The Hong Kong visa: a warm welcome to those with British national (overseas) status
The British prime minister, Boris Johnston, may have given a warm welcome to those with British national (overseas) status looking to apply for entry clearance to the UK on the new Hong Kong visa but the Chinese government response to the Hong Kong visa has heightened the concerns of those with British national (overseas) status. In this blog our immigration solicitors look at the Hong Kong visa introduced on the 31 January 2021.
UK Immigration and Hong Kong visa solicitors
If you have questions about the new Hong Kong visa or your Hong Kong to UK immigration options the immigration solicitors atOTS Solicitors can help you. Call the friendly specialist immigration team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online. Appointments are available through video call, Skype or telephone.
British national (overseas) status
It has been in the news that China will no longer recognise the passports and presumably the legal status of those with British national overseas status. The timing of the announcement by the Chinese government coincides with the introduction of the Hong Kong visa that opened to applicants who hold British national (overseas) status on the 31 January 2021.
Immigration solicitors were quickly asked for their views on the position adopted by the Chinese government and say they hope that the announcement will have no effect on those eligible to apply for the Hong Kong visa as you don’t need a British national (overseas) passport to be able to apply for the visa or currently to leave Hong Kong. However, the approach taken by the Chinese government may encourage some people with British national (overseas) status to think that their long-term future, and that of their family, would be best served by a move to the UK.
Hong Kong has an estimated three million people with British national (overseas) status and therefore the Chinese government comments will concern many people who may now be more inclined to look into whether they meet the eligibility criteria for the Hong Kong visa.
One of the first matters raised by those with British national (overseas) status is where would a Hong Kong visa leave them. That’s an understandable question given their concerns about their legal standing in Hong Kong as the UK government introduced British national (overseas) status to protect them but the status falls short of offering UK residence or British Citizenship. The positive news is that if you enter the UK on a Hong Kong visa you can chose to apply for British Citizenship once you meet the residence and other eligibility criteria. The Hong Kong visa is therefore a passport to settlement and won't leave you in a permanent state of Immigration control if you elect to apply for British Citizenship as the best outcome for you and your family.
In the words of the prime minister, Boris Johnston:
“I am immensely proud that we have brought in this new route for Hong Kong BNOs to live, work and make their home in our country.”
With Boris Johnston’s warm welcome, some of those with British national (overseas) status have questioned whether there is a cap on the number of Hong Kong visas available and if the best Immigration advice is to apply early for your Hong Kong visa. UK immigration solicitors say that there is no cap on the number of Hong Kong visas available for those with British national (overseas) status and their dependants but that it may be best to make an early application because of the situation in Hong Kong. Currently the UK government estimates that up to a million people, out of the potential pool of three million applicants, could apply for the Hong Kong visa within the next five years.
Immigration solicitors say that the latest comments about British national (overseas) status by the Chinese government may be the ‘push factor’ required to encourage more of those with British national (overseas) status to apply for the Hong Kong visa and exceed UK government estimates of the potential number of visa applicants.
Who can apply for the Hong Kong visa?
The new Hong Kong visa is open to those who are both:
- Holders of British national (overseas) and
- Ordinarily resident in Hong Kong.
In addition, applicants for the Hong Kong visa must meet general UK visa eligibility criteria, namely:
- The good character test under the Immigration rules
- Able to support yourself whilst in the UK for six months and can provide your own accommodation (for example renting)
- Obtain a TB test from an authorised clinic
- Pay the Hong Kong Home Office visa application fee and the Immigration health surcharge fee.
Can family members of those with British national (overseas) status apply for a Hong Kong visa?
You can't apply for a Hong Kong visa unless you have British national (overseas) status. If you are a family member of a Hong Kong visa applicant you may qualify for UK entry clearance under a dependant visa.
How quickly can you settle in the UK on a Hong Kong visa?
After five years of living in the UK and meeting the residence requirement, a person on a Hong Kong visa can apply to settle in the UK through an application for indefinite leave to remain. They can then choose to apply for British citizenship once they meet the general eligibility criteria. Family members on dependant visas can also apply to settle in the UK.
Is the Hong Kong visa the best UK visa route?
Some people with British national (overseas) status have more than one potential visa route for entry clearance into the UK. Immigration solicitors say that if you have the luxury of more than one visa option it is best to weigh them up carefully so you work out which one is best for you.
- The investor visa could give you a route to accelerated settlement but your investment funds will need to meet the Immigration rules to ensure that you are eligible for accelerated settlement and the continuation of your Investor Visa
- The global talent visa or innovator visa could enable you to enter the UK to set up a business with the option, in some cases, of accelerated settlement, but you would need endorsement by a government approved endorsing body and to meet Immigration rules relating to your business and its growth
- The skilled worker visa enables you to come to the UK for work but you need a sponsoring employer. Whilst the sponsoring employer could offer to pay your visa application and Immigration health surcharge fees you would then be tied to only being able to work for a UK employer with a Home Office issued sponsor licence .That means your Employment opportunities would be more limited than if you entered the UK on a Hong Kong visa.
UK immigration solicitors say that the Hong Kong visa is a very attractive option as it lets successful visa applicants live, study and work in the UK without some of the Immigration restrictions placed on visa holders who enter the UK on other types of family or work visa.
If you secure a Hong Kong visa then you can:
- Set up your own business without first requiring endorsement and without having to meet detailed business criteria or
- You can take up Employment with any UK employer without being restricted to jobs on offer by a sponsoring employer with a Home Office issued sponsor licence who is paying the minimum salary threshold for a skilled worker visa holder. Equally importantly, you don’t need the offer of a job to qualify for a Hong Kong visa whereas you do with a skilled worker visa.
Hong Kong visa and UK Immigration solicitors
The friendly specialist Hong Kong visa solicitors can look at whether you meet the eligibility criteria for the Hong Kong visa and assess your immigration and visa options if you or your family members don’t hold British national (overseas) status. For the best advice on your Hong Kong to UK immigration options call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form. Appointments are available through video conference, Skype or by telephone appointment.