The UK’s Hong Kong BNO visa allows British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) from Hong Kong, and their immediate family members, to live, work and study in the UK. The BNO visa is a route to indefinite leave to remain and British citizenship.
What is the Hong Kong BN(O) visa?
Prior to 31 January 2021, BNO passport holders could visit the UK for up to six months without a visa. The Hong Kong BN(O) visa was introduced by the UK Government in response to China’s parliament imposing a severe security law on Hong Kong.
The visa extends the rights of BNO nationals to settle in the UK. Key features of the route are as follows:
Unlimited number of visas
There will be no cap on the number of Hong Kong BNO visas issued.
Lenient eligibility criteria
There will be no skills or minimum income requirements applicable to this route.
Dependants also eligible
Applicants can bring their immediate dependants, including non-BNO citizens.
No job or sponsorship necessary
Applicants will not need to have found a job to be eligible – they can look for work once in the UK.
5-year visa duration
Applications can be made for an initial period of 30 months, extendable by a further 30 months, or as a single application for the full 5 years.
Route to settlement & citizenship
After 5 years in the UK under the Hong Kong BNO visa, holders can become eligible for UK indefinite leave to remain. After 12 months with ILR, they can become eligible for British citizenship.
No BNO passport necessary
Applicants do not need to have a BNO passport to be eligible for the Hong Kong BNO visa.
Permission to work & study
Visa holders will not need to seek additional permission to work or study in the UK.
Access to healthcare.
Visa holders will be able to access the NHS, having paid the Immigration Health Surcharge.
Access to public education.
Visa holders’ dependent children can attend state school.
Apply in the UK or from overseas
Applications can be made from within the UK or outside.
Liable for tax
Visa holders will pay national insurance and income tax.
No restrictions on employment.
Visa holders will have access to the job market at any skill level and without salary threshold, and can be self-employed.
Hong Kong BNO visa eligibility requirements
To be eligible for the Hong Kong BNO visa, applicants must be 18 or over, have British national (overseas) status and ordinarily be resident in Hong Kong, the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.
You will not need to have a valid BNO passport to make your application, as the Home Office should be able to check your status from records. Applicants will need to prove their identity, for example using any applicable nationality passport. You do not need to have a BN(O) passport to apply, provided you meet the other eligibility criteria.
BN(O) visa holders must prove they can provide house and financially support themselves and their dependant family members for 6 months.
The level of funds required will depend on how many family members are applying with you, and will need to cover accommodation costs and be at least the equivalent level of Income Support in the UK. As a guide, this would be around:
£2,000 for a single adult
£3,100 for a couple with a child
£4,600 for a couple with 3 children
£9,200 for a couple, 2 parents and 2 adult children
You can meet this requirement either through income, savings or help from family or friends.
The financial requirement doesn’t apply if you have already been in the UK for at least 12 months.
Which family members are eligible?
Your dependants may also be eligible to apply with you for the BN(O) visa.
Dependant family members could include your:
- Spouse or civil partner
- Unmarried partner, where you have been cohabiting for a minimum of 2 years at the time of the application
- Child or grandchild under 18
- Child 18 or older, born on or after 1 July 1997 (and their partner or child under 18)
- Parent, grandparent, brother, sister, son or daughter (18 or older) if they live with you and are very dependent on you for their care
Dependants should also normally live with you.
Children over the age of 18 are ordinarily not classed as dependants under the UK immigration rules. Likewise, those born after 1997 are not eligible for BNO status, nor is it not possible to apply for BNO status or for BNO citizens to pass their status on to their children. However, the definition of dependants for the BN(O) visa specifically includes this cohort.
Adult children who are not eligible for the BN(O) visa may wish to consider alternative immigration routes based on their circumstances, such as a work or study visa:
Skilled worker visa – open to individuals sponsored by an approved employer for a qualifying, skilled role.
The Tier 5 Youth Mobility scheme, which is open to Hong Kong nationals between the ages of 18 and 25 to work in the UK.
Student visa – to undertake study on a qualifying course.
