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New immigration route – Hong Kong BN(O) visa

In a new policy statement released yesterday, the government has officially announced introduction of a new visa for British Nationals Overseas resident in Hong Kong. The visa will be open for applications in January 2021. It is estimated that nearly 3 mln Hong Kong residents may potentially benefit from this route.

Holders of the BN(O) visa will be allowed to live and work in the UK and will qualify for indefinite leave to remain after five years of residence. They will be entitled to apply for full British citizenship 12 months after being granted indefinite leave to remain or straight after, if married to a British citizen.

The requirements for BN(O) visa:

  • The main applicant should have BN(O) status. BN(O) passport is not required but may facilitate the process.
  • Applicants and their dependants must be ordinarily resident in Hong Kong;
  • Applicants will be required to demonstrate their ability to accommodate and support themselves without recourse to public funds;
  • Commitment to learn English, if appropriate;
  • TB test from an approved clinic;
  • Evidence of dependent family members’ link to the main applicant;
  • Good character – applicants should not be subject to general grounds for refusal for the reasons of criminality, public policy, or past immigration offences.

The applicants will be allowed to bring their non-BN(O) dependants, namely partner and children under the age of 18. In compelling and compassionate circumstances children over 18 who are still dependent on their parents may be considered. Dependent parents will not be eligible unless BN(O)s in their own right. However, in exceptional circumstances the Home Office will have discretion to consider applications by adult dependent relatives on a case by case basis.

BN(O) visa holders and their dependants will have the right to work or study in the UK and will not need any additional permissions. Access to the NHS and primary and secondary education will be allowed but no recourse to public funds.

BN(O) dependants of British citizens can benefit from this type of visa as compared to the standard spouse route, in that this visa will be granted for five years and will not be conditioned on the subsisting relationship with the British sponsor.

The BN(O) visa will be subject to Immigration Health Surcharge in the same way as other immigration categories. The visa holders will have access to the NHS and public education for children. They will not be entitled to use public funds and will be responsible for their own accommodation.

Applications can be made from Hong Kong or from the UK.

The visa will be granted for the initial period of 2.5 years or for the full five-year period. The five-year visa will be more expensive but will offer a saving as compared to two stretches of 30 months. The application fee has not yet been announced.

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