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A New Immigration Route for Hong Kong British Nationals Overseas

A new immigration route opened yesterday (31 January 2021), which significantly extends the currently limited entitlements to those from Hong Kong who hold British National Overseas (BNO) status.  The new route will grant leave for such individuals to live in the UK for up to five years, after which settlement can be applied for if eligible (and then citizenship after a further 12 months).

BNO status is a type of British nationality which was created specifically for citizens of Hong Kong in anticipation of the return of sovereignty to China, to allow them to retain a level of connection the UK after 1 July 1997.  Those with BNO status can apply for and hold a British passport but are not entitled to full UK citizenship rights. Most notably, individuals with this status are presently subject to immigration control and do not automatically have the right to live and work in the UK.  It is estimated that there are around 2.9 million people who hold BNO status, although only around 10-12% of those hold a British passport.

This new immigration route will offer a path to British citizenship without the need to have secured employment or meet certain skills or income thresholds as you would under the sponsored skilled worker route.  Applicants will, however, be required to show that they can support themselves financially for up to six months and will be subject to criminality checks, visa fees and the Immigration Health Surcharge.  The decision comes in the wake of China’s implementation of new security laws in Hong Kong.  The Government has made clear that those with BNO status are in an unusual position and it does not intend the decision to set a precedent in respect of other immigration routes.

Approximately 7,000 BNO passport holders have already been granted settlement in the UK at the government’s discretion, known as “leave outside the rules”.  The Home Office has indicated that it expects between 258,000 and 322,400 BNO holders to use the route in the first five years, therefore this is expected to be a significant route of entry for BNO passport holders seeking to live and work in the UK.

For more information on eligibility or assistance with this route please contact our Immigration Team using the details below.

See our recent webinar ‘Brexit – One month to go until the new immigration system – are you ready?’.



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