The Home Office has recently announced the introduction of a new priority service for BNO visa applicants. This means that British nationals (overseas) from Hong Kong and their families who are planning to move to the UK can pay £500 to have their application processed within 5 working days. As current timescales for the BNO visa are 12 weeks from when you submitted your application, this is a significant reduction.
The BNO visa originally opened in January 2021 and allows people from Hong Kong who are classified as British nationals to apply for one. It also offers a path to settlement in the UK.
Want to apply for a BNO visa? Contact us today.
So far, there have been a total of 172,500 applications and 113,500 people arrivals in the UK since the scheme began. However, there are many more people from Hong Kong who could be eligible, with figures indicating 5.4 million may qualify for a BNO visa.
The BNO visa presents a unique opportunity for Hongkongers who registered as a British national (overseas) before 1st July 1997, when Hong Kong was handed over from the United Kingdom to the People’s Republic of China. You can also apply for a BNO visa if you are the child of a British national (overseas) who was born on or after 1st July 1997.
Keep reading to learn more about the requirements of the BNO visa, as well as how to apply using both the normal route and the brand new BNO visa priority service.
Who can apply for a BNO Visa?
Firstly, to apply for a BNO visa you must be at least 18 years old and:
- A British national (overseas)
- The child of a British national (overseas) born on or after 1st July 1997
Your family members can apply as your dependant if they are eligible, but must make their own application as your dependent. They must also apply at the same time as you unless they are your partner or a child under 18 years of age.
Your permanent home must be:
- in Hong Kong, if you are applying from outside the UK
- in the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man or Hong Kong if you’re applying in the UK
While there are no language requirements, if you later decide to settle after five years then you will be required to have a good knowledge of English.
Why should you choose the BNO visa?
A BNO visa allows you to both work and study in the UK. Compared with other visas, it has a number of perks:
- No minimum skill or salary requirements
- No sponsorship requirements
- Ability to work in any job with any employer
- Ability to study at any school, college or university without needing to ask for permission
What are the costs involved?
To apply, switch to, or extend a BNO visa you must pay both a visa application fee and a healthcare surcharge.
A visa application fee must be paid by you and each of your family members who are applying. The costs are:
- £180 for 2 years and 6 months (30 months)
- £250 for 5 years
The main cost when applying is for the healthcare surcharge, which will allow you to use the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).
The costs are as follows:
- £1,560 if you’re staying for 2 years and 6 months
- £3,120 if you’re staying for 5 years
Children (under 18)
- £1,175 if you’re staying for 2 years and 6 months
- £2,350 if you’re staying for 5 years
The healthcare surcharge is paid as part of your online visa application.
Please note, however, that there are a number of financial requirements involved. You will usually need to prove that you have enough money to support yourself and your family for six months in the UK. The exception to this is if you have been living in the UK for at least 12 months.
You can prove that you have enough money in a number of ways. This can include:
- bank or savings account statements
- proof of income from self-employment
- proof of income from rental property
- a letter from friends or family with evidence (such as bank statements or payslips) that they have the money to support you and your family
- a letter confirming an offer of accommodation from friends or family
- a tenancy or mortgage agreement
It is important to note that proving an offer of work does not usually count as evidence unless you are transferring to a UK job with your current employer.
How long can you stay in the UK?
You are able to enter or stay in the UK for a 30 month period or a period of 5 years. If you apply for 30 months, then you are able to extend by a further 30 months. There is no limit on the number of times you can extend your BNO visa.
At the end of 5 years, you are able to apply for settlement if you meet the requirements. You are also able to apply for British citizenship 12 months after you achieve settlement.
How do I apply for a BNO visa?
For applying both inside and outside the UK, you will need a number of documents. You can find the full list of documents here.
Applying from outside the UK
Applying from outside the UK for a British National Overseas visa is a fairly simple process. There are two main ways of applying, either by using the UK Immigration: ID Check app or by going to an appointment at a visa application centre. Your visa will start on the day that it is approved.
If your application is successful then you must travel to the UK within 90 days if you went to a visa application centre. If you used the UK Immigration: ID Check app then you must travel to the UK before your visa expires.
You will receive your decision by letter or email which will inform you what you need to do next.
Switching to a BNO visa from inside the UK
When applying for the first time from inside the UK, you will need to apply online. Like applying from outside of the UK, you will either use the UK Immigration: ID Check app or go to an appointment and at a visa application centre.
Either way, you will be asked to provide your BNO, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, or EEA passport. You will need to wait up to 12 weeks to process.
Unless of course, you apply for priority status.
As of 14th August, you can pay £500 (HK$4,971) to have your visa processed within five working days. This can be done through either attending an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizen Application Services (UKVCAS) centre or by using the UK Immigration: ID Check app.
While there is no limit on the number of people who can apply for a BNO visa, there is a limit on the number of people who can apply for priority service. You will find out if you can get a faster decision and what you need to do when you apply.
We welcome the introduction of a priority service for the Hong Kong BNO visa. The BNO visa has already been very successful and is a win-win for both the UK and BNO applicants, with 113,500 arrivals so far. On the one hand, it gives millions of BNO passport holders in Hong Kong the opportunity to migrate and settle in the UK, and on the other it also provides the UK with skilled migrants who can help to fill the UK’s domestic labour shortage following Brexit.
The BNO visa scheme is expected to last until at least 2025, so there is plenty of time for applicants to apply. If you wish to apply for a BNO visa, feel free to contact us today. Our expert immigration team would be delighted to help you.
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