On 29 May 2020 we wrote here that the UK Government had pledged to introduce substantial new residence rights for Hong Kong British National (Overseas) passport holders providing a path to British citizenship. The Government stated that the proposals would depend on developments in Hong Kong.
Today, the Government has confirmed that new arrangements will be put in place for British Nationals (Overseas) ("BN(O)").
The proposals are that those who hold BN(O) status will be eligible to apply for five years limited leave to remain, with the ability to live and work in the UK. Presently they are permitted to travel to the UK for up to 6 months visa free but need to meet the same immigration rules as all other non-EU nationals if they wish to remain for longer, such as by obtaining sponsorship to work or study in the UK.
After these five years, they will be able to apply for settled status (permanent residence) and after a further 12 months with that status, apply for citizenship.
The exact date and further details of the route will be announced and implemented in the coming months and we will have to wait to understand the specific requirements.
We understand that the route will be open to all those who hold BN(O) status and are eligible to apply for a BN(O) passport, understood to be an estimated 2.9 million. The final deadline for registration as a BN(O) for most people was 1 July 1997 although it was extended for some to 31 December 1997.
The visa fees are likely to be similar to those for other visa categories, such as £1,220 for a five-year Tier 2 visa and £624 per year of the visa for the Immigration Health Surcharge, or £3,120 for a five-year visa.
While there have been challenges to the government's position that legal obligations to China prevent ministers from offering the right of abode to BN(O)s, there is no indication that they are considering offering the right of abode.
Fieldfisher will continue to monitor developments in this area closely, including providing an update once the new rules are published, and remain on hand to assist our trusted network of intermediaries in Hong Kong and the Far East.
We will be pleased to assist if you have enquiries as to whether you may be eligible to apply to the new immigration route for BN(O)s.
Fieldfisher's immigration team have backgrounds as immigration advisors at top-tier Chambers ranked immigration firms and at the Big Four accounting firms, prior to joining Fieldfisher. They have extensive experience in assisting with the full range of UK nationality and immigration law applications from outside the UK and for those extending, including sponsored work categories such as Tier 2 and including the Tier 1 (Investor) category. We were the first firm to successfully apply for an Innovator visa for our client. We have extensive experience in advising on applications for registration or naturalisation as a British citizen, and assisting with complex nationality enquiries.
Fieldfisher also has a pre-eminent international Private Client team with extensive experience of advising Hong Kong and Chinese nationals on the UK tax implications of relocating to, and investing in, the UK. Alistair Robertson and Peter Golden, partners in the Private Client team, regularly visit the region to meet with their clients based there.
Please get in touch with Alistair Robertson or Gillian McKearney at Fieldfisher if you require further information.
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