What is this Visa?
If you’ve been keeping up with the news lately you have undoubtedly heard a lot about China’s relationship with Hong Kong and the controversial new National Security Law it aims to impose upon people living there. The UK considers this law a serious breach of the 1984 Sino-British declaration which also undermines the “one country, two systems” agreement. In response, the UK government has announced it will create a bespoke immigration route which will allow British National (Overseas) citizens who live in Hong Kong to move to the UK with their family to work and study.
If you are not familiar with the intricacies of immigration law or the UK’s role in Hong Kong’s history you might wonder exactly what being a British National (Overseas) citizen means, and why there are so many of them in Hong Kong. To explain simply and without derailing this blog into a long historical thesis is difficult, but in short BN(O) was a nationality status opened to people living in some British Dependent Territories as a result of these locations’ historical ties with the UK. These individuals have no automatic right of residence and have traditionally had to apply for entry clearance in the same way as other non-EU nationals. This new visa greatly increases the immigration rights associated with being a British National (Overseas) citizen in Hong Kong, allowing people with this status to migrate to the UK without a job offer or sponsor.
Who Can Apply?
British National (Overseas) citizens who are normally resident in Hong Kong as well as their immediate family. This can include a spouse, unmarried partner, dependent child and ‘other family members where they can show there is a high level of dependency’. Unmarried partners will have to show evidence they have been living together in a ‘relationship similar to a marriage or civil partnership’ for at least 2 years. This will likely involve providing documents such as tenancy agreements or utility bills in both parties’ names.
Applicants will also need to show a commitment to learning English if they do not already have a good command of the language, as well as be willing to pay an application fee and an Immigration Health Surcharge of £624 a year.
What Can I Do in the UK?
You will be able to work and study in the UK and at this point no restrictions have been announced on the type of work or study you will be permitted to undertake.
You will not be allowed to use any public funds until you achieve Indefinite Leave to Remain or full British Citizenship. You will also have to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge of £624 a year in order to access the NHS (£400 if you enter on this route outside the rules before October 2020).
Can I Live Here Permanently?
Yes, this visa will offer a route to permanent residency after 5 years continuous residence in the UK, and citizenship after 1 year of permanent residency.
When Will Applications Open?
This route will be officially open from January 2021, made available at the same time as the government’s new points-based system.
What if I Want to Come Now?
The government has issued guidance for those who wish to come to the UK before the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa is available. If you are not eligible under any existing paths it may be possible for you to apply at the UK border for a period of 6 months ‘Leave Outside the Rules’. You will be able to apply with dependants and will need to show your identity, your BN(O) citizen status, that you normally live in Hong Kong, and that you can support yourself financially.
This route might be of interest to anybody who feels like they may be in immediate danger as the result of the new law. In order to prove your residence in Hong Kong you should bring documents to the border with you such as a voter’s card, identity card, letter from the local council, medical card etc. and make it clear that you are intending to make an application outside of the rules as a British National (Overseas) Citizen from Hong Kong.
What Documents Will be Needed?
You will need to provide:
- A valid passport (Does not need to be a BN(O) passport).
- Documentation to prove your BN(O) status. This can include an expired or current passport.
- Evidence you normally reside in Hong Kong.
- Evidence you can support yourself financially for at least 6 months (there is no guidance at present on how much would be required to satisfy this).
- A TB test from a clinic approved by the Home Office.
If you are interested in this route, or need other immigration advice, we can help. Email us at [email protected] or call us on 01403 801 801 for a consultation.