The Home Office has announced plans to open the Hong Kong British National Overseas (BN(O)) Visa applications from January 2021.

The new Hong Kong BN(O) Visa will allow BN(O) citizens to reside and work or study in the UK, with a route to settlement and then citizenship.

The visa will be valid for up to 5 years, during which time the visa holders are subject to UK immigration control. After 5 years in the UK and, provided they have stayed free of criminality, have supported themselves financially and otherwise complied with the terms of the visa, they will be able to apply for settlement; after a further year, they may apply to naturalise as British citizens.

The application does not require skills tests, job offers or economic tests and there are no caps on numbers.

The key requirements applicants need to meet are that they should:

  • 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;
  • pay the visa processing fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge; and
  • 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.

BN(O) citizens can be accompanied by their immediate family dependants, comprising spouse or partner and children aged under 18. In exceptional circumstances, and on a discretionary basis, other dependant family members may be able to join them.

There will be no requirement for applicants to apply for or hold a valid BN(O) passport and successful applicants will be able to travel on a valid Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Passport. However, valid or expired BN(O) passports should be kept and submitted with an application as evidence of BN(O) status. Where a BN(O) passport has been lost, eligibility checks can be made using historical records held by Her Majesty’s Passport Office.

Those who wish to apply for the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa can apply and travel to the UK once it is fully operational from January 2021. However, some may wish to travel sooner due to exceptional circumstances, in which case and upon demonstrating there is a good reason to do so, they may be granted Leave Outside the Rules (‘LOTR’) for a period of six months.

If you have any questions on the new Hong Kong BN(O) Visa or for more information on how to apply, please contact Tsige Berhanu.

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This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.