The UK’s new Hong Kong visa
With all the talk about the end of free movement for EU citizens and the introduction of the UK points-based Immigration system there is very little media coverage about the new Hong Kong visa. However, the Hong Kong visa is due to be introduced on the 31 January 2021. Immigration solicitors say that it’s widely expected that the visa route will result in a significant increase in migration to the UK. In this article we look at the eligibility criteria for the Hong Kong visa and whether this new visa route to the UK is the best option for you and your family.
UK Immigration and Hong Kong visa solicitors
If you have questions about your Hong Kong to UK immigration options and whether you meet the eligibility criteria for a Hong Kong visa or a dependant visa the immigration solicitors at OTS Solicitors can help you. Call the friendly specialist immigration team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online. Appointments can be arranged via video call, Skype or telephone.
Why is the Hong Kong visa going to increase UK Immigration?
Immigration solicitors say that the new Hong Kong visa will open a new visa route to an estimated 5.4 million Hong Kong residents. Technically they could all apply for Hong Kong visas and to eventually settle in the UK and acquire British citizenship. The UK government estimates that there will be in the region of 257,000 to 322,000 Hong Kong visa applications (including dependant visa applications) over the next five years. Whether that estimate is wide off the mark will, in the view of immigration solicitors, very much depend on the ‘’push factor’’ of how the National Security law is implemented in Hong Kong.
What will be the impact of the Hong Kong visa on the UK economy?
Immigration to the UK gets a bad press in many UK newspapers but when it comes to the Hong Kong visa the government estimates that Hong Kong visa applicants will bring a net fiscal benefit to the UK and will contribute an estimated £2.65 billion to the UK economy and public finances in the first five years of the operation of the Hong Kong visa. Again, that government figure is nothing more than an estimate based on many predictions so the figure could be much lower or indeed higher.
Who can apply for the Hong Kong visa?
The new Hong Kong visa is a UK entry route for those with British national (overseas) status who are ordinarily resident in Hong Kong. This status is also referred to as ‘’BNO status’’.
Eligibility for the Hong Kong visa flows from British national (overseas) status that Hong Kong residents were entitled to apply for when Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997. British national (overseas) status gave the right to live in Hong Kong but didn’t give a right to move to live or work in the UK.
With the introduction of the Hong Kong visa any Hong Kong citizen with British national (overseas) status can apply to come to the UK. Their dependants can apply for a dependant visa if they meet the eligibility criteria. After five years of residence in the UK 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 residence requirement.
What will a Hong Kong visa enable a visa holder to do in the UK?
If you secure a Hong Kong visa you can:
- Live in the UK
- Study in the UK
- Work in the UK – you can set up your own business or you can work for someone else. If you apply for a job in the UK, you don’t have to find a UK employer with a Home Office issued Sponsor Licence to employ you and you don’t have to have a job offer before you can make your visa application. The Hong Kong visa gives you flexibility of Employment as, unlike skilled worker visa holders, you are not limited to Employment with a sponsoring employer and you don’t have to meet a minimum skill level or a salary threshold.
Does someone with British national (overseas) status need a Hong Kong visa to come to the UK?
If you have British national (overseas) status and you are a British national (overseas) passport holder, then you don’t need a visa to visit the UK but without a Hong Kong visa you can only stay in the UK for up to six months. The Hong Kong visa not only allows you to remain in the UK for up to five years but also enables you to apply for indefinite leave to remain to settle in the UK on a permanent basis.
When can you apply for a Hong Kong visa?
The Hong Kong visa route opens on the 31 January 2021. However, if you are a British national (overseas) passport holder you can travel to the UK before that date without needing a visa and you can then apply from within the UK for your Hong Kong visa. Before you leave Hong Kong, it is best to speak to a UK immigration solicitor about the eligibility criteria for the Hong Kong visa and the paperwork needed to apply for the visa.
What are the Hong Kong visa eligibility criteria?
You may meet the eligibility criteria for a Hong Kong visa if:
- You have British national (overseas) status – you don’t need to have a British national (overseas) passport to apply for the Hong Kong visa but you do need to be able to prove your identity and BNO status
- You are ordinarily resident in Hong Kong
- You meet the good character test under the Immigration rules that’s applicable to all visa applicants
- You can support yourself whilst in the UK for six months and you can provide your own accommodation
- You can get a TB test from an authorised clinic
- You can pay the Hong Kong Home Office visa application fee and the Immigration health surcharge fee that is applicable to visa applications.
How can you settle in the UK on a Hong Kong visa?
If you enter on a Hong Kong visa, the route to settlement in the UK is relatively straightforward:
- Apply for a Hong Kong visa – the visa length can be either five years or an initial period of thirty months followed by an application to extend your Hong Kong visa for another thirty months. If you choose to apply for a thirty-month visa it is essential to apply to extend your Hong Kong visa before the end of the original visa to avoid being classed as an overstayer
- Apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain – you will be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain after you have been in the UK for five years, subject to your meeting the eligibility criteria and the residence requirement. If you know that you want to settle in the UK immigration solicitors say that it is best to get specialist Immigration legal advice on your settlement options when you first enter the UK so you know the extent of time you can spend out of the UK and still meet the residence requirement under the complicated Immigration rules
- Apply for British Citizenship – you can apply for British citizenship when you have been in the UK with Indefinite Leave to Remain status for at least twelve months. British Citizenship gives you more security and rights, but you can stay indefinitely in the UK with Indefinite Leave to Remain status if you prefer to do so.
Who can apply for a dependant visa to accompany someone to the UK on a Hong Kong visa?
The Immigration rules on dependant visa applications are the same whether you are applying for a skilled worker visa, start-up visa or other type of visa. That means dependant family members of those with BN (O) status can apply for a dependant visa if they meet the definition of dependant in the Immigration rules but with added discretion and flexibility on the part of Home Office officials.
A dependant visa application can usually be made if you are the husband, wife or civil partner or unmarried partner (if you have been together for at least two years) or a child under the age of eighteen of the visa applicant. The government has said that Home Office officials can exercise more discretion on dependant visa applications made by family members of Hong Kong visa applicants.
If you are the main Hong Kong visa applicant or you’re a family member of a Hong Kong visa applicant it is best to take specialist legal advice from immigration solicitors before you submit your Hong Kong visa and dependant visa applications to ensure your visa applications stand the best chance of success.
Answering the question, ‘’is it best to apply for a Hong Kong visa or enter the UK on a different type of visa?’’, then most Immigration solicitors would say that the Hong Kong visa is likely to be your best option as there is total flexibility of Employment and more discretion will be exercised when it comes to considering associated dependant visa applications.
Hong Kong visa and UK Immigration solicitors
OTS Solicitors are experts in Immigration law. Our friendly specialist Hong Kong visa solicitors can assess your immigration and visa options if you do or 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.