Immigration Rules confirmed for Hong Kong British National (Overseas) citizens
19 November 2020
From 31 January 2021, two new immigration routes will be introduced for British National (Overseas) (‘BNO’) citizens and for their adult children, who are born on or after 1 July 1997. These two routes are BN(O) Status Holder and BN(O) Household Member.
The detailed Immigration Rules for these routes were published by the Home Office on 22 October 2020.
Who can apply under the BN(O) Status Holder route?
Under the new Rules, any BNO citizen who is ordinarily resident in Hong Kong or in the UK (plus Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man) is eligible to apply under this route. It is not necessary for them to hold a valid BNO citizen passport, as long as they qualify for BNO citizenship. Usually this includes people born in Hong Kong before 1 July 1997 who registered for BNO status (though note that there may be some exceptions depending on individual circumstances).
Some family members of a BNO citizen meeting the above criteria can also apply at the same time as the main applicant. The following categories of family members can apply as dependants:
- Spouses and unmarried partners who are in a genuine and subsisting relationship with the BNO citizen. Unmarried partners must have also lived with the BNO citizen for at least two years in a relationship akin to marriage.
- Children and grandchildren under the age of 18, who normally live with the BNO citizen. Both parents of the child, or grandparents of a grandchild must be applying at the same time. Alternatively, if a child’s or grandchild’s application is being accompanied by only one parent’s or grandparent’s application, that parent or grandparent must evidence sole responsibility for the child.
- An adult dependent relative who is over the age of 18 and is the parent, grandparent, brother, sister, son or daughter of the BNO citizen. In addition, adult relatives must be dependent on the BNO citizen because of their age, illness or disability, form part of the same household and be unable to obtain the required level of help in Hong Kong.
Who can apply under the BN(O) Household Member route?
Adult children of a BNO citizen over the age of 18 and born on or after 1 July 1997 can apply under this route. They must normally live with their BNO citizen parent.
Main applicants under the BN(O) Household Member route can have dependants accompany them to the UK. However, this includes partners and minor children only (not grandchildren and adult dependent relatives).
Eligibility criteria for all applicants
Residence in Hong Kong or the UK
Those applying for entry clearance must be ordinarily resident in Hong Kong. Individuals who are already in the UK must be ordinarily resident in the UK. There is no minimum period of residence or maximum limit on absences to comply with. Applicants will need to show that they live in the UK or Hong Kong on a regular basis and provide evidence confirming this, eg utility bills, tenancy or mortgage agreement, identity card, a letter from an employer, doctor or government agency, school reports, tax documentation or a polling card.
Applicants will need to show that they can maintain and accommodate themselves and dependants for at least six months. They will need to provide bank statements showing sufficient funds and evidence confirming accommodation arrangements, eg a tenancy agreement, letter from landlord or a family member.
Applicants who have been residing in the UK for more than 12 months are not required to provide the above evidence and will automatically meet the financial requirement.
Applicants resident in Hong Kong will need to provide TB test certificate from a Hong-Kong based Hong Kong-based approved clinic. UK applicants with leave granted for six months or less or who obtained leave to enter at the border will also need to provide a TB test certificate from a UK-based UK-based approved clinic.
Applicants must not have any serious criminal convictions or adverse immigration history, eg previously deceiving immigration authorities.
It is not necessary for applicants to speak English (and to meet the English language requirement) to be granted limited leave under these routes. However, those who wish to apply for settlement in the future must meet the English language and Life in the UK test requirements.
The application process for both routes will be launched on 31 January 2021. Before this date, is also possible for BNO citizens and their dependants who travel to the UK to be admitted outside the Immigration Rules on arrival and for those whose existing leave expires before the scheme launches to apply for further stay outside the Immigration Rules. In each case applicants must provide evidence of meeting all the eligibility criteria above.
The Home Office intends to release an ID check app for use in the application process. Applicants with biometric passports can use the app to submit their application. Alternatively, applications can be made using an online form. Applicants will then be required to enrol their biometric information (fingerprints and a digital photo) at a visa application centre.
Visa duration and format
It is possible to apply either for a 30-month visa or a five-year visa. It may be convenient to apply for a five-year visa to avoid the need to renew it in the future, however this will involve greater upfront cost. Successful applicants will receive a digital visa.
Settlement and British citizenship
After five years continuous residence in the UK, main applicants and their dependants may become eligible for settlement, otherwise called indefinite leave to remain (ILR) or. permanent residence. They will need to meet all the usual settlement requirements, which for adults includes passing the Life in the UK test (unless exempt) and not being absent from the UK for more than 180 days in any rolling 12-month period during the five years.
For most applicants, eligibility for British citizenship will become possible a year after settlement has been granted. It will be possible immediately after the grant of settlement for those with a British spouse or civil partner, or for children under 18 who are born in the UK. Naturalisation as a British citizen involves different residence requirements of no more than 450 days absence over the five years before the application (or no more than 270 days over a three year qualifying period for those with a British spouse or civil partner), and no more than 90 days absence in the final 12 months.
The Home Office application fee will be £180 for a 30-month visa or £250 for a five-year visa.
Applicants will also be required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge, which is currently £624 per year per adult and £470 per year per child. There may also be additional fees for appointments and for the priority service to expedite application processing.
Main applicants and their dependants will be permitted to study and work in the UK with few restrictions while holding leave on these routes.
Employment as a professional sportsperson or sports coach will not be allowed.
There will also be no access to public funds while holding limited leave under the routes (though accessing the NHS and attending a state school is allowed).
If you would like further information about these routes or require assistance with applying, please contact Naomi Hanrahan-Soar or Li Xiang.