FAQs: UK immigration options and tax considerations for Hong Kong citizens

As a result of the uncertainties and unrest in Hong Kong, a significant number of Hong Kong citizens have been considering their options to emigrate

12 June 2020

1) What is the key difference between the two main nationalities of Hong Kong?

The majority of Hong Kong citizens hold one of the following passports:

 

  • British National (Overseas) ('BN(O)')
  • Hong Kong Special Administrative Region ('HKSAR')

 

If a person has not been registered as a BN(O) before 1 July 1997, then he/she cannot become a BN(O). The rights of BN(O)s are provided by UK immigration law whereas Hong Kong Basic Law governs the rights conferred by the HKSAR nationality.

 

2) Does Hong Kong allow dual nationality?

 

Yes, it is possible for Hong Kong citizens to hold both the BN(O) and HKSAR passports and other nationalities at the same time.

 

3) Do BN(O) and HKSAR passport holders need a visa to visit the UK?

No, BN(O) and HKSAR passport holders can enter the UK as a visitor without the need to obtain a visa in advance and can stay in the UK for up to 6 months.  

 

4) What changes are British politicians proposing to make to the BN(O) status?

Both the British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have suggested that the British government might extend the 6-month stay to 12 months and might expand the immigration rights for BN(O) holders. However, these proposed changes are unlikely to apply to HKSAR passport holders.

 

It is proposed that BN(O) passport holders might be able to work in the UK during the extended 12-month period, which is not permitted under the current terms for visitors. The idea is that the 12-month extension will make it easier for BN(O) passport holders to meet the relevant requirements for a long-term visa, which could then lead to British citizenship subsequently.

 

5) What are the most popular long-term visas in the UK?

 

  • Tier 1 (Investor) visa (e.g. individuals investing at least £2 milllion in the UK)
  • Start-up/Innovator visa (e.g. entrepreneurs starting a business in the UK)
  • Global Talent visa (e.g. people who are emerging or recognised leaders in their fields)
  • Tier 2 work visa (e.g. skilled workers with a job offer from a licensed sponsor)
  • Family visas (e.g. spouse of a British citizen or parent of a British child)

    6) What about visas for students and recent graduates?

    Hong Kong citizens are required to apply for a Tier 4 student visa before they can study in the UK. If they meet the relevant requirements when they have completed their studies, they can switch to one of the long-term visas listed in point 5 above. The British government also announced the reintroduction of the post-study work visa which will give graduates two years to find a job and work in the UK should they wish to do so.

    Another popular option is the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility) visa which is open to both BN(O) and HKSAR passport holders. The Tier 5 (Youth Mobility) visa allows the holder to study, work and live in the UK for 2 years. It is non-extendable but it allows the holder to gain work experience and live in the UK, which will increase their chances of securing a qualifying job offer for the Tier 2 work visa. The time spent under the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility) visa can be included under the 10-year Long Residence route for Indefinite Leave to Remain (i.e. permanent residence). 

     

    7) What is the key difference between applying for citizenship under the BN(O) or HKSAR passports?

    If the relevant requirements are met, BN(O) passport holders can apply to be registered as a British citizen whereas HKSAR passport holders will need to apply to be naturalised as a British citizen. Both BN(O) and HKSAR passport holders must meet the English requirement in order to become a British citizen.

     

    8) Shall I review my UK immigration options once the COVID-19 pandemic is over?

    We advise that you seek advice as soon as possible to see if you can benefit from the relevant concessions and to implement any pre-arrival planning in good time.

     

    9) Hong Kong has lower tax rates than the UK. Can I remain tax resident in Hong Kong after my move to the UK?

     

    The UK Income Tax rates (up to 45 percent) are much higher than those in Hong Kong. Moreover, UK has Capital Gains Tax and Inheritance Tax which do not apply in Hong Kong. You should consider pre-arrival tax planning in conjunction with your UK immigration planning. We have a particular specialism in advising high net worth individuals on complex issues and interactions between UK immigration and tax law including pre-immigration tax planning, tax residence, settlement, naturalisation and domicile.

     

    10) 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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