Streamlined Immigration Process for Holders of British National (Overseas) Status in Hong Kong

At a Glance
The new program will make it easier for those with British National (Overseas) status to live, study, and work in the United Kingdom, the government announced.

Applicants under the new process would be able to sponsor their dependants for status. Also under the new system, individuals would be able to obtain permanent residence after five years in the United Kingdom.

The situation
The UK Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have confirmed that in response to the enactment of the National Security Legislation in Hong Kong, the UK government will create a new streamlined immigration process for holders of British National (Overseas) status (BN(O)) – a form of British nationality that was created during the runup to the handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China in 1997. There will be no quota on entrants under the route.

A closer look
Rights under new process. The new process will allow holders of BN(O) status to apply to live, work and study in the United Kingdom for an initial period of five years. Entrants under the process will have the unrestricted right to work and study in the United Kingdom and will be allowed to sponsor their dependant family members.

Streamlined application. The Home Office will implement a streamlined application process, the details of which are unannounced.

Path to citizenship. Entrants under the new process will qualify for permanent residence after five years and will be able to apply for full citizenship after a further 12 months.

Background
History of BN(O) status. BN(O) status is a form of British nationality that was created in the runup to the handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China in 1997. Holders of the status are able to hold a British passport, but this does not entitle them to full UK citizenship rights. Currently, holding BN(O) status provides only minor UK immigration advantages, such as easier access to the Tier 5 Youth Mobility scheme and slightly easier route to British citizenship by naturalisation.

Numbers of eligible applicants. There are approximately three million holders of BN(O) status in Hong Kong, which was available to those born in Hong Kong before July 1, 1997. There are estimated to be around 300,000 BN(O) passport holders, and approximately three million residents of Hong Kong entitled to the status who would be eligible to apply under the scheme.

Existing UK immigration path. Existing UK immigration rules allow BN(O)s to enter the United Kingdom for an initial period of six months, but this is subject to a requirement not to work or study.

Looking ahead
The UK Home Secretary is expected to make an announcement with further details on the scheme soon.

Source: fragomen.com
Published: 1 July 2020

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