The Hong Kong BN(O) visa rules and have now been published. We therefore have more details for applicants who want to apply for this new visa.

There are two routes under this category.

The first route is the BN(O) Status Holder route. This is for applicants who have BN(O) status and their spouse/partner and children under 18. In some limited circumstances it can also cover grandchildren. If you have BN(O) status and want to move to the UK with your spouse and kids, this is the route for you.

The second route is the BN(O) Household Member route. This is for applicants who are born after 1st July 1997 and who are older than 18 but who still live with a BN(O) parent. It also covers the dependent children and spouse/partner of the BN(O) household member. This represents an unusual step by the Home office towards accommodating intergenerational households.

When can I apply for a Hong Kong BN(O) visa?

The route will open for applications on 31st January 2021.

How can I apply for a Hong Kong BN(O) visa?

If you have a current BN(O) passport, or an HKSAR passport with a biometric chip, then you get a choice. You can apply using a new app or by completing an online application form.

If you don’t have a document with a biometric chip, then you have to use the online form. All applicants need a valid passport.

You will have to submit your biometrics as part of your application. All supporting documents must be uploaded.

Who can apply for a Hong Kong BN(O) visa?

If you have BN(O) status then you can apply if you are ordinarily resident in Hong Kong or the UK, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man

Certain family members can also apply.

If your spouse or partner is not a BN(O), they can apply to come with you. If you are not married, you must have lived together for at least 2 years. You must also still be in a ‘genuine and subsisting ‘relationship together and current live in the same household. You must intend to continue living together in the UK.

If you and/or your partner have children who are under 18, they can also apply as a ‘BN(O) Household Child’ on the BN(O) Status route. They must be the children of you, and/or your partner, and they must live in the same household as you. However, if only one of the child’s parents is coming to the UK then special rules apply. The Home Office will only grant the application if;

    • The other parent is already lawfully in the UK, and is not a visitor;
    • The other parent has died;
    • Only the parent that is applying has parental responsibility for the child;
    • There are ‘serious and compelling reasons’ why the child must stay with a parent who is a BN(O) status holder route

This may be a problem for ‘blended’ families where the parents have split up and re-married but both still remain involved in the lives of their children. The Home Office apply this rule strictly, so it will be important to seek advice and submit the correct evidence with the application.

There are circumstances in which dependent grandchildren of a BN(O) national can apply to come with them on the BN(O) Household Child route. However, if the grandchild is coming to the UK without either of their parents then there must be ‘serious and compelling’ reasons why the child should be granted leave to stay with the BN(O). If the child’s parents are also applying, then you might usually expect them to apply as dependents of their parents rather than their grandparents.

You might have children how are 18 or over, but who still live with you in the same household. If your adult child was born on or after 1st July 1997, then they can also apply as ‘BNO Household members’. Their dependent children can also apply, if they live in the same household as you.  If only one parent is applying, the rules set out above continue to apply.

If your grown up children have a spouse or partner who also lives in the same household with you, then they can also apply. If they are not married, then they must have lived together for at least 2 years. They must also still be in a ‘genuine and subsisting’ relationship together and current live in the same household.

Finally, there is limited provision for adult dependent relatives to accompany a BN(O) to the UK. A dependent relative could be a parent, grandparent, sibling or child of the BN(O) or their partner. You will need to show that the relative lives in your household and needs long term personal care to help them perform everyday tasks. You will also need to show that they cannot get that help in Hong Kong. This could be because that sort of care is not available at all, or because it is unaffordable.

If the adult dependent relative is a parent or grandparent of the BN(O), they either they must be single or both parents/grandparents must be applying together. There is also provision for parents or grandparents of a BN(O) to apply as adult dependents even if they are not already part of the same household. This would cover a situation where parents or grandparents have started to need more care since the BN(O) moved to the UK.

