During the summer of 2020, the UK Government provided details of a new type of visa for #BN(O) holders and their family members from Hong Kong. The visa allows an individual (or her/his family/household members) to qualify for a 2.5 year (or five-year visa) to live and work in the UK without sponsorship, assessment of skills level to work or other general pre-requisite seen under different routes.
The route is open to all BN(O) holders (past, present, and registered) from 31 January 2021.
When the Government announced their plans in July 2020, many were very sceptical about whether this visa will indeed be as generous as the Minister described. In particular, many were concerned about the process's cost, the requirements, and the actual application process. Coverage of the initial announcement of the visa can be found here.
Fast forward six months and full details of the requirements are published for all to see - the visa's cost, requirements, and process. The requirements (as seen) below certainly appears to be more generous than most applications seen under the current set of UK immigration rules. From applications fees to maintenance requirements, to TB Screening, the UK Government seemed to have everything thought of (for once).
Here's a quick overview of what is required:
UK or Overseas - as long as the Applicant is an ordinary resident of Hong Kong.
Applications are submitted online followed by biometrics appointment at a visa application centre to enrolled biometrics.
The requirement for an individual to attend a visa application centre to enrol their biometrics will soon be replaced (from 23 February 2021) for BN(O) and Hong Kong (SAR) passport holders by the IDV app. Applicants will need to prove their identity through the mobile application and will not be required to travel to a visa application centre.
Application Fee and Timeline
£180 if the Applicant applies for a 2.5-year visa or £250 for those applying for a 5-year visa.
Twelve weeks of consideration time.
Enrollment of Biometrics - £19.20
Immigration Health Surcharge - £624 per year for anyone over 18 and £470 per year for those under 18 years of age (payable in one lump sum for the number of years the visa is applied for).
Proof of maintenance required to ensure that each Applicant has enough money to support oneself and the individual's family members for six months. The Home Office has helpfully identified the amount as:
£2,000 for a single adult
£3,100 for a couple with a child
£4,600 for a couple with three children
£9,200 for a couple, two parents and two adult children
Permitted and include:
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
Condition of such family member is that the family in its entirety must be from the same household, i.e. living together under one roof.
Family members MUST apply at the same time (or within the same day) as the principal Applicant and cannot apply separately.
Conditions of Stay
Minor conditions of stay which include
no access to public funds; and
work (including self-employment and voluntary work) permitted except for employment as a professional sportsperson (including as a sports coach); and
study is allowed, subject to the ATAS condition in Appendix ATAS.
Tuberculosis screening is necessary for those who have been living in a country for more than six months that will otherwise require TB Screening. Those that are in the UK for less than six months may undergo their screening in the UK.
Details of which can be found here.
Extension of Visa and Settlement
Visa extensions are allowed with no limits to the number of times a visa is extended.
Settlement option is given to those who meet the settlement requirements, including residence requirements in the UK (no absences of more than 180 days in any 12 months over five years), English and Knowledge of Life in the UK.
Children may not apply for settlement if only one parent qualifies for settlement unless certain exemptions apply.
On first glance of the application process and its requirements, this visa category (for those that qualifies and genuinely wish to remain in the UK) appears to be, by far, one of the most generous offers in UK visa history.
More importantly, it certainly appears to have captured what the Government had promised, an accessible visa for all BN(O) holders and their wider family members.
This visa is not meant for the typical style of immigration accustomed by Hong Kongers as seen in the 90s, i.e. breadwinner works in Hong Kong whilst her/his family lives overseas. This BN(O) route is designed for Hong Kongers who intend to uproot themselves (and their family) and regard the UK as their permanent home.
Time will tell whether such a generous visa category will attract the number of applicants the UK Government anticipates.
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