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Please note that the content of this article is based on our understanding of current legislation. For full details of all aspects of moving to the UK, including immigration from Hong Kong, please refer to relevant information on the UK government website gov.uk.
As the world changes, movement around the globe continues, and the UK remains a key destination.
As one of the world’s great cities, London has been the country’s main hub for new arrivals. Today, the city is proudly multicultural and is a thriving centre for established businesses as well as innovative entrepreneurs.
Outside of London, immigration has also been a major feature of the development of cities and towns throughout the country. While the rate of immigration has been lower in rural areas, remoter parts of the country are by no means off limits for individuals and families starting a new chapter in their lives.
The thriving commercial life of the UK, the vibrant cities and beautiful landscapes, and the rich tradition of tolerance makes moving to the UK an enticing prospect. That’s especially true for Hong Kong citizens who share so many of the UK’s values and approaches to life. This guide will help you decide whether saying ‘goodbye Hong Kong, hello UK’ is the right move for you and your family.
The UK government has now launched a package of measures to ease the immigration process specifically for Hong Kong citizens. As a result, Hong Kong citizens who want to settle in this country can benefit from a simpler method of entry by BNO (British National Overseas) visa, with the prospect of becoming a UK citizen.
The measures cover applicants themselves, as well as spouses, children and certain dependants. The legislation was prompted by national security laws imposed on Hong Kong by China in June 2020.
Before January 2021, you needed a BNO (British Nationals Overseas) passport to move from Hong Kong to the UK. BNO citizenship is a type of UK nationality created in 1985 in advance of the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. Hong Kong citizens could apply for BNO status until the handover.
In January 2021, Hong Kong residents could apply for the new BNO visa. It was created specifically for Hong Kong residents, allowing them to live, study and work in the UK. The visas are available for individuals and families, including spouses, children under 18 and certain categories of dependent relatives.
The new BNO visa lasts for either 30 or 60 months. One year after the first five years here, visa holders are eligible to apply for full UK citizenship.
London will be at least broadly familiar to the majority of people living in Hong Kong. The principal sights are well known through film and TV, and the fact that it is a great city for business and entrepreneurs will remind people of Hong Kong itself. The city is also famous for its traditions of providing a new home for generations of immigrants, and for its values of tolerance and inclusivity.
In the words of London mayor Sadiq Khan, ‘London is open’ for Hong Kongers. There are of course challenges for anyone starting a new life in a new city, but the environment is one where talent, ideas and hard work can reap rewards.
A recent survey suggests that Hong Kong immigrants will bring with them a flurry of entrepreneurial activity. The city is a great choice for setting up a business for many reasons, including affordable office space, available resources, access to customers and relatively low taxes.
There are also extensive employment opportunities, with around 6 million job roles for payrolled staff and the self-employed throughout the city (Source: data.london.gov.uk).
The types of work in London cover most sectors including finance, health, education, retail, hospitality, transport, manufacturing, technology and construction.
The number of job vacancies across the UK approached one million in July 2021, so anyone coming to the country, and to London, will be able to explore plenty of opportunities for work. London salaries are also the highest in the UK, although the cost of living here is higher than the rest of the country.
Hong Kong citizens relocating to London will find a huge choice of different types of accommodation in the very different parts of the city. At the top end of the market, the sky is the limit in terms of luxury living. At the other end of the scale, basic options are available in less favoured areas. And of course, there are a wealth of options in between.
A lot of London accommodation is in older, characterful buildings which give areas like Chelsea, Kensington and Notting Hill their distinctive looks. Many older houses have been converted into apartments with large rooms and high ceilings. Older purpose-built apartment blocks also exude London charm.
In the last two decades a spate of contemporary, high-rise developments has been built, adding to the feel of London as a very modern, fast-paced city. A lot of new apartments are ideally located for working in the new financial district of Canary Wharf or are in easy reach of the centre of the city.
Away from the centre, you can find houses and apartments which are better suited to families, with more space and closer to amenities such as parks, playing fields and schools. There is also a stronger sense of community in these areas, with diverse community groups and activities – even street parties on special occasions such as a royal event!
For Hong Kong citizens coming to the UK, the flexible accommodation arrangements offered by The Apartment Network are definitely worth checking out. We offer a fantastic choice of serviced accommodation of all types, all ready for you to move into. When it comes to getting to know London (or anywhere else in the UK) renting an apartment from us provides a base for you to begin.