These rules reflect those that apply to adult dependent family members of British nationals. They are extremely difficult to meet. Any application for an adult dependent relative should be prepared very carefully, and it is important to make a realistic assessment as to whether the rules are satisfied. If an application is refused, it is likely to make future applications much more difficult. 

Applying as a family

As you can see above, there is a clear focus in these rule on keeping family households together. This goes further. When families apply for their first grant of leave, all family members must apply at the same time. This makes it difficult for one person to move to the UK, find accommodation and employment, and move the rest of the family later.

Maintenance and accommodation

If you have already lived in the UK for 12 months when you apply, then you will meet this requirement automatically.

All other applicants must show that they have enough money to support themselves without needed government help during their first 6 months in the UK. You must also show that you will have suitable accommodation.

The rules do not say exactly how much money you need. As a general rule, you should be able to show that you have more money available to you than a British person would get in Universal Credit. The precise amount will vary depending on the size of your household and applicants may need to work out how much they need carefully. This will particularly be the case for larger family groups.

You can rely on support from a third party. For example, if you have relatives in the UK would could support you financially, you can potentially rely on this. You could also rely on cash savings, or other sources of income. However, you must provide good documentary evidence of any funds that you wish to rely on. There are new rules that govern what documents are acceptable and these must be met.

Accommodation will be suitable as long as it is not overcrowded and doesn’t break any public health laws.

Suitability Requirement

Applicants must not fall foul of the ‘general grounds for refusal’. These rules means that you may not be granted leave if you have criminal convictions, have broken immigration laws, are of bad character. If you are applying from inside the UK then you must not be on immigration bail, or in breach of immigration laws. There is a limited exception if you overstay with good reason for 14 days or less.  These are complex rules. If you have any concerns then you should seek advice.

Tuberculosis (TB) Testing

If you are applying from Hong Kong then you will need to take a TB test before you apply for your visa. If you are already in the UK but you were granted leave for 6 months or less, then you will need to take a TB test. You also need a TB test if you have been in another country that requires a TB test for more than 6 months immediately before you apply for your visa. These countries are listed in Appendix T of the immigration rules.

If you are already in the UK and your leave was granted for more than 6 months, then you don’t need to submit a new TB test.

How long does the Hong Kong BN(O) visa last?

You get a choice to apply for 30 months or 5 years. If you apply for 30 months then you will need to extend your leave once before you can settle permanently in the UK.

When can I settle in the UK?

You can settle in the UK after 5 years. If you are already living in the UK with a visa that leads to settlement, then you can combine your time on a BN(O) visa with time on another visa to reach 5 years. For example, if you are in the UK on a Tier 2 work visa and have been here for 4 years, you can switch into the BN(O) visa and apply for settlement after one more year.

However, not all UK visas allow settlement. For example, if you are in the UK with a Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa, then you can switch into a BN(O) visa but you will have to complete the full 5 years on the BN(O) visa before you can settle.

Most adult applicants will need to show that they can speak English in order to be granted settlement. They must also pass the life in the UK test unless exempt.

Children will only be granted settlement when both parents have or applying for settlement or are British citizens. If only one parent has parental responsibility, then only that parent needs to be settled. At present there is no provision for grandchildren to settle if they are dependent on their grandparents and neither parent is living in the UK. It is not clear whether this is deliberate or an oversight.

How much does a Hong Kong BN(O) visa cost?

The costs will be as follows;

  • Home Office application fee- £180 per person for 30 months or £250 per person for 5 years
  • Immigration Health Surcharge for adults- £1560 for 30 months or £3120 for 5 years
  • Immigration Health Surcharge for children- £1175 for 30 months or £2350 for 5 years

What if my application is refused?

If your application is refused then you will have a right of administrative review only. This means that you can ask the Home office to consider the decision again if you think that they made a mistake. However, there is no right of appeal to the Immigration Tribunal.

Most visa applications take a few weeks to prepare. If you want to be ready to apply in January 2021, then it is sensible to start preparing well in advance.