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Legal Updates

British National Overseas visa route is now officially open

05 February 2021 #Immigration

The Hong Kong BNO (or British National Overseas) visa route is now officially open. The route is specially aimed at residents of Hong Kong who hold a British National Overseas passport. Importantly the visa allows its holders to live, work and study in the UK.  

What is a British National Overseas Passport? 

The British National Overseas Passport was issued on a voluntary basis to citizens of Hong Kong before the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong to China. It is important to note that while confusingly the passport holders are called British overseas citizens, they remain subject to immigration control. 

Who is eligible for the BNO visa? 

The BNO visa is only open to: 

  • A British national (overseas) 
  • Aged 18 or older 
  • Resident of  
  • Hong Kong (if applying from outside the UK) or 
  • UK (if applying from within the UK) 
  • Proof that the applicant has enough money to support themselves (and their family) 

Family members of BNO visa holders can join the main applicants, however, they must apply at the same time as the main applicant. For the purposes of UK immigration rules, family members include: 

  • Husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried partner 
  • Child or grandchild under 18 
  • Child 18 or older, born on or after 1 July 1997 (and their partner or child under 18) 
  • Parent, grandparent, brother, sister, son or daughter (18 or older) if they live with you and are very dependent on you for their care 

The visa application costs (per applicant) £180 if applying for a 2-year 6-month visa, or £250 if applying for a 5-year visa. The applicants must also pay the Immigration Health Surcharge which is currently £624 per year of visa sought per applicant. For example, the IHS will be £1560 for a 2.5-year visa, or £3120 for a 5-year visa (per applicant). 

Why should you apply for the BNO visa? 

If eligible, the BNO visa offers the visa holder (and their family members) the ability to live, work and study in the UK. It also offers a route to permanent residence (known as settlement) in the UK after 5 years. Following settlement, an applicant may also apply for British nationality after a further year. 

This visa route is much simpler than other UK visa routes which normally require Employer-based sponsorship, significant investment or an endorsement for a high skill level. 

The visa however is limited to those from a particular immigration status, and requires proof of this status, and residence in Hong Kong. The UK government estimates that there are currently 2.9 million BNO status holders who are eligible under this route. A further 2.3 million dependant will also be eligible if applying at the same time. 

The UK government expects around 300,000 applicants for this route. 

Clarkslegal, specialist Immigration lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Immigration matter please contact Clarkslegal's immigration team by email at by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.
This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

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