The Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa
If you are from Hong Kong and are a British national (overseas) you and your family members can apply for a British National (Overseas) visa. This is known as a BNO visa. It allows you to live, work and study in the UK.
Updates as per the new amendments of 18 October 2022
Since 30 November 2022 new provisions are enacted in order to enable children of BN(O) status holders to apply to the BN(O) route independently (that is, without needing to form part of their parents’ household or apply at the same time as them).
This change will apply to those who:
• have at least one BN(O) parent;
• are aged 18 or over;
• were born on or after 1 July 1997; and
• reside in Hong Kong, the UK or the Crown Dependencies.
Partners, dependent children, and adult dependent relatives of the adult child may also apply with them.
A. Eligibility requirements
For main applicant
The main applicant must be a British National (Overseas) citizen. This immediately rules out anybody born after 31 December 1997. You will not have to hold a valid British National (Overseas) citizen passport to prove their status, though applicants are encouraged to dig out any current or expired BNO passports to aid in the application process.
For dependent family members
Spouses, partners, and children under the age of 18 will be eligible to apply for visas as dependants of the main applicant. Although not spelled out in the policy statement, we expect the same definitions of children and partners seen throughout the Immigration Rules will apply here too: children between the ages of 16 and 18 living an independent life may be ineligible, as might be unmarried partners who have not been living together for at least 2 years.
In a welcome move which acknowledges that many family units include dependent children over the age of 18, Home Office decision-makers will be permitted to exercise discretion to grant a dependant visa to adult children of British National (Overseas) citizens. Confusingly, the document says that decision-makers will be looking for compelling and compassionate circumstances in order to exercise their discretion. This discretion will normally be limited to children born after 1 July 1997 and where the whole family is applying together as one unit.
In an even more uncharacteristically generous move, the policy also states that other adult dependant relatives of a British National citizen may be eligible for a dependant visa at the government’s discretion on a case by case basis. Decision-makers here will be looking for “exceptional circumstances of high dependency” which will be a more stringent test than the “compelling and compassionate circumstances” test for children over 18, but potentially a lower threshold than the current adult dependant relative rules for British and settled people.
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Ordinary residence in Hong Kong
Both the main applicant and their dependants must be “ordinarily resident in Hong Kong”. This includes British National (Overseas) citizens currently in the UK who are ordinarily resident in Hong Kong.
Applicants and their dependants have to demonstrate that they can accommodate and support themselves in the UK for at least six months.
How much you need depends on how many family members are applying with you. For example, you need about:
- £2,000 as a single adult
- £3,100 as a couple with a child
- £4,600 as a couple with 3 children
- £9,200 as a couple with 2 parents and 2 adult children
Knowledge of English language
There will be no English language requirement for the initial visa, but after residing in the UK for five years, applicants for indefinite leave to remain “will require a good knowledge of the English language”. This can be translated as meaning applicants will have to satisfy the usual requirements for settlement: an approved and valid B1 CEFR level English speaking and listening test pass, and a Life in the UK test pass. Those applicants, who are over 65 years old, will be exempt.
Tuberculosis test certificate
Applicants from Hong Kong will need to supply a tuberculosis test certificate with their initial applications.
Requirements on criminality
Applicants must have no serious criminal convictions, have not otherwise engaged in behaviour which the UK Government deems not conducive to the public good, and not be subject to other general grounds for refusal set out in the Immigration Rules.
B. Visa duration
The standard visa duration for British National (Overseas) citizens and their dependants will be 30 months (2.5 years). This will need to be renewed after 2.5 years for the same period again, to take the holder to a total of five years of residence.
Unusually, applicants will also have the opportunity to request a visa for a full 5 years from the outset, though this will come at a higher fee.
A 5-year visa will likely be more economical for applicants, and it will eliminate that half-way visa application from the process.
C. Settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain)
After five continuous years of lawful residence in the UK with this visa, people will be permitted to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
Indefinite leave to remain is a semi-permanent right to reside in the UK, which will lapse if the holder leaves the UK for two years or more. Indefinite leave to remain is a necessary step on the way to full British citizenship.
To gain indefinite leave to remain, applicants must not have been absent from the UK for more than 180 days in any rolling twelve-month period.
Applicants for the ILR in this visa category must, in addition to the Life in the UK test, pass an English language proficiency test with a score of at least B1 according to the European CEFR scheme.
The people exempt from the above requirements are persons over 65 years of age or who have serious medical contraindications.
D. Application process
Applicants should not have to send physical documents anywhere or attend interviews. They will need to scan their passport and provide facial images using a Home Office app on their mobile phones. This will then be linked up to an online application form which will be submitted on the government website.
Applications can be submitted from anywhere in the world, subject to the earlier comments on ordinary residence.
Successful applicants will receive a digital-only visa, which will be accessible online.
E. What is allowed and prohibited on the Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa
On this visa, you are allowed to:
- work (except you cannot work as a professional sportsperson or sports coach)
- study (including at school, college or university)
On this visa, you are not allowed to:
- apply for most benefits (public funds), or the State Pension
F. Administrative Review (Entry clearance, extension and settlement applications)
If the entry clearance, extension or settlement application is refused by the ECO in the British Diplomatic post or by the Home Office, the applicant will be given a right to make a request for a review of the decision that must be exercised within 28 days of the date of service of the decision if application was submitted outside the UK or 14 days if application is made inside the UK. The applicant will only be able to rely on the information/documents already submitted with the application and will not be allowed to provide or submit any fresh evidence with the review request.
It is therefore strongly advised to take professional help while making grounds for making review request.
- We can advise on the procedure, requirements and merits of making an application for leave to enter or remain in a Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa;
- We can advise and represent our clients in making representations in support of their immigration matters;
- We can advise and represent our clients’ dependants to seek dependant visas in line with the visa of the main applicant;
- We can advise on the merits of an administrative review in the event of any refusal and represent clients in appeals.
Whatever the case, we are here to assist, advise and represent our clients in relation to any aspect of their immigration matters.