Everything you need to know about the new Hong Kong BN(O) Visa

Looking for information and guidance on the new Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa? Whether you are applying on your own or with your family we have everything you need to know to about this new visa category.

History Recap - Hong Kong and Great Britain - the introduction of the British National (Overseas) Status

If you are wanting the 'in a nutshell' version as to how this visa has come about, then here is a quick recap of the history that led to where we are today.

The relationship between Great Britain and Hong Kong that brought about the British National (Overseas) Status

In 1839 during the First Opium War, Britain successfully invaded China and occupied Hong Kong making it a British Colony. In 1898, following another war which China again lost, Britain brokered a deal to lease Hong Kong from China for 99 years, until 1997.

On the 19th December 1984, in preparation for the end of the 99-year lease Britain and China signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration, in which Britain agreed to return Hong Kong and its territories to China. On the 1st of July 1997, the lease officially ended and the government of Great Britain would transfer control of the entire territory of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China, ending 156 years of British colonial rule.

The Sino-British joint declaration would see Hong Kong become a special administrative region under the People's Republic of China. Within the agreement a constitutional principle referred to as ‘One country, two systems’ was to be adopted by China as the Hong Kong Basic Law which would allow Hong Kong to retain its capitalist economic system and own currency, legal system, legislative system, and same human rights and freedom. The socialist system of the People's Republic of China would not be practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and according to Article 5 of the agreement Hong Kong was to be given a high degree of autonomy allowing its way of life to remain unchanged for a period of 50 years, until 2047. It is unclear and a concern for many as to what will happen in 2047.

The introduction of British National Overseas Status

Before 1983, all citizens of the British Empire, were citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKCs) and had unrestricted rights to enter and live in the UK. After the British Nationality Act of 1981 was passed, CUKCs were reclassified into different nationality groups based on their ancestry and birthplace, the majority of British subjects in Hong Kong became British Dependent Territories citizens (BDTCs) but now had only the right of abode in Hong Kongand could not live and work in the UK.

As Hong Kong would cease to be a British Dependent Territory on July 1st 1997, Hong Kong residents would automatically lose their BDTC status on this date. So, in advance of this date and in order to give the people of Hong Kong an opportunity to retain their ties to the UK a new form of nationality was required.

Those who would previously have been British Dependent Territories Citizens could now register for the newly created successor status, known as British National (Overseas). (Hong Kong Act 1985).

Registration for BN(O) status was a time-limited offer for those that wished to maintain connections with the UK following handover. There are no plans for BN(O) registration to re-open.

How did you get BN(O) status?

The Hong Kong (British Nationality) Order 1986 came into operation on 1st July 1987, and gave those with a proven connection to Hong Kong a right to apply for BN(O) status. This status could only be applied for during the transition period of 10 years meaning that no-one after 1997 when Hong Kong was returned to Chinese sovereignty, could apply for this status.

What happened if you were classed a British Overseas Territory Citizen (BOTC) but did not apply for British National Overseas status?

If you were a British Overseas Territory Citizen, did not register for BNO status and had no other nationality or citizenship on 30 June 1997 you automatically became a British Overseas Citizen (on 1 July 1997). So, if you did not register for BN(O) status before 1997 then you cannot apply to become one now.

Rights of entry to and residence in the UK for Hong Kong BN(O)s (prior to the new Hong Kong Visa scheme starting January 31st 2021).

Prior to the new visa route, your Rights as a British National (overseas) meant that you can hold a British passport and get consular assistance and protection from UK diplomatic posts but you would still be subject to immigration controls and would not have the automatic right to live or work in the UK. You are entitled to visit the UK for up to 6 months at a time without a visa. You are not considered a UK national by the European Union (EU).

The new visa route now changes this by giving those who registered as a BN(O) citizen the opportunity to apply for a new visa which will allow you to come to the UK with a view to settling here permanently and then applying to become British citizens if you so wish.

How many people have BN(O) status and how many of them hold BN(O) passports?

It is estimated that there are 2.9 million BN(O) status holders and a further 2.3 million eligible dependents. According to this same factsheet, there were 469,416 BN(O) passport holders as of 2nd October 2020.

*You do not need a renewed BN(O) passport to apply for the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa route.

