British National (Overseas): latest update on the new immigration route

The Home Office has issued further guidance on the new immigration route – the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa

23 July 2020

Since we published our article, ‘FAQs: UK immigration options and tax considerations for Hong Kong citizens’ on 12 June 2020, the Home Office has updated its guidance (on 22 July 2020) on the new immigration route for British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) citizens in Hong Kong. The new Hong Kong BN(O) Visa is set to be available from January 2021. This article summarises the key updates announced by the Home Office.

1. The applicants will need to show that they normally reside in Hong Kong and have BN(O) status. A valid BN(O) passport is not required but it will be easier for the applicants to evidence their BN(O) status with a valid passport.

2. Those who were born after 1 July 1997 (i.e. not entitled to BN(O) status) and are over 18 years old (i.e. not generally considered as a dependant) will not meet the requirements of the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa. However, if they have compelling and compassionate circumstances, then the Home Office can exercise discretion to grant the Visa to those who are under this category, provided that they are still dependent on the BN(O) parent(s).

3. The Home Secretary confirmed that she is not proposing minimum income requirements or economic needs tests for the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa. However, the applicants will have to demonstrate that they can accommodate and support themselves financially in the UK for at least six months.

4. The applicants will also have to show a commitment to learn English (where appropriate) but there will be no English language requirement for the Visa. However, unless the applicants are exempt, they will have to meet the English language requirement if they wish to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (i.e. permanent residence) or British citizenship.

5. A tuberculosis test certificate from a clinic approved by the Home Office is required.

6. Application fee and the immigration health surcharge must be paid.

7. Applicants will be able to access the NHS but there will be no recourse to public funds.

8. Applications can be made in the UK or outside the UK. Interestingly, Border Force Officers may grant ‘Leave Outside the Rules’ for a period of six months to BN(O) citizens and their dependants who wish to move to the UK before January 2021, provided that they satisfy the relevant conditions. Applicants can then apply for the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa within the UK before the six-month leave expires.

9. The application process for the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa will be digital (based on similar technology used for the EU Settlement Scheme).

10. The successful applicants will be able to live, work and study in the UK.

11. In terms of the duration of leave, applicants can either apply for 30 months or five years. Once the applicants have accrued five years of continuous residence in the UK (i.e. no more than 180 days of absence from the UK in any 12 month period), then they may be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. After holding the Indefinite Leave to Remain status for a year, they may be eligible to apply for British citizenship.

How can Burges Salmon help?

We have a team of specialist lawyers who advise on both personal and business immigration. We have native Cantonese, Mandarin and Hokkien speakers in the firm and will be more than happy to communicate with you in your preferred language.

See our Personal Immigration and Private Wealth areas for further details, or contact Suzanna Harvey or Myra Leung.

Written by Myra Leung.

Key contact

Suzanna Harvey

Suzanna Harvey Partner

  • Private Client Services
  • International Tax
  • International Trusts

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