UK spells out route for Hong Kong relocations

The UK government released on Wednesday more details about how up to three miliion Hong Kong residents who qualified for a British National Overseas (BNO) passport would be eligible for a visa to work or study in Britain.

The Home Office in London said the plan - which opened a new immigration route following Beijing's imposition of draconian security legislation on the former colony - would "create a bespoke immigration route" to enable BNO citizens and their immediate family members to relocate to the UK.In a statement, the Home Office said: "The new Hong Kong BNO Visa is a significant change to the UK immigration system and will allow BN(O) citizens to apply for two periods of 30 months’ leave or five years’ leave. This new immigration route will afford BNO citizens the right to live and work or study in the UK and gives them a path to full British citizenship."The latest announcement meant that, in addition to providing a pathway for existing BNO passport holders, the new route would also enable those born after July 1 1997 - the date the UK handed over control of Hong Kong to the Chinese - could apply to come to Britain if they had a BNO-registered parent.Some 350,000 Hongkongers are currently thought to hole BNO passports but that up to 2.9 million others - plus dependants -  re believed to be eligible.Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "The UK has a strong historic relationship with the people of Hong Kong and we are keeping our promise to them to uphold their freedoms."BNO citizens will now have a choice to come and live, work and study in the UK, building a new life for them and their family. We look forward to welcoming BNO citizens to the UK.Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab added: "Today’s announcement shows the UK is keeping its word: we will not look the other way on Hong Kong, and we will not duck our historic responsibilities to its people."BNO citizens coming to the UK will have access to the job market at any skill level and without salary threshold but will not have access to public funds under this route. This will enable those who want to live in the UK to do so and become valued members of our society."Those who come to the UK through this route will be able to apply to settle in the UK with indefinite leave to remain once they have lived in the UK for five years. After 12 months with this status they will then be able to apply for British citizenship."Relocation specialists in Hong Kong and immigration lawyers in London have recently reported a surge in interest among workers and students in moving to the UK since the Chinese government imposed the new security measures after a year of unrest in the former colony.Experts have predicted that up to 200,000 Hongkongers could opt to move to the UK over the next five years. Other nations - notably Australia and Canada - are also attempting to attract Hong Kong residents unhappy over the democratic limitations imposed by Beijing.The Home Office said in a statement: "In order for BN(O)s citizens to take up this offer they do not need to have a valid Hong Kong BNO passport. They’ll need a valid passport to show proof of identity, but this can be any applicable nationality passport. They can use a valid or expired BNO passport to show proof of BN(O) status, however, if they do not have a BNO passport the Home Office may be able to check status without one."The Hong Kong BNO Visa route will open from January 2021. Eligible BN(O) citizens are able to apply for this route both inside and outside the UK."For those who wish to travel before the route opens, the UK will ensure that BNO citizens who wish to come to the UK are able to do so, subject to standard immigration checks. A BNO citizen can come to the UK as a visitor for up to six months without a visa, or apply for an existing visa route."Eligible BNO citizens unable to meet the Immigration Rules may be granted Leave Outside the Rules at the border. Eligible BNO citizens will be able to switch to the Hong Kong BNO Visa route once it is open, from within the UK."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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