On 22 October 2020 the UK Government published a legal framework for the new British National (Overseas) (“BN(O)”) visa route as part of a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules.
This route will allow BN(O) citizens to enter the UK for either a period of 30 months or 5 years, permitting them to work, study, and live in the UK during this time. Eligible applicants will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (permanent residence) after 5 years’ continuous residence in the UK, thereby offering a path to British citizenship.
Applicants can apply for the Hong Kong BN(O) visa from 21 January 2021. Two separate immigration routes will be available to applicants: the BN(O) Status Holder route and the BN(O) Household Member route.
Who is Eligible for the Hong Kong BN(O) visa?
The BN(O) Status Holder route is for British National (Overseas) citizens who are ordinarily resident in Hong Kong or the UK, as well as their dependent relatives.
The main applicant must be a BN(O) citizen and must be over the age of 18. Note that the main applicant must be a BN(O) citizen under the Hong Kong (British Nationality) Order 1986. At the time, BN(O) status was only acquired by registration, the deadline for which was during the handover on 1 July 1997. As such, those born after 1 July 1997 were never granted BN(O) status but may be able to rely on the BN(O) Household Member route explained below.
Dependent relatives under the BN(O) Status Holder route include:
- Spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner (provided co-habitation has existed for two years);
- Children under the age of 18, including grandchildren (provided they form part of the same household); and
- adult dependent relatives (over the age of 18).
Please note that adult dependent relatives described above include: parent, grandparent, child or sibling of the BN(O) Status Holder or of the partner of the BN(O) Status Holder. They would also need to demonstrate the following to evidence their dependency:
(a) as a result of age, illness or disability require long-term personal care to perform everyday tasks; and
(b) form part of the same household as the BN(O) Status Holder who has, or is at the same time being granted, permission; and
(c) be unable, even with the practical and financial help of the BN(O) Status Holder or the partner of the BN(O) Status Holder, to obtain the required level of help in Hong Kong, if the BN(O) Status Holder or the partner of the BN(O) Status Holder move to the UK, either because the help:
i. is not available, and there is no person in Hong Kong who can reasonably provide it; or
ii. is not affordable.
The household requirement described above at (b) will not need to be satisfied by parents or grandparents applying under this route.
The BN(O) Household Member route is available to adult children (born on or after 1 July 1997) of a BN(O) citizen. The BN(O) Household Member must form part of the same household as the BN(O) status holder in order to apply under this route. Please note, the adult child applying as the BN(O) Household Member need not show dependency under this route.
The BN(O) Household Member may in turn bring their own dependent family members. Dependent family members under this route include:
- Spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner; and
- Children (grandchildren may not apply under this category).
The BN(O) Household Member must apply at the same time as the BN(O) Status Holder in order to be eligible under this route.
Where can an application for the Hong Kong BN(O) visa be made?
Applications for the BN(O) visa can be made from inside and outside the UK.
If you enter the UK before the BN(O) visa is available, you may be eligible to be granted ‘Leave Outside the Rules’ at the UK border for a period of up to 6 months together with any family members accompanying you. You will then be able to apply for the BN(O) visa from within the UK on 21 January 2021.
If you are already in the UK and your current immigration leave is set to expire before 21 January 2021, you may also apply for ‘Leave Outside the Rules’ from within the UK for a period of up to 6 months.
For more details on the specific requirements and fees, please contact us.
Is this route a path to British Citizenship?
The Hong Kong BN(O) visa route will provide indefinite leave to remain (permanent residence) to all applicants after 5 years’ continuous residence in the UK.
Applicants who are currently on a different visa route to settlement can switch into the BN(O) visa route from within the UK, and combine time already spent in the UK towards the 5-year residency requirement.
One year after obtaining indefinite leave in the UK, applicants will be able to apply for British citizenship.
The handover of Hong Kong took place on 1 July 1997, when the UK returned control of the territory to China. The deadline for applications for registration as a BN(O) citizen took place on that day. Those that did not register by that date can therefore no longer acquire BN(O) status. This raises concerns for the younger generation of protestors in Hong Kong who do not have family members with BN(O) status and who would not therefore be eligible to apply under this route. However, this may change as a proposed Bill, the Hong Kong Bill 2019-2, is being reviewed by the UK Parliament, and which will make provisions relating to immigration for Hong Kong residents including granting them the right to live in the UK. The bill’s second reading is expected to take place in January 2021.
Gherson has extensive experience in all aspects of UK immigration law. If you are interested in applying for or switching into the BN(O) visa route, or simply considering whether this visa route may be the right option for you, please do not hesitate to contact us for further advice.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.