Current Status of BN(O) Citizens
BN(O) status is a form of British nationality that was created in the runup to the handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China in 1997. Holders of the status are able to hold a British passport, but this does not entitle them to full UK citizenship rights.
Currently, if you are a BN(O) citizen, you can stay in the UK but, only as a visitor, for up to 6 months.
As a visitor, you are subject to immigration control, and you do not have the right to live, work or take up long term study in the UK.
You also cannot access any public welfare funds in the UK and must pay for non-urgent healthcare.
New immigration route for BN(O) in Hong Kong
From January 2021, BN(O) citizens and their close family members would be able to apply for the new BN(O) Visa from outside or inside the UK. Close family members (such as spouses and children under 18) can apply as the main applicant’s dependants even without a BN(O) status. The Home Office will exercise discretion to grant a visa for children who are over the age of 18 but still dependant on their parent in ‘compelling and compassionate circumstances’.
However, the UK government will be able to consider granting Leave Outside the Rules for six months to BN(O) citizens and their accompanying dependants who wish to travel before January 2021.
With this new immigration route, you can enter or remain in the UK for 30 months, and extendable by a further 30 months, or a single period of 5 years. You can work and study, you will be able to access the National Health Service, and your children will have access to public education.
You will have no access to other public welfare funds as you have to be financially responsible for your own accommodation and maintenance.
After 5 years, you can apply for ‘Indefinite leave to remain’ (ILR), provided that you have complied with the visa terms and have supported yourself financially. After having ILR for 12 months, you can apply for British citizenship. See HERE for more information on ILR.
Advantages of new BN(O) visa:
- Leave to remain in the UK for 5 years
- Right to work in UK as an employed or self-employed person
- Bring family without BN(O) status – spouse and children under 19
- Access to education and training for dependents under age 18
- Access to the ability to apply for higher education sources
- Access to National Health Services
- Ability to apply for ILR after 5 years, and British citizenship after another 12 months
Eligibility for BN(O) visa
In order to be eligible for the new BN(O) visa, you need to:
- Have a BN(O) status
- Be ordinarily resident in Hong Kong, which includes those currently in the UK but who are ordinarily resident in Hong Kong
- Capable of accommodating and supporting yourself financially in the UK for at least 6 months
- Show a commitment to learning English, where appropriate
- Get a Tuberculosis (TB) test certificate from a clinic approved by the UK Home Office
- Pay a fee for the visa
- Pay the Immigration Health Surcharge
- Have no serious criminal convictions
You can apply for the new BN(O) visa from inside or outside UK. The applications will be a digital online application, for most parts of the application you will not need to send in physical documents by post or be interviewed.
All applicants will be required to provide biometric data. However, BN(O) citizens will only need to provide their facial biometrics. Dependants of BN(O) citizens who are not BN(O) citizens themselves will need to give their fingerprints as part of the application process.
Not eligible for BN(O)? You may still be able to come to the UK
If you are not currently eligible to apply for a BN(O) visa for one of the reasons, you may still be able to come to the UK via general UK immigration routes. The most common types of visas for Hong Kong nationals are student (Tier 4) and work (Tier 2) visas. However, you may be able to apply through a family connection, investment or as an overseas business representative. You can find more information about different types of UK visa options on our general UK Immigration & Visas page here.
If you need guidance on immigration, contact our experienced immigration solicitors today on 020 7427 5972 or firstname.lastname@example.org