According to an announcement made this month by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, the UK will target people holding BNO (British National Overseas) Status a new visa route with the possibility of permanent residency further down the line.
This route allows people from Hong Kong with BNO status to apply for a one-off visa for 5 years. This new five-year visa will allow BNO holders to work, study and reside in the UK. Their freedoms will be granted without question.
Also, after holding this visa for 5 years, the person concerned can apply for permanent residence in the UK directly. One year after obtaining permanent residence, they will be eligible to apply for British citizenship.
However, who actually qualifies as a BNO?
According to the latest statistics updated by the UK Home Office, it was noted that as of February 24, 2020, there were a total of 349,881 BNO passport holders; however the actual number of Hong Kong residents with BNO statues is estimated at 2.9 million.
It is important to note that the BNO is not a new status, meaning it is not possible for a person who does not already hold a BNO status to apply for a new one.
The BNO status was a ‘transitional policy’ given by the British government before the reunification of Hong Kong with the People’s Republic of China on July 1, 1997. Most people have not been able to file a new application after that date; late applications are normally not accepted by the HM Passport Office
Hong Kong residents with BNO status can generally be distinguished as follows:
The person who has registered for BNO status on or before 30 June 1997 (whether or not they have a valid BNO passport currently, expired or lost).
Children born before 1 July 1997 whose parents have BNO status and whose names are mentioned in their parents’ BNO passports (i.e the child is listed as an ‘Included Child’ in parents’ BNO passports, even if the child has never registered in the past.)
In the case of persons born between 1 January and 30 June 1997, the deadline for applications was September 30 1997. (i.e, such clients must have registered for a BNO before September 30, 1997, unless both of their parents are BNOs and their names are mentioned in the Children/Infants section of their parents’ BNO passports.
So, for many people the current situation is likely to be that they do not have a BNO passport on hand (e.g meeting point 2 of the above), or that the passport has been lost or expired.
In that case, if the person wants to ensure that he or she has a valid BNO status, he or she will need to go ahead and apply accordingly:
The original BNO passport has expired:
All such persons need to do is apply for a Renew, which can be done by following this link: https://www.gov.uk/overseas-passports
For a ‘renewal’ application, the following documents are generally required.
- The original of the old BNO passport (i.e the expired passport that was originally held).
- A double-sided colour photocopy of the Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card.
- All currently valid passports (unexpired passports, such as SAR passports or other non-UK passports) in your possession must be provided with colour copies of all pages.
- Proof of address for the last 12 months.
First application for a BNO passport:
Applicants will generally need to submit the following additional documents in addition to the above.
- The birth certificate of the person concerned and of his or her parents.
- Parents’ marriage certificate.
- Declarations signed by counter signatories.
Who can be a counter signatory?
- Person holding British, EU, Commonwealth or US passports and,
- Requires knowing the applicant for at least 2 years or more.
- Cannot be a family member of the applicant.
- Must be a professional recognized by the UK Home Office, i.e must be an accountant, lawyer, teacher, journalist, etc. (All subject to a list of approved occupations which can be found here: https:www.gov.uk/countersigning-passport-applications/accepted-occupations-for-countersignatories)
The Original BNO passport has been lost:
Such persons will need to apply for a ‘lost’ passport before they can apply for a BNO passport.
The link to request lost information is https:/www.gov.uk/report-a-lost-or-stolen-passport
The link to apply for BNO passport afterwards is: https:/www.gov.uk/overseas-passports
How do I check if I already hold BNO status?
Parties can try emailing the HM Passport Office: DPA.Queries@hmpo.gov.uk
When contacting them, you need to indicate in the subject line of your email: SAR (Subject access request) – British National Overseas passport.
In the email the person should provide their name, date of birth, place of birth, a scanned copy of their ID card or Passport, and indicate that they want to check their BNO status, and whether they want the results to be posted to them or sent via email.
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