The long wait:
The long-awaited BNO path to permanent residence status (also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain) in the UK and British citizenship has finally been revealed.
Since 31 January 2021, Hong Kong residents holding BN(O) passports can apply for a new visa allowing them to live, work, and study in the UK for up to 5 years and putting them on track for future permanent residency and first-class British citizenship.
This is an initiative that many have been waiting for, and a generous upgrade to the benefits that BN(O) holders have enjoyed for the past 30 years. Previous benefits included visa-free access to the UK but only for up to six months as a visitor with no right of abode or right to study and/or work in the country.
A practical family solution:
The UK Home Office has made this new offer a practical and attractive solution for families by allowing BN(O) holders to bring with them their spouse and children (and even extended dependent family members in certain cases).
Upon arrival in the UK, BN(O) visa holders and their family will enjoy access to the UK National Healthcare Services and education without the need for additional work or study permits, though not able to benefit from public funds for housing or unemployment benefits.
No insurmountable conditions:
There are no insurmountable conditions to be met, which shows that the UK is eager to make this route as accessible as possible to those intending to start a new life in the UK.
Applicants are simply required to show financial ability to adequately maintain and accommodate themselves and their families for at least 6 months, but the recommended thresholds are fairly low and accessible to many Hong Kong residents. This new visa opportunity does not require any language or skills tests, and there is no age limit, no settlement funds required, and no quota cap. There is also no need to have a job lined up before taking the leap and moving to the UK. BN(O) visa holders are free to take up employment once in the UK and will not be tied to any specific employer.
A path to first-class citizenship:
Applicants’ long-term commitment to the UK will be rewarded in time by the opportunity to seek permanent residency (after 5 years) and then full first-class citizenship (a year later) if they meet the requisite conditions.
Limits and alternatives:
Although this program is very generous to many, it cannot benefit the younger generation/children of BN(O) holders unless their parents apply for themselves. If the older generation/BNO holders do not wish to restart a life in the UK, then their children would have to look for alternative options.
One of these options bridging the gap is the Canada Open Work Permit program (since 8 February 2021). Alternative UK programs that may be available to HK residents also include the UK Innovator Visa, and the UK Tier 1 Investor Visa.
We recommend all those interested in new immigration opportunities to discuss with immigration lawyers that will assess the options available to them based on their specific family circumstances and needs.