Insights

A Welcome Change: Simplified BN(O) Visa Process for Hong Kong Residents

Introduction

BN(O) status is a form of British nationality created for people from Hong Kong so they could retain a form of British nationality and a connection to the UK after the handover to China in 1997 in line with the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

The UK government introduced the Hong Kong British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) route to provide the opportunity for BN(O) status holders and certain family members to live, work, and study in the UK. This followed the imposition by the Chinese Government of a national security law on Hong Kong, in breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which restricts the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.

The BNO visa is commonly known as the “5+1” scheme. Applicants can apply for indefinite leave to remain after 5 years of continuous residency in the UK, and they can choose to naturalize as British citizens after holding settled status for 1 year.

Content

On 11th April 2024, the UK government have further relaxed the immigration rules for BNO route, allowing more flexibility to Hong Konger who would like to come to the UK via BNO visa. Some of important (not all*) changes are as follow:

  • Allow Adult Dependent Relatives to apply later to join the main applicant in the UK;
  • Remove the requirement for partners and Adult Dependent Relatives to have their permission end on the same date as the main applicant where they can apply to join them later in the UK;
  • Enable those who are on immigration bail solely because they have claimed asylum in the UK to apply to the BN(O) route.
Asylum seeker

Before April 11, 2024, Hong Kongers who have claimed asylum in the UK are not eligible to apply for a BNO visa. This is because, under the suitability requirements, applicants applying for permission to stay must not be in breach of immigration law or on immigration bail. When you claim asylum in the UK, you are usually granted immigration bail, which does not meet the suitability requirements for a BNO visa.

However, after April 11, 2024, as mentioned in the Appendix Hong Kong BNO and caseworker guidance, applicants will fail the suitability requirement if they are on immigration bail, except when they have been placed on such bail after claiming asylum. This means that if Hong Kongers who have a BNO passport, or any family members who have a BNO passport, wish to switch from asylum to a BNO visa, they are now allowed to do so.

Flexibility

Before April 11, 2024, BNO status holders and their household members, including adult dependent relatives, were required to apply for a BNO visa together. They would be granted the same visa end date and would not be able to join the status holder if they did not apply at the same time.

After April 11, 2024, the Home Office has removed the requirement for partners and adult dependent relatives to have their permission end on the same date as the BNO status holder. Especially for adult dependent relatives, they are now allowed to apply later to join the BNO status holder at a later date. This relaxation allows Hong Kongers, particularly those whose elderly parents are still living in Hong Kong, to change their minds and bring their families to the UK.

In Appendix BNO, there is no special requirement for an adult dependent relative to demonstrate a change in circumstances. The applicant only needs to demonstrate their relationship and dependency on the main applicant. The relationship must be either that of a parent, grandparent, brother, sister, son, or daughter of the main applicant. The dependency should be a result of age, illness, or disability requiring long-term personal care to perform everyday tasks. Additionally, they must be unable to continue living in Hong Kong, even with the practical and financial help of the BN(O) status holder who has moved to the UK.

Please contact us for a consultation if you have any further questions about the BNO visa or need help with your UK immigration application.

*This article is not legal advice but provides a general overview. The specific details of your case will determine the best course of action.