You can contact our expert team for advice on where to stay, and how we can help you settle in London or wherever in the country you choose. Recent enquiries from Hong Kong residents have included London, Reading and further afield in Ireland’s capital, Dublin.
For Hong Kong residents, the basic requirements for a BNO visa application are:
You can see full details of the documents required and the application process on gov.uk where you can also find out about applications from Hong Kong citizens who are living in the UK or away from their Hong Kong home.
Family members who live with you can also apply for a BNO visa, including your spouse, children under 18, children born on or after 1 July 1997, and family members with a high level of dependency.
The legislation is designed to make moving to the UK attractive and practical. As a BNO visa holder you are able to:
These benefits mean that the BNO visa will be hugely attractive to many Hong Kong citizens. The UK government has said that it expects some 300,000 people will take advantage of the scheme.
Underlying the UK government’s commitment to the BNO visa scheme, further support and funding has been put in place:
UK local and national politicians are keen to welcome individuals and families who chose to leave Hong Kong under its new laws for a new life in the UK. As the Prime Minister says in the government’s Welcome Pack ‘It’s fantastic to have you here’.
The fees involved in applying for a BNO visa are as follows:
|Visa Application Fee|
|30 month visa||£180||for main applicant and each family member|
|60 month visa||£250||for main applicant and each family member|
|Biometric information (if needed)||£19.20||for main applicant and each family member|
In addition, you need to factor in the costs of access to the UK’s highly regarded NHS (National Health Service). The NHS provides free access to doctors and hospitals, although some charges apply for medicines and some treatments. The Healthcare Surcharge needs to be paid at the time of your BNO visa application.
Immigration Health Charge (Healthcare Surcharge)
|30 months||£1,560||for each adult (18 and over)|
|30 months||£1,175||for each adult (18 and over)|
|60 months||£3,120||for each child (under 18)|
|60 months||£2,350||for each child (under 18)|
As part of the BNO visa process, applicants need to demonstrate that they can support themselves for the first six months of their stay in the UK. Evidence of having the funds can come from various sources such as bank statements, payslips, proof of income, a letter from friends or family, or a letter confirming an offer of accommodation.
The funds available should be as follows:
|Funds to support yourself and your family for 6 months|
|Couple with 1 child||£3,100|
|Couple with 3 children||£4,600|
|Couple with 2 parents and 2 adult children||£9,200|
Any Hong Kong resident who is a British citizens can move to the UK without any immigration controls. For other Hong Kong citizens a BNO visa is required. BNO visas were introduced on 31 January 2021 and are for 30 or 60 months. A year after the 60-month period, citizens care eligible to apply for full UK citizenship.
If you are a Hong Kong passport holder, or have Hong Kong BNO status, you do not need a visa to enter the UK for stays up to six months.
There is a consensus among many media outlets that some 300,000 Hong Kong residents will move to the UK under the BNO visa scheme. The final number is difficult to predict yet will inevitably become clearer over time. The UK government has set no limit on the number of Hong Kong citizens who will come over.
Vacancy rates in the UK in mid-2021 are exceptionally high as workplaces readjust to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and the changing nature of work. With a figure of around one million vacancies being quoted by various sources, the demand for labour is at an all-time high, especially in IT, hospitality, health care and transport. Suitability qualified or experienced people should be able to find work without too much trouble, but those with good English language skills will be more in demand than those without them.
You can apply for a BNO visa from Hong Kong, from the UK or from anywhere else in the world. However, you will need to show that Hong Kong is your main place of residence, and that you have sufficient funds to support yourself and any dependants for your first six months in the UK. Applications are made online using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app or in person at a visa application centre. Full details on the application process can be found here.
No, if you do not already have BNO status, you are not able to apply to become one. Hong Kong citizens were able to register before 1 July 1997, and not afterwards. However, Hong Kong citizens are now able to apply for a BNO visa.
BNO passports were available to Hong Kong citizens who received BNO status before 1 July 1997. No other citizens of Hong Kong or elsewhere qualify for a BNO passport. If you have been previously issued with a BNO passport, you can renew it by following the instructions here.
Passport renewal fees are £86 for an adult, and £56 for a child, plus a £19.86 courier fee.
Yes, BNO visa applications can also be made for children who live with you, whether they are under 18 or adult children born on or after 1 July 1997.
The UK Visa and Immigration Service states that they aim to reach a decision on BNO visa applications within 12 weeks. The 12 week period starts either when you have completed an online application or when you have attended an appointment at a Visa Application Centre (if you are outside the UK) or a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service location within the UK.