Breaking news: Boris Johnson makes citizenship offer to Hong Kong residents

Whilst most immigration lawyers were contemplating what the third reading and the passing of the immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill on the 30 June 2020 would mean for the future of UK immigration, the government swiftly moved on from the subject of the EU and Brexit to tackle the equally tricky topic of British citizenship for residents of Hong Kong.

British Nationality solicitors 

If you have questions about Hong Kong to UK immigration options or settlement in the UK and British nationality then the immigration and British citizenship solicitors at OTS Solicitors can help you. Call the friendly and expert British citizenship team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online. Appointments are available through video conferencing, Skype or by telephone appointment.

Green light for Hong Kong citizens with BN (O)   

Prime minister, Boris Johnson, has responded to the Chinese decision to pass new security legislation by today announcing that up to three million Hong Kong residents will be offered the chance to settle in the UK and apply for British citizenship. 

The government had previously said that if the Chinese government went ahead and introduced their new security legislation in Hong Kong then the UK government would take the view that the freedom of Hong Kong residents would be violated by the new security law and those living in Hong Kong with the status of ‘’British Nationality overseas’’ (referred to as BN (O)) would be offered a route out of Hong Kong and into the UK.

It is reported that the UK government announcement will affect about 350,000 Hong Kong residents who currently hold passport with BN (O) status but that a further 2.6 million other people may meet the eligibility criteria to apply for a passport as a BN (O).

The UK government says that if you hold BN (O) status in Hong Kong then you will be eligible to come to the UK for five years. After five years lawful residence in the UK, Hong Kong residents will be able to apply for settled status (Indefinite Leave to Remain) and thereafter British citizenship.

For those of you who aren’t immigration solicitors you may assume that if someone holds the status of ‘’British National Overseas’’ and has a passport then they are already entitled to come to the UK to settle. However, the UK immigration Rules currently say that those with BN (O) status and passports only have restricted rights. They can only come to the UK for six months without a visa issued by the Home Office.

Under the UK government's announced plans, all British Overseas Nationals and their dependants will be given right to remain in the UK and the right to work, for five years. They will then be able to apply for settled status or Indefinite Leave to Remain, and after a further year, apply for British citizenship.

The radical change in approach to Hong Kong residents’ rights stems from the prime minister concluding that the Chinese government decision to pass a new security law was a "clear and serious breach" of the 1985 Sino-British joint declaration. This declaration was meant to be a legally binding agreement setting out how freedoms would be protected for Hong Kong residents for fifty years after China assumed sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997. 

What is BN (O) status?

BN (O) means ‘’British national overseas’ ’and includes:

The British National (Overseas) status was created by the Hong Kong Act 1985 for British Dependent Territories citizens of Hong Kong. You can't currently apply for BN (O) status if you are a resident of Hong Kong as there was a cut-off date for all applications.

If you live in Hong Kong and you didn’t register for BN (O) status before the cut-off date of the 1 July 1997 then it is still worth checking your immigration status as the immigration Rules say that even if you didn’t register for BNO status if you had no other nationality or citizenship on the 30 June 1997 then you automatically acquired BN (O) status on the 1 July 1997. 

If you do have BNO status then it isn’t time limited. It is something that you have for life unless you renounce it or if, in very unusual circumstances, your BN (O) is revoked by the UK government.

Whilst the family of BN (O) status holders can't inherit BN (O) status through their parents the UK government has said that those with BN (O) status will be able to bring dependant family members with them. That will include children provided they fit within the dependant category in the immigration Rules. If you are worried about whether your child or other family member will be classed as a dependant under UK immigration Rules then it is best to take legal advice from a British Nationality solicitor.

Options for Hong Kong residents who don’t have overseas British Nationality

If you are not one of the estimated 2.6 million Hong Kong residents who is eligible to apply for a BN (O) passport and you are worried about your future in Hong Kong there are other immigration routes into the UK:

UK immigration solicitors

Our UK immigration solicitors are experts in personal and business immigration law and can assess your immigration and visa options if you are resident in Hong Kong, whether or not you hold British national (Overseas) status. If you want the best information on your immigration options call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form. Appointments are available through video conferencing, Skype or by telephone appointment. 

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