New Visa Scheme for Hong Kong Nationals Now Open for Applications & How You Can Get Help with Your Application
Since the opening of the new BNO visa for Hong Kong nationals, it is fair to say that we have received a substantial increase in enquiries for those hoping to use the new immigration scheme. The new visa was introduced by the UK’s Home Office in response to the security crackdown by the Chinese government on the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong in 2020. The new scheme potentially paves the way for three million Hong Kong nationals to come to the UK to live, work, and study. When the UK Government initially mooted the idea of the new visa in response to the introduction of the National Security Law by China, considerable discontent was raised by the Chinese authorities at the move. The UK has, however, made good on its plans, and the new Hong Kong visa scheme for those with BNO status in Hong Kong is now live and open for new applications. In this article, we will discuss the new BNO visa for Hong Kong nationals, the response by the Chinese, the main eligibility criteria, and how to get help with your application.
Announcing the New BNO Visa For Hong Kong Nationals
The BNO visa scheme went live on Sunday 31st January 2021, and is now open to applications. Announcing the scheme, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said , “I am immensely proud that we have brought in this new route for Hong Kong BN(O)s to live, work and make their home in our country. In doing so we have honoured our profound ties of history and friendship with the people of Hong Kong, and we have stood up for freedom and autonomy – values both the UK and Hong Kong hold dear”.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also stated, “We have been clear we won’t look the other way when it comes to Hong Kong. We will live up to our historic responsibility to its people. China’s imposition of the National Security Law in Hong Kong constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration contrary to international law. With the launch of this new visa route, BN(O) citizens will now have a choice to come and live, work and study in the UK”.
China Refuses to Recognise BNO Passport
In response to the introduction of the BNO visa by the UK, the Chinese government doubled down on their intense dissatisfaction with the move, announcing they will no longer recognise BNO passports held by Hong Kong nationals as a valid form of travel documentation. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, stated, “This move seriously infringes on China’s sovereignty, grossly interferes in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs, and seriously violates international law and the basic norms of international relations,”. “China will no longer recognize the so-called BNO passport as a travel document and proof of identity starting from 31st January, and reserves the right to take further measures”. Recognising that those with BNO passports may be nervous about applying, the new application process removes the need to physically attend a visa application centre in Hong Kong to register biometric information; this can now be done using an online mobile phone app instead.
What Are the Eligibility Rules for The New Hong Kong BNO Visa?
The new scheme is open to those with British National (overseas) status, and their family members. In order to apply, you must:
- Be 18 or over
- Have your main home in Hong Kong (if applying outside of the UK)
- Have your main home in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, or Hong Kong (if applying in the UK)
Family members will be able to secure a BNO visa if they are classed as a ‘dependant’ of the main applicant; this means that they are one of the following:
- Your husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried partner
- Your child or grandchild under 18
- Your child 18 or older, who was born on or after 1st July 1997 (and their partner or child under 18)
- Your parent, grandparent, brother, sister, son or daughter (18 or older) if they live with you and are very dependent on you for their care
The immigration rules state that family members must apply at the same time as the main applicant/s, as it is not possible to apply separately once you have your decision.
What Are the Benefits of The New BNO Visa For Hong Kong Nationals?
If granted a BNO visa, you will be able to work, study, and live in the UK for either 30 months or 60 months (depending on which option you choose when applying). While the BNO visa itself does not permit permanent residency, it provides a gateway to indefinite leave to remain (ILR). This is because BNO visa holders who have been in the UK for five years will be eligible to apply for ILR. After holding ILR for one year, you will then be able to apply for British citizenship if you choose to do so.
How Do I Apply for A BNO Visa?
The application process is completed online using the UK Home Office website. The application fee is £180 for those applying for two years and six months, and £250 for those applying for five years. You will also need to pay £19.20 to register your biometric information. The largest 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 two years and six months), and £3,120 for adults and £2,350 for children (if applying for five years).
Wrapping Up - Getting Help with Your Application
Moving from Hong Kong to the UK is a considerable undertaking, especially if you have a family. You may need to make arrangements for your property in Hong Kong, find new employment and accommodation in the UK, and organise your possessions. For this reason, it is recommended that you engage the services of an immigration Solicitor to advise you on the application process, and if you choose, to handle the process on your behalf. This will not only ensure that your application has the best chance of being successful and processed quickly, it will allow you to focus on your needs and those of your family members at such an exciting but potentially stressful time.