Hong Kong British National (Overseas) citizens with British National Overseas or BN(O) passports can see a glimmer of hope to escape Chinese controversial laws and regulations.
The UK has launched a new visa scheme which gives Hong Kong residents with BN(O) passports the opportunity to become British citizens.
As per the estimates of the UK government, around 5.4 million Hong Kong residents will be eligible to migrate to the UK and apply for residency. Here’s all you need to know about BN(O) passport holders and the announcement.
What Is A BN(O) Passport?
BN(O) passport is a type of British passport issued for permanent residents of Hong Kong who used to be citizens of British Dependent territories. The passports were issued once the Hong Kong Act of 1985 was implemented.
In 1987, permanent residents of Hong Kong were given a choice to either apply for BN(O) passports or remain a BDTC (British Dependent Territories Citizen).
The former wasn’t very popular due to their costs. However, when Hong Kong’s sovereignty was transferred to China in 1997, several residents sent in their applications for BN(O) passports. According to the UK Home Office, as of April 2020, there are around valid 357,156 BN(O) passports.
What The Visa Scheme Is About?
With the new visa scheme, all individuals living in Hong Kong with BN(O) passports can come to the UK along with their dependants for five years. During these years, they will be able to work, study, and utilize NHS services.
However, they will not be able to claim benefits from NHS as well as housing and unemployment subsidies and other public funds. Like other international residents, the applicants’ earnings will be subject to tax.
Once the five years are complete, they can apply for settlement. A year later, they’ll have the opportunity to apply for British citizenship. During these years, they will be able to buy properties. But unemployed individuals must note that they might have to pay a larger down payment if they apply for a mortgage.
Why Was The Announcement Made?
On 30 June 2020, The National People’s Congress passed a controversial law for Hong Kong residents called the new National Security Law. The law prohibits secession, sedition, and subversion against the government and criminalizes collusion and terrorism.
The UK government panned the law for breaching the Sino-British Joint Declaration. When the British had handed Hong Long to China, they agreed on a principle called ‘one country, two systems’. This principle gives special rights to Hong Kong residents, unlike other citizens of China.
Many critics have called this move a crackdown of dissent on human rights. As a result of this, the UK has decided to create this immigration pathway for BN(O) passport holders to help them settle down in the UK without any hassle.
Who Are Eligible For BN(O) Passports?
BN(O) passport holders, who were born before 31 December 1997, and their dependants are eligible to apply for UK citizenship. The criteria for dependants are the following:
- Spouse or partner
- Child under 18 years of age
- Child born on or after 1 July 1997
What Will Be The Cost Of UK Citizenship?
Each applicant needs to apply for a Hong Kong British National Overseas visa. Here are the costs:
- £180 for 30 months’ stay. Those willing to extend their stay by another 30 months need to pay an extra £180.
- £250 for five years’ stay.
- £624 per adult and £470 per child for Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). This must be paid annually.
- £19.20 per person for biometric assessment.
One important point to be noted is that the applicants need to show bank statements and other proofs to prove that they will be able to support themselves in the UK for a minimum of 6 months. The government will also carry out background checks on each applicant to ensure they weren’t involved in any criminal activities.
Unlike the criteria set for other international prospects coming to settle down in the UK, the people from Hong Kong won’t have any skill, employment, or English-language requirements for the move.
Applications for the new scheme are out from 31 January 2021 onwards, at UK Visa Application Centre in North Point. From 22 February 2021 onwards, applications will be available online. Until then, prospects need to submit their fingerprints as part of the application process.
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