Britain announces new class of visa for Hong Kong BN(O) passport holders as first step in new track to earning citizenship
The new visas will allow applicants to live and work in Britain for up to five years
After that, BN(O) holders can apply to settle in Britain, and after another year, apply for British citizenship
The British government is set to create a special class of visa next January for Hong Kong holders of BN(O) passports and their close family members as the first step in a new pathway to earning the right of abode in the country and full British citizenship. There will be no cap on the number of British National (Overseas) passport holders allowed to participate, and applications will open on January 31, 2021, according to a statement issued by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. More than one million people from Hong Kong could move to Britain in the next five years under the new visa scheme, including 500,000 in the first year, according to British media reports citing official estimates.
The new “Hong Kong BN(O) Visa” will allow the holder to enter and remain in Britain for an initial period of 30 months, extendable by a further 30 months, or a single period of five years, according to information on the British government’s website. “You’ll be able to work and study, but you won’t be able to access public funds such as social welfare benefits,” a statement on the website reads. Holders can apply to settle in Britain once they have lived there for five years. “After 12 months with this status, you can apply for British citizenship,” the statement says.
To be eligible, the applicant must have BN(O) status and “normally” live in Hong Kong or Britain, and must be able to accommodate and support him or herself financially in the country for at least six months. Those who are already in Britain can also apply locally. Unmarried partners, spouses or civil partners are also regarded as dependants.
A five-year visa will cost £250 (HK$2,533) per person, while a 30-month visa will be £180 (HK$1,824) per person. BN(O) passports were issued to Hongkongers born before the 1997 handover. There are about 2.9 million Hongkongers eligible for BN(O) status.