The news this week that British National (Overseas) ("BN(O)") passport holders could be granted extended UK visa-free access and enhanced immigration rights with a pathway to British Citizenship is welcome news for many Hong Kong private clients.
Currently, the vast majority of people in Hong Kong would have to apply for a UK visa in order to move to the UK for more than 6 months. The Tier 1 (Investor) Visa has been a popular option for many of our clients, as it grants the most flexibility for them and their dependant spouses and minor children to live, work and study in the UK, and potentially later acquire Indefinite Leave to Remain here and British Citizenship.
The potential for BN(O) passports to offer another option of relocating to the UK is therefore an interesting one. However, details of the UK government's plans for such passports are scarce at present, leaving more questions than answers.
One important question for many is whether the potential benefits of the passport will extend to family members? Hong Kong residents born on or after 1st July 1997 cannot apply for BN(O) status, and children cannot acquire this status from their parents. While the UK government has indicated that dependants of BN(O) passport holders (presumably spouses and minor children) could benefit, this provides little reassurance for many with adult children who may have a young family of their own. So those in the city concerned about the future of their children and future generations without BN(O) status will have to continue to wait with bated breath for answers.
What is a BN(O) passport, who in Hong Kong is eligible and how will holders be affected by London’s plan to relax visa rules?