UK first choice for Hong Kong relocations

The UK has emerged as by far the favourite destination for Hong Kong residents looking to relocate from the former colony following Beijing's imposition last year of a strict security law aimed at curbing democracy demonstrations.

Data from Midland Immigration Consultancy, which is headquartered in Hong Kong, showed that during the course of 2020 the proportion of Hong Kong people considering a move to the UK surged by nearly 50 percentage points to 84 per cent of total emigration inquiries.Although there were also increases in inquiries about emigrating to Australia, Canada and the US - all of whom have relaxed visa requirements for Hongkongers since the new security law came into force - the UK's popularity appeared to stem from London's offer of a bureaucracy-free relocations for some three million holders of British National (Overseas) passports and their dependants.The BN(O) visa system for Hong Kong residents opens this month and is open to people born before the UK's handover of control of the colony to Beijing in 1997.“The number of Hongkongers who liked the UK showed the largest increase because the threshold for Britain is the lowest among (nations such as) Australia, Canada,” Tina Cheng, senior strategy director at Midland, told the South China Morning Post (SCMP).“Hong Kong people simply holding BN(O) can apply to move to England, with almost no other requirement than living there for a period of time.”The immigration consultancy said the most inquiries about moving to the UK came in May, immediately after Beijing published the new security law, when more than 800 people contacted the agency.   According to the UK's Passport Office, a total of 216,398 Hong Kong residents made successful applications for BN(O) passports during the first ten months of 2021, by far the highest annual figure since the handover 24 years ago."Beijing’s imposition in the summer of a sweeping national security law widely seen as a suppression of Hong Kong’s freedoms has prompted many citizens to think about relocating," reported the SCMP."In July, the British Home Secretary Priti Patel said the controversial new law had breached the Sino-British Joint Declaration – laying out the terms of the Hong Kong’s 1997 territorial handover – and 'could not be ignored'."This has prompted a lot of Hong Kong families holding BN(O) passports to start thinking about the UK to secure what they see as a good education and life for the next generation."
Midland said that, in addition to the UK, both Australia and Canada had seen a surge of interest from Hongkongers keen to relocate, with inquiries about emigrating to the former increasing by almost a third and, to the latter, by ten per cent. The US has also suggested it will open its doors wider to Hongkongers since the new security law was introduced.In July, Australia announced the extension of temporary graduation and work visas for Hong Kong people, paving the way for permanent residency applications. Canada in November announced that, with effect from this year, it would relax the migration route, too.The SCMP added that, because of the easier paths to migration being offered by some Western nations, Asian countries had seen a decline of 30 per cent in inquiries during the course of last year.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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