The introduction of the new Hong Kong British National Overseas Visa Scheme

Summary of the new visa route

The new Hong Kong BN(O) Visa will allow BN(O) citizens to live, work or study in the UK, with a pathway to settlement (also known as permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain) and then citizenship. The visa will be valid for up to 5 years, during which time the holder is subject to UK immigration control. After 5 years in the UK and, provided they have stayed free of criminality, have supported themselves financially and otherwise complied with the terms of the visa, they will be able to apply for settled status; after a further year they may apply to naturalise as a British citizen.

Why has it been introduced?

In June 2020, China passed a new security law which would increase Beijing’s control over the supposedly autonomous region of Hong Kong. The UK considers this a violation of the sino-british agreement made between the UK and China at the time of the Hong Kong handover. In response (and as part of their ‘historic commitment’ to protect the rights of those in Hong Kong), the UK Government has introduced a new bespoke immigration route for British National (Overseas) status holders. This now offers both the BN(O) status holder and their immediate family a new visa route to live, work and study in the UK.

Who can apply?

1) Main Applicant

You can apply for a BNO visa if you’re:

  • a holder of British National (overseas) status
  • 18 or older
  • Have your permanent home either
  • in Hong Kong, if you’re applying from outside the UK
  • in the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man or Hong Kong if you’re applying in the UK

2) Family Members

Your immediate family members can apply at the same time as you provided, they live with your as you ‘dependent’. Your Dependants do not need to have BN(O) status themselves to be eligible but dependent grandparents or other relatives will not be eligible if they are not BN(O) citizens in their own right. Dependent family members will not be able to apply after you receive a decision about your visa application. When you apply you will need to provide evidence that you live together.

A dependent can include your:

  • husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried partner
  • child or grandchild under 18
  • child 18 or older, born on or after 1 July 1997 (and their partner or child under 18)
  • parent, grandparent, brother, sister, son or daughter (18 or older) if they live with you and are very dependent on you for their care

Criteria for family members, in addition to the application and fees.

  • If they are not a dependent family member then they must have BN(O) status,
  • be ordinarily resident in Hong Kong, which includes those currently in the UK but who are ordinarily resident in Hong Kong;
  • ability to accommodate and support themselves in the UK for at least six months;
  • Have a valid travel document such as a HKSAR passport
  • demonstrate a commitment to learn English in the UK where appropriate
  • hold a current TB test certificate from a clinic approved by the Home Office
  • have no serious criminal convictions and can satisfy the good behaviour clause

You do not need a valid BN(O) passport to prove your eligibility and you don’t need to request a new passport if it is lost or expired. The UK home office can check the public records to confirm you are a holder of BN(O) status.

If you are applying as a family with dependents who do not hold BN(O) status then the main applicant who is a BN(O) holder should apply first to get the unique reference number to use on their applications.

For any of your Family members applying that do not hold a BN(O), HKSAR or EEA biometric passport will be required to attend an appointment at either a VAC (overseas) or UKVCAS (In the UK) to get their biometrics done.

How long can you stay in the UK on the BNO visa?

You can apply to stay for either:

  • 2 years and 6 months
  • 5 years

You will be able to extend your visa if you want to stay longer. You can apply to extend your visa as many times as you want.

How much does it cost to apply for the Hong Kong BNO Visa?

Applications for the Hong Kong BN(O) visa will cost

Visa Application fee:

  • £180 per person for the 2 years and 6 months option (30 months) or
  • £250 per person for the 5-year visa.

Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS):

  • £1,560 if you’re applying to stay for the 2 years and 6 months option (30 months)
  • £3,120 if you’re applying to stay for 5 years

Children under 18, £1,175 if you’re applying to stay for 30 months or £2,350 if you’re applying to stay for 5 years

Once you’ve paid the International Health Surcharge you will be able to use the National Health Service (NHS) .

What you can and cannot do on this visa

You can:

  • work (except as a professional sportsperson)
  • study (including applying for higher education courses)
  • use the NHS

You cannot:

  • claim public funds (social welfare benefits)

Your children will be able to:

  • attend school if they are under 18 (all state schools are free)
  • attend education and training if they are aged 16 to 19

Evidence you will need to provide for the The Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa

1) Proving your Identity

  • You will need a valid passport to show proof of identity
  • You will need a valid or expired British National (Overseas) passport to prove your British national (overseas) status. If you do not have a British national (overseas) passport the Home Office may be able to look at records to check your status.

2) Proving you are ordinarily resident in Hong Kong or the UK

The following list is not exhaustive and the Home Office will consider other forms depending on your circumstances and on a case by case basis.

