In the month of May 2020, the Chinese communist party imposed the "National Security Law" in Hong Kong. This has been seen by the UK as a violation of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong. The UK sees it as an act of undermining the "one country, two systems" existing in China. In the wake of this, the UK has decided to open a new immigration route called Hong Kong BN(O) visa to the BN(O) citizens. This new Hong Kong BN(O) visa will be launched from January 2021.
Who is a BN(O) holder?
BN(O) or British National (Overseas) is a special class of British Nationality. BN(O) status was given to Hong Kong residents who were British dependent territories citizens on 1 July 1997 the date on which the British transferred Hong Kong to China. So, those British dependent territories citizens by a connection with Hong Kong who were born before 1 July 1997 and applied for BN(O) between 1 July 1987 and 31 December 1997 BN(O) acquired the BN(O) nationals status are British Nationals but they are not British Citizens. So, a BN(O) national can enter and stay in the UK for up to 6 months without a visa. However, immigration controls apply to BN(O) nationals. Any child born in Hong Kong on or after 1st July after 1997 is not a BN(O) holder.
The Current situation for Hong Kong BN(O)
As of now, Hong Kong BN (O) is allowed to come to the UK and stay there for 6 months. During their stay, they can travel to any part of the UK, but they cannot work or study.
You need to submit the following as evidence to meet the eligibility criteria to apply for a Hong Kong BN(O) visa.
- You hold BN(O) status
- You are an ordinarily resident in Hong Kong even if you are in the UK currently
- You can support yourself financially in the UK for at least 6 months after your arrival
- You can manage your accommodation in the UK for at least 6 months after arrival
- Your commitment to learning the English language where it is appropriate. You do not need to possess a good command of the English language at the time of entry to the UK, but you need a good knowledge of English at the time of
- Applying for an ILR after 5 years if you do so.
- A certificate of Tuberculosis (TB) test from a clinic or laboratory approved by the UK Home Office
- There are no serious criminal convictions against you
How to apply?
You need to make an online application. You can apply from Hong Kong, from within the UK, or from elsewhere.
You need to have a valid BN(O) passport to show it as your identity but if you do not have it then you don't need to apply for one.
You can submit a valid BN(O) passport or one that has expired with your application to show it as proof of your BN(O) status.
In case you have a BN(O) passport but you lost it, your historical records will be checked to check whether you are eligible to apply for a Hong Kong BN(O) visa or not.
When can you apply?
If you are a BN(O) holder and you are already in the UK, you can apply for a Hong Kong BN(O) visa from 1 January 2021 onwards. If you are in the UK on a different visa category and your current visa would expire before 1 January 2021, you can apply for an extension, switch to a different visa category, re-enter the UK after leaving or apply for "leave outside the rules" that from within the UK that allows you to stay in the UK for 6 months provided you meet the eligibility requirements in each scenario.
How long can you stay in the UK on a Hong Kong BN(O) visa?
You can apply for a 5 years visa at the time of application or you can apply for 2 and half years and later on for an extension of another 2 and a half years.
Can I apply for my dependents?
Yes, you can. Your married or unmarried and/or civil partner and children below the age of 18 if any can apply for a Hong Kong BN(O) visa with you. You need to submit a document as proof of your relationship with your spouse or civil partner who you want to bring to the UK with you. For example, you need to submit a marriage or civil partnership certificate.
If the dependent such as spouse or child is a non-BN(O), you need to show their family tie-up with you to bring them to the UK with you. UK visas and immigration (UKVI) can grant visas to such dependents on a discretionary basis.
Once you get a Hong Kong BN(O) visa successfully you can live in the UK and after 5 years of continuous residence in the UK, you can apply for ILR. You can apply for naturalization as a British Citizen after 12 months on ILR.