A new visa route has been established by the Home Office to allow Hong Kong British National (Overseas) citizens to travel to the UK. The visa also allows dependents of individuals with British National (Overseas) Status (BN(O)) to live study and work in the UK. Eligible individuals will be able to apply from January 2021 when the route opens and crucially, no sponsorship is required. It could therefore be advantageous for employers as it is not necessary to have a sponsorship licence in place to employ anyone in the UK on this visa.
- Eligibility and conditions of leave
The key eligibility requirements for the Hong Kong BN(O) visa include:
- The main applicant must hold BN(O) status in Hong Kong however, there is no need to hold a current BN(O) passport;
- Immediate family dependents, including a spouse or partner and children aged under 18 will also be eligible under this new route, even if they do not hold BN(O) status themselves;
- Applicants must be ordinarily resident in Hong Kong;
- Applicants must evidence that they can accommodate and support themselves financially in the UK for at least 6 months;
- There is no English language requirement however, the applicant must demonstrate a commitment to learn English;
- The applicant must not have any serious criminal convictions as well as not fall within any of the general grounds of refusal;
- A tuberculosis (TB) test certificate must be obtained from a clinic approved by the Home Office;
The immigration health surcharge and visa application fee must be paid. The precise amount of the visa application fee is yet to be confirmed by the Home Office. It will be possible for applicants to apply for leave to remain for 5 years or for an initial period of 30 months, extendable by a further 30 months. After 5 years, applicants can apply for indefinite leave to remain and thereafter British citizenship.
- Implications for employers
Prospective employees in the UK on a Hong Kong BN(O) visa or those who are a dependent on this visa, will not require sponsorship to work or study. It is therefore possible for employers to employ such individuals without obtaining a sponsorship licence nor issuing a Certificate of Sponsorship. The route is not open until January 2021 so applicants will in most cases have to wait before making an application, it is however possible to travel sooner in exceptional circumstances and be granted Leave Outside the Rules for a period of 6 months.
Right to work checks should be carried out as normal and all other standard recruitment procedures should be followed. As successful applicants will be issued with a digital visa, it may mean that it is only accessible online, as with status under the EU Settlement Scheme. Similar procedures of using the Home Office’s online right to work checking service may therefore need to be followed to ensure the individual has the right to work.
Sponsorship under Tier 2 can be very expensive and time consuming for employers. This new route may therefore be an opportunity for employers with offices or branches located in Hong Kong, who wish to bring eligible employees to the UK under the Hone Kong BN(O) visa. It may also be a beneficial option for employers who wish to employ an individual residing in Hong Kong who is eligible. If you would like further advice on this new route, please contact Julie Moktadir.