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Hong Kong/UK: British National Overseas (BNO) Visa Opens for Applications on 31st January 2021

Back in July 2020, the British government announced the details of its planned Hong Kong BN(O) visa. The announcement by Home Secretary, Priti Patel, stated, “The government has today released more information on the new Hong Kong BN(O) Visa, which will create a bespoke immigration route to enable British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) citizens ordinarily resident in Hong Kong, and their immediate family members, to move to the UK to work and study. The government committed to open this new immigration route following the Chinese government’s decision to impose a new National Security Law on Hong Kong”. On 31st January 2021, this new visa route went live for applications. In this article, we will explain the purpose of the new BN(O) visa, the implications for Hong Kong nationals who plan to relocate to the UK, and the eligibility rules which apply.

What Is The Purpose Of The New BN(O) Visa?

The new visa route is intended for British Nationals (overseas) and their close family members to relocate to the UK for a period of 30 months (initially). The visa can be further extended for a further 30 months, after which holders can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), and then citizenship a year later. BN(O) visa holders will be able to live, study, work, and access the National Health Service (NHS). In addition, children accompanying the visa holder will be able to go to school in the UK.

Who Can Apply For The New BN(O) Visa?

To apply for the new BN(O) visa, you will need to be classed as a British national (overseas). Family members can also apply, including:

  • spouses, civil partners or unmarried partners
  • children (under the age of 18)
  • adults child born on or after 1st July 1997 (and their spouse, or child under the age of 18)
  • other family members (parent, grandparent, brother, sister, son or daughter) in exceptional circumstances where there is a high level of dependency

The immigration rules also clarify that applicants must normally live in Hong Kong if applying outside of the UK. Where applicants are already in the UK, they must normally reside in the UK, Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, or Hong Kong.

Applicants will not need to provide a valid British national (overseas) passport and will not be required to order a new one if their current passport has expired or been lost.

Meeting The Financial Requirement

Applicants for the new BN(O) visa will also need to show they have sufficient funds to both accommodate and financially support themself and their family members for six months while in the UK. Full details of exactly how much you will need to have will be shown on the application form. The Home Office case officer will take into account different forms of income, including savings in your bank account, pay from your employment in the UK (both through employment and self-employment), and rental income. Any assistance offered by friends or family in the form of support and living accommodation can also be taken into account. To prove this, you will need to provide a letter from your family member or friend outlining the support they are providing, and evidence of their ability to do so.

For those who have already been in the UK for more than one year when they apply, evidence of sufficient financial resources is not needed.

How Do I Apply For A BN(O) Visa?

The Home Office requires that family units apply together. To do this, the main applicant will need to apply first, and wait to receive their unique reference number – this can then be added to the applications for other family members to link them together. It is paramount that family members apply with the main applicant as they will not be able to apply at a later date.

The application process will be completed online, on the UK’s Home Office website. You and each family member will need to pay an application fee of £180 (for a stay up to 30 months) and £250 (for a stay of five years); this is a relatively low cost for a UK visa. While the visa cost is low, applicants do also need to pay the immigration healthcare surcharge (IHS) for each adult and child. The IHS enables visa holders in the UK to access the National Health Service (NHS). At present, the IHS for adults is £1,560 (for 30 months) and £3,120 (for five years). For children, the IHS is £1,175 (for 30 months) and £2,350 (for five years). It must be said that the application fee and IHS can make the overall cost of applying expensive for families, however, applicants can be assured that after five years, they will be able to acquire ILR, and hence not be required to pay the IHS.

Applying For ILR After Five Years On A BN(O) Visa

To secure ILR after five years on a BN(O) visa, you will also need to:

  • satisfy the English language requirements – by passing an English language exam at B1, B2, C1 or C2 level or a degree taught or researched in English. Those under 18 or over 65 will not need to prove their language proficiency.
  • pass the Life in the UK Test
  • have spent no more than 180 days outside the UK in any 12 months in the previous five years
  • paid the application fee

Wrapping Up

The BN(O) visa for Hong Kong nationals has been extremely politicised since it was mooted by the UK government in early 2020 following the imposition of the National Security law by China on Hong Kong. Given the historical ties of Britain with Hong Kong, it is entirely fair and reasonable that this visa route is made available for those who are already British nationals and wish to relocate to the UK. If you need any assistance with your application, it is recommended that you contact an immigration Lawyer in the UK who will be able to manage the process for you and your family while you focus your energy on relocating your personal and business interests.

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Cheyam Shaked

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