Last year, the UK government detailed a roadmap for Hong Kong residents who hold British National (Overseas) citizenship, or “BN(O)”, to live and work in the UK.

On 31 January 2021, the BN(O) Visa opened, allowing holders of BN(O) citizenship and close family members to apply with a view to settlement and citizenship after the appropriate time.

When can I apply?

The Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas) route is open for applicants and members of their close family unit as of 31 January 2021. Applicants and family members can apply to stay for either 30 months or 5 years.

Bates Wells previously published an article on this issue that sets out the basic elements of the application process.

Who can apply?

You can apply under two routes. The BN(O) Status Holder allows those ordinarily resident in Hong Kong, the UK, Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man to apply along with certain dependents. This includes spouses, civil partners, unmarried partners, children and grandchildren under the age of 18, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters and certain adult children.

The BN(O) Household Member sub-route allows adult children born after 01 July 1997 to apply on their own terms. If you are applying under this route, your dependant family members can also apply if they are your partner, unmarried partner and children under-18. They can apply provided they live with you.

If you will be applying from outside the UK, you and your dependants must normally live in Hong Kong. If you will be applying from inside the UK, you and your dependants must normally live in the UK, Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, or Hong Kong.

You can apply from within the UK even if your current visa has expired in certain circumstances.

If you meet the eligibility requirements, you can still apply for a BN(O) visa if either:

  • your UK visa expired between 01 July 2020 and 31 January 2021; or
  • your 6 month visit ended between 1 July 2020 and 31 January 2021.

In either case, you will need to apply by 31 March 2021.

Importantly, family members must apply, together with the main applicant, after the main applicant has been granted a Unique Reference Number. Family members will not be able to apply if the main applicant has already been granted the visa.

What fees are involved?

The main applicant and each additional family member must pay £180 each to apply for up to 30 months, and £250 to apply for up to 5 years.

Applicants and their family members must also pay the Immigration Health Surcharge in order to use the National Health Service. The fees for adults are: £1,560 for applicants applying for up to up to 30 months, and £3,120 for applicants applying to stay for 5 years.

What else is required?

Applicants and family members from outside the UK must provide a valid TB certificate. If any applicant has been in the UK for less than 6 months, they must also provide a valid TB certificate.

The main applicant must also be able to demonstrate that they can support themselves, and their family, for at least 6 months in the UK. There is currently no specified figure for this but we will provide an update when more information is released. This support can be met through:

  • money in a bank account;
  • income from a current job in the UK (including self-employment);
  • any other income (for example from renting out a property);
  • offers of support or accommodation from friends or family.

If you intend to evidence that you normally live in Hong Kong, you should keep and maintain a record of residence in Hong Kong in the form of:

  • a Hong Kong identity card;
  • a Hong Kong medical card;
  • a letter from an employer or education provider confirming employment or study;
  • a voter’s card;
  • a visa or residence permit or other immigration documents;
  • an educational record, for example a school report;
  • tax records;
  • records of rent or mortgage payments;
  • household bills.

You will not be required to demonstrate an English language requirement for the initial visa. After living in the UK for five years, if you were to apply for indefinite leave to remain you will have to show English language ability to level B1. You would also have to pass the “Life in the UK Test”.

What else do I need to do?

If you apply now, you will be required to attend a biometric enrolment appointment in person in order to provide your documents, fingerprints and photograph in order to process your application.

The Home Office has announced that holders of a BN(O), Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) or European Economic Area e-passport (with a chip) will be able to use a smartphone app to provide their photograph and fingerprints. This will only be available if you apply on or after 23 February 2021.

When would I need to travel to the UK?

If you apply before 23 February 2021, and attend a biometric enrolment appointment in person, you must travel to the UK within 90 days of your visa being granted.

Importantly, if you apply on or after 23 February 2021, and are invited to use the app as detailed above, there is no deadline by which you must travel to the UK.

Our immigration team is available to advise on current immigration options for BN(O)s as well as the proposed new visa route from next year.