The UK’s Hong Kong BNO visa allows British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) individuals from Hong Kong, and their immediate family members, to live, work and study in the UK. The BNO visa is a route to indefinite leave to remain and British citizenship.
What is the Hong Kong BN(O) visa?
The Hong Kong BN(O) visa was introduced by the UK Government in 2021 in response to China’s parliament imposing a severe security law on Hong Kong.
The BN(O) visa allows holders to study at school college or university and to work in any legal capacity, except as a sports coach or professional sportsperson.
It allows BNO nationals to settle in the UK after five years.
Key features of the route are as follows:
|Unlimited number of visas||There is no cap on the number of Hong Kong BNO visas issued.|
|Lenient eligibility criteria||There are no skills or minimum income requirements applicable to this route.|
|Dependants also eligible||Applicants can bring their immediate dependants, including non-BNO citizens.|
|No job or sponsorship necessary||Applicants do not need to have found a job to be eligible – they can look for work once in the UK.|
|5-year visa duration||Applications can be made for an initial period of 30 months, extendable by a further 30 months, or as a single application for the full 5 years.|
|Route to settlement & citizenship||After 5 years in the UK under the Hong Kong BNO visa, holders can become eligible for UK indefinite leave to remain. After 12 months with ILR, they can become eligible for British citizenship.|
|No BNO passport necessary||Applicants do not need to have a BNO passport to be eligible for the Hong Kong BNO visa.|
|Permission to work & study||Visa holders do not need to seek additional permission to work or study in the UK.|
|Access to healthcare||Visa holders are able to access the NHS, having paid the Immigration Health Surcharge.|
|Access to public education||Visa holders’ dependent children can attend state school.|
|Apply in the UK or from overseas||Applications can be made from within the UK or outside.|
|Liable for tax||Visa holders pay national insurance and income tax.|
|No restrictions on employment||Visa holders have access to the UK job market at any skill level and without salary threshold, and can be self-employed.|
Hong Kong BNO visa eligibility requirements
To be eligible for the Hong Kong BNO visa, applicants must be ahead 18 or over, have British national (overseas) status and ordinarily be resident in Hong Kong, the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.
The scheme initially only permitted those born after 1997 to come to the UK with their parents. A change in the rules in 2022 means those born on or after July 1, 1997, and aged 18 or over can apply independently for the BNO visa. This means teenagers living in Hong Kong can travel to the UK without their parents.
You will not need to have a valid BNO passport to make your application, as the Home Office should be able to check your status from records.
Applicants will need to prove their identity, for example using any applicable nationality passport.
You do not need to have a BN(O) passport to apply, provided you meet the other eligibility criteria.
BN(O) visa holders must prove they can provide house and financially support themselves and their dependant family members for 6 months.
The level of funds required will depend on how many family members are applying with you, and will need to cover accommodation costs and be at least the equivalent level of Income Support in the UK. As a guide, this would be around:
- £2,000 for a single adult
- £3,100 for a couple with a child
- £4,600 for a couple with 3 children
- £9,200 for a couple, 2 parents and 2 adult children
You can meet this requirement either through income, savings or help from family or friends.
The financial requirement doesn’t apply if you have already been in the UK for at least 12 months.
In 2023, the Home Office extended the concession allowing the Home Office to grant 12 months leave outside the rules to BN(O) applicants who apply from within the UK but who do not meet the financial requirements or ordinarily resident requirement at the time of the application. The applicant will not be eligible under this route if they fail to meet the visa suitability requirements.
Which family members are eligible?
Your dependants may also be eligible to apply with you for the BN(O) visa.
Dependant family members could include your:
- Spouse or civil partner
- Unmarried partner, where you have been cohabiting for a minimum of 2 years at the time of the application
- 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
Dependants should also normally live with you.
In 2023, a concession was introduced allowing family members to continue BN(O) visa applications where the main applicant has passed away during the application process. In practical terms, one of the remaining family members will be appointed the main applicant for the purpose of granting permission for other dependents. The Home Office will then continue to process the applications to determine if the visa requirements are met and that applicant identities can be verified. This may require additional documents to be provided.
The concession does not extend to dependant family members where the BN(O) status holder died before a BN(O) application was made.
Applying for the Hong Kong BNO visa
Applicants will have the choice to apply for a five year visa, or to apply for a 30-month visa, with the option to renew this for a further 30 months.
How to apply from overseas
Complete the BN(O) visa application online. You will then be advised how you need to prove your identity to complete your application. This will require you to either use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan your BNO, HKSAR (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) or EEA passport, or to attend an appointment at a local visa application centre to submit your biometric information. If you have to attend an application centre, your passport may be retained while the application is processed.
