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British National Overseas Immigration: Hong Kong

Volume 709: debated on Thursday 24 February 2022

The Government are today announcing changes to the British National (Overseas) immigration route.

On 31 January 2021, the UK launched a bespoke immigration route for British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) status holders and their family members. The route reflects the UK’s historic and moral commitment to those people of Hong Kong who chose to retain their ties to the UK by taking up BN(O) status before Hong Kong’s handover to China in 1997, and followed China’s passing of the national security law which significantly impacts the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.

The route has already been a great success and as of 31 December 2021, there have been 103,900 applications since the route launched.

The current rules enable adult children of a BN(O) status holder to apply as a dependant if they apply at the same time as their BN(O) parent, are part of their parent’s household in Hong Kong, the UK or the Crown dependencies and were born on or after 1 July 1997. However, some of this cohort cannot currently access the BN(O) route because their BN(O) parent does not wish to apply, because they are not part of their parent’s household, or they are unable to apply at the same time.

It was right to think about the family unit of the BN(O), but this is creating unfair outcomes for the families of BN(O) status holders with some children able to access the route independently as they were old enough to be registered for BN(O) status, while their younger siblings aged between 18 and 24 are unable to access the route. It is right and important to address this so the Government have made the decision to enable individuals aged 18 or over who were born on or after 1 July 1997 and who have at least one BN(O) parent to apply to the route independently of their BN(O) parent.

This cohort will still be required to meet all of the other suitability and eligibility requirements for the route, including six months maintenance funds and the requirement for the applicant to be ordinarily resident in Hong Kong, the UK, or the Crown dependencies. Applicants will also need to pay the existing application fees for the route (£180 if applying for 30 months leave or £250 if applying for five years leave) as well as the immigration health surcharge. They will be able to be joined in the UK by their partner and children under the age of 18. After five years in the UK those on the BN(O) route will be able to apply for settlement, followed by citizenship after a further 12 months.

We intend to lay the changes to the immigration rules in September with the changes expected to go live in October.

This Government are committed to ensuring those planning to make the UK their home feel fully supported and welcomed when starting their lives here. As with those who have already come to the UK on the BN(O) route, this additional cohort will have access to the provisions available through the UK-wide Welcome programme led by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which consists of a package of support with up to £43.1 million made available so far.

We look forward to welcoming applications from those individuals who wish to make the UK their home.