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Legal Updates

The Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa route opens from January 2021

24 July 2020 #Immigration

The UK government has finally published official guidance on the new Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa. Despite the ‘British national’ tag, the immigration route shares similarities with other immigration routes to the UK. The route official opens in January 2021.

Who can apply?

The route, as the name suggests, is open to individuals who hold the British national (overseas) or BN (O) status. The BNO status was provided to citizens of Hong Kong, who were able to register for this status before 1July 1997 and did not have any other nationality or citizenship on 30 June 1997.

Those with BNO status, must also demonstrate that:

  • They normally live in Hong Kong
  • Can maintain and accommodate themselves (and their families, if relevant) in the UK for at least 6 months
  • Demonstrate a commitment to learn English, where appropriate
  • Provide a valid Tuberculosis test certificate
  • Pay the visa fee, and the Immigration Health Surcharge.

What status does this visa route provide?

If successful, the applicant’s status changes from BNO, to Hong Kong BNO visa, which allows them to work and study in the UK for an initial period of 2.5 years, which can then be extended for a further 2.5 years.

How do you obtain nationality?

After 5 years on the Hong Kong BNO visa, the applicant can normally apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, provided other conditions are met.

They must then wait a further year before applying for British nationality, unless married to a British citizen (in which case, they can apply immediately after obtaining Indefinite leave to remain).

How is this route different to the current BNO status?

British National Overseas citizens are not allowed to work or study in the UK. They are treated as any other visitors to the UK, if visiting the UK. If outside the UK, the only tangible benefit they may have is being able to seek consular assistance from a UK diplomatic post.

The Hong Kong BNO visa provides them a path to settlement, with an ongoing right to work and study in the UK. They are, however, not allowed to claim public funds.

More information

If you require more information on this visa, or intend on applying under this route, you can contact our immigration team at

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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