The new immigration rules are to be introduced for Hong Kong Nationals (Overseas) and their close family members from January 2021. Currently, Hong Kong BNO holder can stay in the UK as a visitor for up to 6 months without a visa however subject to immigration control without the right to live permanently, work or to study in the UK.
The new Appendix Hong Kong National (overseas) will introduce two separate immigration routes.
- BNO Status Holder Route
- BNO Household Member Route
BNO Status Holder Route as it sounds is for British National Overseas citizens who are resident in Hong Kong or the UK. Any dependants including spouse and children can also apply under this route. It may be possible in exceptional circumstances to apply for family members with a high dependency.
The BN(O) Household Member route is for adult children, born on or after 1 July 1997, of a British National (Overseas) citizen. The BN(O) Household Member, and any dependent partner or child applying under this route, must form part of the same household as the BNO citizen. For their part, BN(O) citizens wishing to come to the UK will be expected to be self-sufficient and to integrate and contribute to the betterment of UK society.
The visa will be valid for up to 5 years, during which time the holder is subject to UK immigration control. Visa holders will not require additional permissions to work or to study, and may become the dependants of a UK resident, for example through marriage. In order to qualify for settled status after 5 years, visa holders must meet our rules for continuous residence in the UK, which allow for absences of up to 180 days in any 12- month period. Once settled status is acquired, it may be retained despite absences from the UK of up to 2 years but may be forfeited if absences are longer without good reason. If after 5 years the visa holder does not apply for settled status or is refused, they will be expected to leave the UK and may be removed.
If you’re not eligible to enter the UK under an existing immigration route, Border Force officers may be able to consider granting ‘Leave Outside the Rules’ at the UK border for a period of up to 6 months to you and your accompanying dependants. You can then apply for the Hong Kong BN(O) visa from within the UK when it is available.
- be ordinarily resident in Hong Kong, which includes those currently in the UK but who are ordinarily resident in Hong Kong
- demonstrate a commitment to learn English in the UK where appropriate – on entry, there will be no English language requirement, but applicants will require a good knowledge of the English language if they choose later to make an application for settled status (indefinite leave to remain) after five years
- be able to demonstrate their ability to accommodate and support themselves in the UK for at least six months
- hold a current tuberculosis test certificate from a clinic approved by the Home Office1
- pay a fee for the visa and the Immigration Health Surcharge both payable in full at the point of the visa application
- have no serious criminal convictions, have not otherwise engaged in behaviour which the UK Government deems not conducive to the public good, and not be subject to other general grounds for refusal set out in the Immigration Rules
After BN(O) visa status has been granted, applicants and their dependents must also be under certain conditions.
- Applicants will have the option to apply for leave to remain in the UK for a period of 2.5 or 5 years. This will consist of an initial period of 30 months’ leave, renewable by a second charged application for a further 30 months. Alternatively, applicants will be able to apply for 5 years’ leave from the outset, upon payment of a higher fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge for the duration. Applying for 5 years’ leave is likely to be more cost-effective overall
- no recourse to public funds
- the right to work in the UK in almost any capacity as an employed or self-employed person, consistent with UK employment laws and subject to having the appropriate skills and qualifications
- access to education including:
- schooling for under 18 child dependants
- education and training for young people aged 16-19
- the ability to apply for higher education courses
- access to healthcare free at the point of use on the same terms as British residents, contingent on payment of the Immigration Health Surcharge (see above). It is right that a contribution is made by BN(O) citizens who will benefit from access to our National Health Service
The fee for the initial visa and any renewal will be announced in due course. If individuals then wish to settle or obtain citizenship in the UK, each of these applications will attract additional fees. The fee for settlement is currently set at £2,389 plus a £19.20 Biometric enrolment fee, whilst citizenship currently costs £1,206 for adult applications.
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. Connaught Law and authors accept 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 Connaught Law. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Connaught Law.
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