  • Hong Kong identity card
  • Hong Kong medical card
  • A letter from an employer or education provider confirming your employment or study
  • A voter’s card
  • A visa or residence permit or other immigration documents
  • An educational record, for example a school report
  • Tax records
  • Records of rent or mortgage payments
  • Household utility bills

3) Proving you can accommodate and support yourself financially

You will need to show that you can pay for accommodation and financially support yourself and your dependants (if applicable) for a minimum of 6 months. The following list is not exhaustive and the Home Office will consider other forms depending on your circumstances and on a case by case basis.

You can show this with:

  • bank statements
  • evidence of regular income that will continue whilst in the UK
  • investment details
  • evidence of any educational grants
  • confirmation of an offer of employment in UK
  • income of your partner, spouse or other family member
  • an offer of accommodation from any family or friends in the UK

4) Evidence of your relationship to your dependents

If you are applying with your partner (married or unmarried) or dependent child, then you will have to provide evidence of their relationship to you.

How to apply for the Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa

At the moment the only way to apply is through the .gov.uk website and after you have submitted your application, you will need to attend an appointment to have your Biometrics taken. If you wait until the 23rd of February you will be able to avoid having to visit a VAC centre to do your Biometrics. You also won't have to collect a BRP card or send your passport away.


**If you would like to engage our assistance with the process then you can sign up to it by visiting this page and selecting the visa tab: Apply for my HKBNO visa now


Apply via the .gov.uk website - from within the UK or from outside the UK

How do I prove I have British National (Overseas) Status?

If you have BNO status then you will either have a passport or documents confirming your registration. This would have happened between 1987 and 1997. It was not possible to obtain this status outside of these 10 years.

I have BNO status but do not have a current passport, can I apply for a passport now?

Yes, you can apply / renew your passport here - Apply or renew BNO passport

Can I apply for British national (overseas) status now?

No, the ability to apply for this status closed in 1997

I hold a BN(O) passport can I work in the UK without a visa?

No, unfortunately, the BN(o) passport does not give you the right to live and work in the UK, you will need to apply for the Hong Kong Visa.

How many people hold BN(O) citizenship in Hong Kong?

Around 2.9 million.

When does the new visa application route open?

There are two options available

  • Starting on the 31st January 2021 : All BN(O) status holders and their dependants can apply on GOV.UK. website. You will be required to attend a Biometrics Appointment.
  • Starting on the 23rd February 2021 : If you have a BN(O), HKSAR, or EEA biometric passport, you can apply using the Governments ID App which means you will not have to attend a Biometrics Appointment.

For the difference between the two options above, see the next FAQ.

What is the difference between applying via the App or on the .gov.uk website?

The difference is that if you apply online via the Visa and Immigration website (and your application is approved), then you will get a paper vignette (sticker) in your passport and then you will need to collect a Biometrics Residence Permit (BRP) from a Post Office when you are in the UK.

If you apply via the App then you will not have a vignette or a BRP and you will have a digital visa. Employers will be able to check this via a website which will tell them you have the right to live and work in the UK...provided your application is successful!

How many visas are available - is there a quota?

There is no quota on the number of visas available, so at present there is no limit to the number of people that can apply.

How much does the Hong Kong visa cost?

  • £180 per person for the two years and 6 month option (30 months) or
  • £250 per person for the 5-year visa.

Can I apply for the HKBNO visa from within the UK?

Yes, you can but you will still have to meet the same evidence criteria

Do I need a BNO passport to apply?

No, you do not.

Is there a minimum income requirement?

No there is not. But you will have to prove you can support your self and your dependents (if applicable) for the first 6 months you are here.

Do I need to take any skills test?

No, there are no skills tests but you might need to enrol in an English Language course if, on arrival, your English is not deemed sufficient.

Once I have the HKBNO visa, will I be able to use the NHS?

Yes, you will provided you have paid the International Health Surcharge. Not all NHS services are free and you should research how your current medical needs will be met in the UK, prior to coming here.

I don’t qualify for the Hong Kong BNO visa, are there any other visas I could apply for?

If you are aged between 18 and 31 you may be able to apply for the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme.

Need Help, have a question?

If you have anything to add to this article or you cannot find an answer to your question, Please just e-mail me (Sarah), I will do my best to respond to any questions about this visa and the application process.