The Home Office advises BN(O) applicants to await the decision on their application before travelling to the UK.
How to apply from the UK
If you are already in the UK on a different visa, you can apply to switch to the BN(O) visa.
The BN(O) application has to be made online. You will be advised at the time of making your application if you need to verify your identity using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app (if you have a BNO, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) or EEA e-passport) or if you need an appointment at a UKVCAS centre.
How to apply with your family
Each family member has to apply for the same period of leave as you, ie two and a half years or five years.
Once you have submitted your application, you will be issued a Global Web Form (GWF) or a Unique Application Number (UAN). Your dependant family members will need to use this reference number to make their own application. Dependant applications should be made on the same day as you make your primary application.
Note also that children under 18 have to apply with both of their parents, unless one parent or grandparent has sole responsibility for them.
Both you and your family members will need to prove in your individual applications that you have a qualifying relationship and that you live with each other.
It is not possible for a dependant to apply after your visa decision has been made.
How much does the BN(O) visa cost?
The BN(O) visa application fee is £180 for a 2 and a half year visa, or £250 for a 5 year visa. The fee is payable per applicant.
Most applicants will also have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge at the time of making the application, to cover the relevant visa period (30 months or 5 years). The Immigration Health Surcharge is £624 per visa holder per year, with a reduced rate for children. For a 5-year visa, this will equate to £3,120 per adult and £2,350 for applicants under 18 years of age.
In addition, each applicant will also need to pay £19.20 to submit biometric information.
As well as completing the application form, you will also need to submit documentation to evidence your eligibility in relation to nationality, residence, maintenance and your relationship to your dependants where relevant. This will include:
- Valid passport or other travel document to confirm your identity
- Mortage statements or tenancy agreement
- Utility bills
- A letter from your employer, on company letterhead, confirming your address and employment
- Immigration document such as a residence permit
- Proof of funds such as bank or savings account statements, proof of income if self-employed, payslips
BN(O) passport holders can use their passport (even if expired) to prove their status. This will expedite processing, but is not a mandatory requirement as the Home Office will still be able to access records to confirm your status.
You will need to provide three different, recent documents proving you have a permanent home in Hong Kong, the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.
If family members are applying with you, they will also have to provide evidence that they live with you, with at least one document dated no more than 31 days before the application such as a copy of a marriage or civil partnership certificate or birth certificate.
You may also need to provide a TB test certificate (from an approved test centre and no more than 6 months old) if you have been living in Hong Kong or another country where you have to take a TB test for the past 6 months, or you did not provide a TB test certificate when you came to the UK.
Can you extend your BN(O) visa?
Provided you remain eligible under the visa rules, you can apply to extend your BN(O) visa.
You should make your extension application before your BN(O) visa expires. Extension applications typically take 12 weeks to process.
There is no limit to the number of times you can extend your BN(O) visa.
How to apply for UK settlement or citizenship with a BNO visa
After 5 years in the UK under the Hong Kong BNO visa, holders become eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain. The ILR application requires applicants to show continuous residence in the UK during the qualifying 5-year period. This means having absences from the country of no more than 180 days in any 12-month period during the 5 years.
You should make the ILR application no earlier than 28 days before the expiry of your BN(O) visa.
With ILR, you are no longer subject to immigration control and can remain in the UK indefinitely. Should you be absent fro the UK for more than 2 years, your ILR status will likely expire.
With 12 months ILR status, you may then become eligible to register as a British citizen under s4 of the British Nationality Act 1981. This requires you to complete Form B(OTA) and pay the registration fee of £1,225.20. Non-BNO family members, however, are expected to have to naturalise as a British citizen, a different process to registration which is also more expensive at £1,349.20.
DavidsonMorris are UK immigration specialists. We have substantial experience of advising Hong Kong nationals across all types of UK visa applications. If you have a query about the BN(O) visa, your eligibility for the route or how to apply, contact us.
Hong Kong BN(O) visa FAQs
Who is eligible for BNO Hong Kong?
You are eligible if you have British National (Overseas) status, are 18 or over and you live permanently either in Hong Kong, or if you are applying from the UK, you live in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man. Dependant family members may also be eligible to apply with you.
What is BNO in Hong Kong?
The UK’s British National (Overseas) visa allows eligible individuals to live, work and study in the UK, and after 5 years, offers a route to settlement.
How can I apply for BNO visa?
You apply online for the BN(O) visa, either from overseas or from the UK. You will need to submit supporting evidence and pay the application and immigration fees.
Last updated: 5 May 2023