Life in the UK for new BN(O) arrivals from Hong Kong
According to estimates by the British Government, up to 5.4 million Hong Kong nationals are eligible for the new BN(O) visa, representing 72% of the total population. This is made up of 2.9 million BNOs, 2.3 million dependents of BNOs, and 187,000 18-23-year-olds with at least one BNO parent. If even only a small fraction of those who are eligible apply for a visa, this will represent a large inflow of new immigrants to the UK. At the time of writing, it is believed that around 27,000 applications have been received by the Home Office for the new visa. And on 19th March 2021, PM Boris Johnson held a video call with four BN(O) families who have recently moved to the UK from Hong Kong under the scheme. Johnson offered the families a warm welcome, telling them, “On behalf of the whole country, I want to say how glad we are to have you here and how proud we are that you have chosen the UK to live. I believe strongly in the prospects the UK can offer for those who want to make their lives here and I have no doubt that you are going to feel very much at home. The UK has a long and proud history of embracing those who arrive on our shores seeking the inalienable rights and freedoms denied to them in their homeland. I am very proud that we have been able to make this offer to you and other British Nationals (Overseas)”. In this article, we will look at some of the challenges and opportunities available to Hong Kong BN(O)s coming to the UK.
Hong Kong Residents Face Hurdles In The UK
A recent article in the Financial Times highlighted some of the challenges which BN(O) nationals from Hong Kong will face on arrival in the UK, including property prices and red tape.
UK Property Affordability
The article points out that in the past, many wealthy Hong Kong nationals have been able to afford properties with seven-figure values, typically representing around 10% of Savils’ London new home sales, this is not necessarily the case now. Many new BN(O) arrivals from Hong Kong will not be in the market for high-end flats in the capital and will be looking beyond “prime London locales”. As the article points out, many new arrivals are even having to look beyond traditionally popular areas; “university haunts — Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh — are being superseded by less familiar names”.
The median household income for Hong Kong nationals is around HK$29,000 (£2,700), which is broadly the same as the median income in the UK, at around £2,400 per month. For this reason, many families moving from Hong Kong will find themselves looking for property in other parts of the country where property prices are relatively modest.
Administration And Red Tape
Another practical problem that some moving from Hong Kong will face is opening a UK bank account and securing a rental tenancy. In order to enter into a tenancy agreement, landlords will carry out the right to rent checks, however, without a UK bank account, this can be hard to prove. And likewise, to secure a bank account, applicants typically need proof of a permanent address. This can result in a circular problem which may pose a headache for new arrivals from Hong Kong. Indeed, in order to overcome the problem, some BN(O) nationals are resorting to Airbnb when they first arrive to ensure they have somewhere to live initially.
Will Help Be Made Available For Hong Kong Nationals Arriving In The Uk?
As the FT explains, new arrivals can often rely on the help of community networks for help, and, indeed, several overseas Chinese organisations have set up shop to assist BN(O) arrivals in the UK. There are, however, reports that the Chinese authorities are making it difficult for such organisations to offer help because, as the FT explains, “the political divide that triggered the UK scheme has migrated too. The latest wave of Hongkongers has met with a hostile reception from some Chinese, says Jabez Lam of Hackney Chinese Community Services. Lam, a longtime UK citizen originally from Hong Kong, has himself been attacked by mainlanders in London’s Chinatown and warns of the Communist party’s growing tentacles in the country”.
The concern is that, rather like the Windrush scandal, Hong Kong nationals will arrive at the airport with little or no official help in the form of a resettlement process.
The Vast Opportunities In The Uk
While some BN(O) nationals may be dissuaded from coming to the UK due to concerns of house price affordability, rising unemployment, a lack of governmental support on arrival, and red tape, this need not be the case. While the UK has not always handled immigration well (as in the case of the Windrush scandal), plenty of help is available on arrival in the UK from charities, government agencies, and local authorities. In addition, by engaging the services of a UK based immigration law firm that can provide you with contacts and assistance prior to your departure and on arrival, the process can be made straightforward. In terms of house prices, despite the high property prices in traditionally popular parts of the UK, the good news is that there are many much more affordable villages and towns in safe and beautiful parts of the country, often with excellent transport links to the main centres. Indeed, many UK citizens are themselves now moving away from cities such as London to find tranquillity and space in rural areas. There are also many job opportunities for those with skills, including in the areas of IT, science, education, and medicine.
Any BN(O) nationals considering taking advantage of the new visa scheme for Hong Kong nationals can be confident of receiving a warm welcome in the UK. Ultimately knowing that you and your family are safe is paramount. We wish you all the very best with your move from Hong Kong to the UK.
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