David Hershkorn and Jennifer Maxwell-Harris of lawfirm Joelson explain what the new Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa rules mean
The UK government recently announced the introduction of the new Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa (BN(O) visa), which will allow British Nationals (Overseas) citizens and their immediate dependants (even if their immediate dependants are non-BNO citizens) to reside and work or study in the UK, with a pathway to settlement and then citizenship.
Applicants can apply to enter or remain in the UK for an initial period of 30 months, extendable by a further 30 months, or a single period of five years. After five years, applicants can apply to settle in the UK and after 12 months with this status, can then apply for British citizenship.
There is no skills tests or minimum income requirements, economic needs tests or caps on numbers being imposed.
There is no skills tests or minimum income requirements, economic needs tests or caps on the numbers being imposed with the BN(O) visa. Also, those that apply for the visa do not need to have a job before coming to the UK; they can search for job opportunities once they are in the UK.
It is planned for the BN(O) visa to open for applications from January 2021.
BN(O) citizens and their immediate dependants can apply for the BN(O) visa. Immediate dependants are spouses or partners and children under 18. Immediate dependants do not need to have BN(O) status themselves to be eligible. In compelling and compassionate circumstances, children over 18, born after 1 July 1997 to a BN(O)-registered parent that are still dependant, will be able to apply as dependants if they apply for the visa with their family as a unit.
However, dependant grandparents or other relatives will not be eligible if they are not BN(O) citizens in their own right. In exceptional circumstances, where other adult dependants are highly dependent on a BN(O) citizen, these dependants may also be eligible at the discretion of the UK Government on a case by case basis.
To be eligible for this visa route, applicants need to show that they:
- have BN(O) status – a valid BN(O) passport is not needed to show this and a new BN(O) passport does not need to be requested if it’s expired or has been lost;
- normally live in Hong Kong;
- can accommodate and support themselves financially in the UK for at least 6 months;
- show a commitment to learn English, where appropriate;
- get a tuberculosis (TB) test certificate from a clinic approved by the Home Office;
- pay a fee for the visa and the immigration health surcharge; and
- 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.
Access to education including:
- schooling for under 18 child dependants;
- education and training for young people aged 16-19; and
- the ability to apply for higher education courses.
Access to the National Health Service (NHS) (which is healthcare free at the point of use on the same terms as British residents), contingent on payment of the Immigration Health Surcharge.
BN(O) citizens buying property in the UK
As a BNO citizen, you will be responsible for your own accommodation and maintenance. Purchasing UK property will, therefore, be the natural next step, both serving as your base in the UK as well as offering considerable investment value.
The team at Joelson are able to provide applicants with a comprehensive conveyancing service, covering matters such as:
- Finalising the offer and possible mortgage
- Performing searches and carrying out an investigation of title
- Exchanging contracts
- Obtaining insurance
- Completing relevant paperwork and submitting Land Registry registrations
- Post-completion matters, including the payment of Stamp Duty Land Tax
Joelson can coordinate property purchases from the beginning to the end, taking into account individual needs and circumstances and staying in regular contact with the seller’s solicitors. Joelson can also assist on landlord rights and obligations if the applicant wishes to rent out the property, and on any subsequent sale.