Hong Kong visas for Hong Kong residents with British National (Overseas) status

According to Wikipedia the saying “may you live in interesting times” is an English translation of a Chinese curse. In 2020 UK immigration solicitors certainly believe that we are living through “interesting” times with Brexit, a global pandemic affecting the lives and travel plans of billions of people, followed by the difficulties that have resulted in the UK government devising a visa scheme for British National (Overseas) citizens ordinarily resident in Hong Kong. Some details of the Hong Kong visa scheme have been published this week so in this blog we look at the new Hong Kong visa.

Hong Kong visas and UK Immigration solicitors

If you have questions about Hong Kong to UK immigration options and your eligibility to apply for a Hong Kong visa or a dependant visa then the immigration solicitors at OTS Solicitors can help you. Call the friendly and expert Immigration team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online. Appointments are available through video conferencing, Skype or by telephone appointment.

The Hong Kong visa

This week the Home Office made an initial announcement about the Hong Kong visa for those with British Nationality overseas or BN (O) status. The essential points about the Hong Kong visa are that:

  • The Hong Kong visa route will open in January 2021. Coincidentally the end of free movement for EU citizens occurs on the 1 January 2021 as well as the implementation of the new UK points based Immigration system. January 2021 is therefore likely to be a busy time for both Home Office officials and UK immigration solicitors

  • If you are a person with BN (O) status and you are already in the UK (for example on a Spouse Visa or a student visa ) you won't need to return to Hong Kong to make your Hong Kong visa application from there as the Home Office rules will permit an application to switch visa to the Hong Kong visa from an applicant who is already in the UK (called an in-country application)

  • If a person with BN (O) status and their dependant family come to the UK before the Hong Kong visa start date of January 2021 they can ask for the Home Office to grant what is referred to as “leave outside the rules” for a limited period until they can make the necessary Hong Kong visa application

  • If you are already in the UK with BN (O) status but your current visa is due to expire prior to January 2021 the Home Office guidance says you should apply for a new visa and then apply to switch to the Hong Kong visa in January 2021. If you are in that position you should take expert immigration legal advice on your best visa options. That is to avoid being labelled as an overstayer on your Home Office Immigration record in case the government doesn’t extend the ‘’leave outside the rules’’ provisions to those in the UK with BN (O) status whose visas will expire before January 2021

How long will the Hong Kong visa last for?

The government had already announced that if you meet the eligibility criteria for a Hong Kong visa then the visa will be granted for a five year period but the UK government now says that visa applicants can apply for a five year visa or a visa that lasts for two and a half years and then make a renewal visa application, provided that the applicant continues to meet the visa eligibility criteria.

Immigration solicitors say that if an applicant can afford the Home Office Immigration fee and the upfront payment of five years Immigration health surcharge it is probably best to apply for the five year visa but individual and family circumstances can vary. 

Can you settle in the UK on a Hong Kong visa?

Anyone who secures a Hong Kong visa will be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to remain and, if they choose to do so, then apply for British citizenship. This is subject to:

What are the Hong Kong visa eligibility criteria?

The Hong Kong visa eligibility criteria are:

  • The main Hong Kong visa applicant must have BN (O) status. You do not have to currently hold a valid BN (O) passport to be eligible to apply for a Hong Kong visa but UK immigration solicitors say that if you do have a current BN (O) passport this may make the paperwork easier as you will easily be able to prove your BN (O) status

  • Dependant family members of those with BN (O) status can apply for a visa but they must fall within the category of dependant. That usually means the husband, wife or civil partner or unmarried partner (if they have been together for at least two years) or children under the age of eighteen, can apply for a dependant visa. The government has indicated that the Immigration Rules on dependants might be a bit more relaxed for dependants of Hong Kong visa applicants but the detailed provisions are awaited

  • The visa applicant and dependants must be ordinarily resident in Hong Kong to make the visa application. If you are not sure if you will meet the ordinary residence test then it is best to take legal advice

  • Meet a maintenance requirement and be able to demonstrate that the main visa applicant and any dependant family can accommodate and support themselves in the UK for at least six months

  • Meet the general eligibility criteria for a visa meaning that the Hong Kong visa applicant and any dependants should not meet any of the standard grounds for visa refusal and must have no serious criminal convictions or have been engaged in behaviour which the UK Government deems not conducive to the public good

  • Provide a tuberculosis test certificate as Hong Kong is on the list of countries where visa applicants are required to produce such certificates.

One point to note is that the main Hong Kong visa applicant and their dependant family members don't need to pass or meet an English language requirement to secure a Hong Kong visa.

Can you work and study on a Hong Kong visa?

The Home Office has said that Hong Kong visa holders can work and study in the UK whilst in the UK on a Hong Kong visa. That means that unlike overseas workers in the UK on Tier 2 (General) visas a Hong Kong visa holder can take up employment with an employer who doesn’t hold a Home Office issued Sponsor Licence.   

How much does a Hong Kong visa cost?

The Home Office hasn’t said what the Immigration fee charged by the Home Office will be but they have said that an Immigration fee will be payable as well as the Immigration health surcharge. These fees will apply to the main visa applicant as well as to any dependant family members.

Hong Kong visas and 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 hold BN (O) status and want advice on the Hong Kong visa. For the best information on your Hong Kong to UK immigration options call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form. Appointments are available through video conference, Skype or by telephone appointment. 

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