There is exciting news that a special visa program is being opened for residents of Hong Kong to immigrate to the UK. The visa which requires people to have a British National (overseas) passport allows them and their immediate dependents to get into the UK quicker and easier.
The only issue is that the Chinese foreign ministry said that it is not going to recognize the BNO passport as a travel document, giving a sense of urgency to immigrants to want to move as soon as they can. The UK launched this new visa after China had imposed a new security law so people who are applying for the visa and are successful can apply for settlement after five years and then apply for British citizenship a mere 12 months after that.
Over 7,000 Hong Kongers have already applied for this special visa since July and Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the UK stated that he still wants to honour the profound ties of history and friendship with the ex-British colony. There are 2.9 million citizens eligible to move to the UK and a further 2.3 million dependents, with a predicted number of only 300,000 people able to take up the offer in the first five years.
China will no longer recognise the BNO passport from the beginning of February 2021. It is not yet clear what this move will mean. People from Hong Kong use their passport or ID card to move around the city, when entering mainland China, they also need to use their Home Return Permit, which is issued by Chinese immigration unless they use a full foreign passport and apply for a visa to enter as a foreigner, BNO is usually only recognised when entering the UK or other countries that recognise that document.
The new visa system will be helping British nationals move away from Hong Kong and shows a great example of why the government is trying to do a little better in the world. Those who are eligible can apply for a new visa online, but they will also need to book an appointment and attend a visa application centre.
From the 23rd February 2021 citizens who are BNO status holders and hold an eligible biometric passport will be able to use an app to complete their application from home.
The visa fee to be able to settle in the UK for five years will be £250 per person, or people can choose to stay for 30 days which will cost £180. There is also an immigration health surcharge of up to £624 per year.
The BNO status was created before the UK handed the responsibility of Hong Kong back to China in 1997. The UK agreed with China to introduce “one country, two systems” which means (amongst other things) that they have rights to things like freedom of assembly, free speech and freedom of the press would be protected. The agreement signed in 1984 was set to last until 2047.
This new visa system is going to allow people to find a new home and feel safe in doing so, the amazing connection between the two countries is still strong even with the changes that may be happening in them individually.