By Uglobal Staff
The U.K. has begun accepting applications for the new British National Overseas (BNO) visa, which paves the path for Hong Kong residents to earn British citizenship. The U.K. government started processing BNO applications on Jan. 31, 2021.
WHY UK LAUNCHED THE BNO VISA FOR HONG KONG NATIVES?
The move came after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new BNO visa for Hong Kong residents in the summer of 2020, citing Chinese security laws in the former U.K. colony as the primary reason behind the major visa policy shift.
Johnson claimed the security law imposed by Hong Kong authorities had seriously breached the 1985 China-U.K. pact that guaranteed specific freedoms for Hong Kong residents for a period of 50 years after China took over the reins of the region in 1997.
Prior to the new BNO visa, BNO passport holders from Hong Kong could only visit the U.K. visa free for a period of six months; also, they were not allowed to work and study during such visits to the country. But now, the new visa would grant applicants from Hong Kong the ability to stay up to five years in the U.K. and give them the right to work and study anywhere they want; they would also have the option to settle for good in the U.K. and apply for citizenship after the five-year visa period.
The new BNO visa plan is expected to benefit more than three million people from Hong Kong, including around 350,000 BNO passport holders.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE NEW BNO VISA?
The Home Office has specified that the new BNO visa is only available to those people from Hong who registered themselves as overseas British nationals before July 1, 1997. It is not possible to become an overseas British national if you are not already one, it adds. If applicants meet these two conditions, then they and all their family members can apply for the new BNO visa.
The office also clarified that applicants do not currently need to live in Hong Kong to apply; applicants can apply from inside the U.K. as well as from any other country where the U.K.'s visa application service is available via its embassies and consulates.
There are two periods of stay available under the BNO visa category: one can either apply for a two-and-a-half years long visa or five-year one; the application fees and health charges varies for both. For the 2.5 years visa category, the application fee is 180 pounds while the health surcharge is 1,560 pounds for each applicant; a dependent child would have to pay 1,175 pounds more for the health surcharge. For the five-year visa category, 250 pounds is charged as application fee and 3,120 pounds as healthcare surcharge; an additional 2,350 pounds is charged per child of the main applicant.
Applicants would also have to show their detailed bank statements to prove they can support themselves and their families during the entire period of their visa stay; the amount varies with the size of an applicant's family, but, in general, the money should be enough to provide for housing and food; all potential earning incomes, monetary support from friends and family etc. would have to be specified in the application.
Another important point emphasized in the rules is that while the BNO visa applicants would be able to work anywhere in the U.K., except as a sport professional or coach, and study anywhere they like as well, they will not be able to apply for any benefits from the country's public funds. Those funds would only become available to them after they become full-fledged British citizens, which approximately should take around six years in total from the time they enter the country under this new BNO visa.
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