Home Secretary announces details of the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa

Alex CanhamPartner, Herrington Carmichael LLP

The Home Secretary provided some further updates on the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa on 22nd July. The key take-away points are:

  • If you’re a BN(O) citizen, you can already stay in the UK as a visitor for up to 6 months without a visa. As a visitor, you do not have the right to live, work or take up long-term study in the UK.
  • The new route will be open for BN(O) citizens and their close family members from January 2021;
  • Applications can be made both inside and outside the UK;
  • There will be two options:
    • Apply for leave to enter or remain in the UK for an initial period of 30 months, which is extendable by a further period of 30 months; or
    • Apply to enter or remain in the UK for a single period of 5 years.
  • After 5 years of living in the UK, applicants will be able to apply to settle in the UK (“ILR”). After a further period of 12 months with ILR status, applicants can them apply for British citizenship.
  • During the initial period, these applicants will be able to work and study in the UK but will not be eligible to access public funds. Unlike other immigration routes, BN(O) Visa applicants will have access to the job market at any skill level and will not have to meet any salary thresholds.

There are several eligibility requirements to apply for the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa. You will need able to evidence that you:

  • Have BN(O) status – you can use a valid or expired BN(O) citizen passport to evidence this;
  • Normally live in Hong Kong;
  • Can accommodate and support yourself financially in the UK for a period of at least 6 months;
  • Show commitment to learn English;
  • Get a TB test certificate from a Home Office approved clinic; and
  • Pay the immigration fee and the immigration health surcharge.

‘Leave Outside the Rules’

If there is no current immigration route available to you, Border Force may consider granting ‘Leave Outside the Rules’ for a period of 6 months. This can include yourself and your dependants. Evidence required for this route is: your identity; your BN(O) status; that you normally reside in Hong Kong; and that you can accommodate and support yourself financially in the UK.

Dependants include:

  1. Spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner (if together for more than two years);
  2. Children under the age of 18; and
  3. Other family members if there is evidence of a high level of dependency.

Evidence will be required to prove the relationship between yourself and your dependants. This could include marriage certificates, birth certificates and proof of residing together.

If entering via this route, you and your dependants can work and study, but you cannot access public funds or use the NHS for free.

Those eligible to do so will be able to switch to the Hong Kong BN(O) route once it is open, from within the UK.

If you require further advice regarding the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa or any other Immigration matters, please contact Bermeet Chokkar in our Immigration department at bermeet.chokkar@herrington-carmichael.com or on 0118 989 9700.

This reflects the law at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought as appropriate in relation to a particular matter.