Applying for the Hong Kong BNO visa
Applicants will have the choice to apply for a five year visa, or to apply for a 30-month visa, with the option to renew this for a further 30 months.
How to apply from overseas
Complete the BN(O) visa application online. You will then be advised how you need to prove your identity to complete your application. This will require you to either use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan your BNO, HKSAR (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) or EEA passport, or to attend an appointment at a local visa application centre to submit your biometric information. If you have to attend an application centre, your passport may be retained while the application is processed.
How to apply from the UK
If you are already in the UK on a different visa, you can apply to switch to the BN(O) visa.
The BN(O) application has to be made online. You will be advised at the time of making your application if you need to verify your identity using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app (if you have a BNO, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) or EEA e-passport) or if you need an appointment at a UKVCAS centre.
If your visa has already expired, such as your 6 month visitor visa, you can still apply by 31 March 2021 provided:
your UK visa expired between 1 July 2020 and 31 January 2021, or
your 6 month visit ended between 1 July 2020 and 31 January 2021.
How to apply with your family
Each family member has to apply for the same period of leave as you, ie two and a half years or five years.
Once you have submitted your application, you will be issued a Global Web Form (GWF) or a Unique Application Number (UAN). Your dependant family members will need to use this reference number to make their own application. Dependant applications should be made on the same day as you make your primary application.
Note also that children under 18 have to apply with both of their parents, unless one parent or grandparent has sole responsibility for them.
Both you and your family members will need to prove in your individual applications that you have a qualifying relationship and that you live with each other.
It is not possible for a dependant to apply after your visa decision has been made.
How much does the BN(O) visa cost?
The BN(O) visa application fee is £180 for a 2 and a half year visa, or £250 for a 5 year visa. The fee is payable per applicant.
Most applicants will also have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge at the time of making the application, to cover the relevant visa period (30 months or 5 years). The Immigration Health Surcharge is now £624 per visa holder per year, with a reduced rate for children. For a 5-year visa, this will equate to £3,120 per adult and £2,350 for applicants under 18 years of age.
In addition, each applicant will also need to pay £19.20 to submit biometric information.
Supporting documents. As well as completing the application form, you will also need to submit documentation to evidence your eligibility in relation to nationality, residence, maintenance, relationship to your dependants
Valid passport or other travel document to confirm your identity
Mortgage statements or tenancy agreement
A letter from your employer, on company letterhead, confirming your address and employment
Immigration document such as a residence permit
Proof of funds such as bank or savings account statements, proof of income if self-employed, payslips
BN(O) passport holders can use their passport (even if expired) to prove their status. This will expedite processing, but is not a mandatory requirement as the Home Office will still be able to access records to confirm your status.
You will need to provide three different, recent documents proving you have a permanent home in Hong Kong, the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.
If family members are applying with you, they will also have to provide evidence that they live with you, with at least one document dated no more than 31 days before the application such as a copy of a marriage or civil partnership certificate or birth certificate.
You may also need to provide a TB test certificate (from an approved test centre and no more than 6 months old) if you have been living in Hong Kong or another country where you have to take a TB test for the past 6 months, or you did not provide a TB test certificate when you came to the UK.
From BNO visa to indefinite leave to remain & British citizenship
After 5 years in the UK under the Hong Kong BNO visa, holders become eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain. The ILR application requires applicants to show continuous residence in the UK during the qualifying 5-year period. This means having absences from the country of no more than 180 days in any 12-month period during the 5 years.
With ILR, you are no longer subject to immigration control and can remain in the UK indefinitely. Should you be absent fro the UK for more than 2 years, your ILR status will likely expire.
With 12 months ILR status, you may then become eligible to register as a British citizen under s4 of the British Nationality Act 1981. This requires you to complete Form B(OTA) and pay the registration fee of £1,225.20. Non-BNO family members, however, are expected to have to naturalise as a British citizen, a different process to registration which is also more expensive at £1,349.20.
My Legal Services are UK immigration specialists. We have substantial experience of advising Hong Kong nationals across all types of UK visa applications. If you have a query about the BN(O) visa, your eligibility for the route or how to apply, contact us.