:
- Your passport (as a BN(O) citizen, you can use your current, or an expired BNO passport (or a photocopy) to prove your BNO status.
- Proof of your permanent residence and that of your dependants in Hong Kong, the UK, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man; this may include:
- household or utility bills
- a visa, residence permit or another immigration document
- a recent HMRC P60
- bank statements
- a letter from an employer confirming your employment
- records of rent or mortgage payments
- an appointment letter from your GP or other healthcare professional
- a letter from the local council or a government
- Evidence of sufficient funds to support yourself and your family in the UK (this does not apply if you have been in the UK for 12 months or more already); evidence may include:
- bank or savings account statements
- evidence of income from self-employment
- evidence of income from rental property
- a letter from friends or family with evidence they can support you and your family
- a letter confirming an offer of accommodation from friends or family
- a tenancy or mortgage agreement
- Evidence of your relationship with your family members, such as a marriage certificate, birth certificate, or adoption certificate
- A TB certificate depending on where you are when you apply
How to check BNO visa status
After your application, you can check your Hong Kong BNO visa status by using the Home Office’s online immigration status checking service3.
Alternatively, you can speak to the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) contact centre by calling:
- Telephone: 0300 790 6268 or +44 (0)300 790 6268 - select option 1
- Monday to Thursday (excluding bank holidays), 9am to 4:45pm
- Friday (excluding bank holidays), 9am to 4:30pm
BNO Visa costs
You will need to pay an application fee of £180 if applying for 2 years and 6 months and £250 if applying for 5 years. You will also need to pay £19.20 to register your biometric information (this is needed for your BNO visa BRP).
The highest cost for applicants will be the healthcare surcharge, which allows the use of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) by migrants. This is £1,560 for adults and £1,175 for children (if applying for 2 years and 6 months), and £3,120 for adults and £2,350 for children (if applying for 5 years).
Does the UK BNO Visa count towards Indefinite Leave to Remain
Yes, after 5 years of continuous residence with a BNO visa, you will be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). To gain ILR, according to the “Continuous residence” BNO visa 180 days requirement, you must not have spent more than 180 days outside the UK in any year. After a further 12 months, you will then be able to apply for British citizenship.
How to extend BNO Visa
If you hold a BNO visa holder as a Hong Kong national, you will be able to further extend your visa before it expires. This means that if you came to the UK for an initial period of 2.5 years, you will be able to extend this for another 2.5 years, at which point you can apply for permanent settlement.
To extend your BNO visa, you will need to:
- complete the online extension application form4.
- pay the required fees (see above)
- upload your documents (see above)
- arrange an appointment with a UKVCAS centre to have your biometrics taken (fingerprint and photo)
- Attend your biometric appointment
- Wait for a decision on your application
How can Reiss Edwards help?
Reiss Edwards specialises in all aspects of immigration law, including BNO visa applications for Hong Kong nationals. We can:
- Check your eligibility and that of your family members
- Check your application prior to submission
- Check your documents prior to submission
- Handle your BNO visa and extension application on your behalf and of your family members
- Liaise with the Home Office on your behalf regarding your BNO visa application
- Handle a refusal of a BNO visa application
1 GOV.UK: Applying from outside the UK
2 GOV.UK: Applying from inside the UK
4 GOV.UK: Online extension application form