British National Overseas (BNO) Visa

If you are from Hong Kong and a British National (Overseas) passport holder, you and your family can apply for a British National Overseas Visa (BNO Visa). It is also known as a “BNO 5+1” Visa since its holders can apply for permanent residence after 5 years, and after another 1 year, you may apply for British citizenship if you meet all the qualification requirements.

This visa route allows Hong Kong citizens with British National Overseas (BNO) status to live in the country, as well as your close family members, including spouses, children, dependent parents and dependent siblings.

Overview of the BNO Visa Program

BNO Visa UK was created in 2021 in response to Hong Kong's new national security law.

Hong Kong BNO Visa has many advantages:

  • You do not need to meet minimum qualifications or salary requirements.
  • You don't need a sponsorship certificate from a UK employer.
  • You can bring your spouse, children, and other eligible dependent relatives to the UK.
  • You have the right to work in any position for any employer.
  • You can study in the UK at a state school, college, or university.

Rights and Privileges Associated with BNO Status

British National (Overseas) Visa allows you to come to the UK for up to 5 years. During this period, you have the right to work as an employee or individual entrepreneur, study, and receive free medical care.

As a BN(O) Visa holder, you can receive cash benefits only under certain financial circumstances. For example:

  • You do not have housing and cannot afford it.
  • You have housing but cannot cover basic living expenses such as food or utilities.
  • You have lost your home or cannot independently provide accommodation in the UK.
  • You are on a very low income, which may harm your child's well-being.

Purpose of the Scheme and Its Objectives

The main purpose of the program is to provide protection and support to Hong Kong citizens holding BNO status. In addition, it aims to support the integration of Hong Kong citizens into British society by providing them with opportunities for employment, training, and adapting to new living conditions in the UK.

Requirements for obtaining a BNO Visa

To submit a BNO Visa application, an applicant must meet several requirements.

British National Overseas (BNO) Status

You are not eligible for a BNO Visa unless you are a British National (Overseas) holder. Citizens of British Overseas Territories with connections to Hong Kong were able to register as British citizens (overseas) until July 1, 1997.

People who did not do this received this status automatically on July 1, 1997, provided that they had no other citizenship by June 30, 1997. Children under 18 could also obtain British National (Overseas) status using the passports of their parents.

BNO Status allows holders to have a British passport and receive consular assistance and protection from UK diplomatic agencies. However, unlike British citizens, you are subject to immigration restrictions without the automatic right to reside and work in the UK. Therefore, applying for the BNO Visa would enable you to gain the right to live and work in the UK towards Settlement.

Accommodation in Hong Kong

To obtain a BNO Visa, the applicant must be an ordinary resident of Hong Kong. It means that the person must be a resident of Hong Kong at the time of application. If the applicant is a Hong Kong citizen, their documents should also confirm it.

Evidence of residence in Hong Kong may be as follows:

  • Hong Kong official ID.
  • Letter from the employer confirming employment in Hong Kong.
  • Visa, residence permit, or other immigration documents (colour photocopy acceptable) confirming residence in Hong Kong.
  • Document about education, for example, a school certificate.
  • Tax documents.
  • Documents regarding payment of rent or mortgage.
  • Payslips or payroll documents.
  • Utility bills, etc.

No Criminal Record

It is essential that the applicant has no serious criminal convictions and is not engaged in other acts that the UK Government considers to be harmful to the public good. They must also not be subject to other general grounds for visa refusal set out in the Immigration Rules.

Knowledge of English is not required to obtain an initial visa. However, if an applicant plans to apply for UK Indefinite Leave to Remain, you must demonstrate that you speak English in the future.

Criteria for Individuals Holding BNO Status and Their Family Members

The main applicant must be a Hong Kong British National Overseas Citizen, or your children born on or after 1 July 1997.

Your spouse, partner, child, and any other family member (parent, grandparent, grandchild, brother, sister) is eligible to apply for a visa as your dependant. Children between 16 and 18 living independently cannot be considered dependent, nor can unmarried partners who have not been in a relationship together for at least 2 years continuously.

Requirements for Partners

The Home Office recognises that modern relationships can take several forms hence they would consider the below:

• registered civil partnership or marriage recognised in the UK

• unmarried partners who have been cohabiting or at least 2 years 

• unmarried partners who have been in a relationship for 2 years, however you are unable to live together due to compelling reasons such as working or studying in different places, or cohabitation before marriage is unacceptable in your culture

Requirements for Adult Children or Relative

However, as an exception and in special cases, your child over 18 can obtain a dependant Family Member Visa. The above measure for children over 18 is normally limited to those born after July 1, 1997. We shall show that they usually live in the same household, unless they’re studying away from home.

Other adult dependent relatives of Hong Kong British Overseas Citizens are eligible for a dependent visa at the discretion and on a case-by-case basis. We shall have to prove that they live with you, and are highly dependent on you due age, illness, or disability.

If an adult child or dependent relative has a change in circumstances and is now dependent on you hence no longer living independently, we may apply to join the Main Applicant who is in the UK.

Documents for Applying for BNO Visa UK

To apply for BNO Status Visa, applicants must provide a comprehensive package of documents. It includes a valid passport or other travel document proving identity and citizenship. If you are a UK citizen (overseas), you can use a current or expired BNO passport (or a photocopy).

To apply for a BNO Visa, you must provide the following:

  • Evidence of a permanent home in Hong Kong, the UK, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man: mortgage or rental agreement, utility bills, etc.
  • Proof that you have sufficient funds to support yourself and family members in the UK: bank or savings account statements, payslips, etc.
  • Documents confirming your relationship with your family members: marriage certificate, birth certificate, adoption certificate, etc.
  • A tuberculosis (TB) test certificate if you have not already provided one upon arrival in the UK.

You must provide a certified translation of all documents that are not in English.

BNO Visa Financial Requirement

When you first apply, you must show that you have enough funds to pay for housing and support yourself and your family for 6 months in the UK without claiming benefits.

What income is taken into account?

  • Your income and savings, as well as the income of your family members.
  • The money you will earn from your job in the UK.
  • The money you will earn if you transfer to work in the UK.
  • Monetary assistance from relatives or friends.

You generally do not need to prove that you have enough money to support yourself if you have lived in the UK for 12 months or more. You will still need to show your financial situation if you are in the UK on a Youth Mobility Scheme Visa or if you were granted leave outside the rules due to previous refusal.

In addition to money for housing, you need at least the same amount as a person would receive in the UK under Income Support.

The amount depends on how many family members are applying with you. For example, you will need approximately:

  • £2,000 for one adult.
  • £3,100 for a couple with a child.
  • £4,600 for a couple with three children.
  • £9,200 for a couple with two parents and two adult children.

Step-By-Step Guide on How to Apply for the BNO Visa

When making your application, be aware that the process differs depending on whether you are within or outside the UK.

Applying for a BNO Visa Outside Great Britain or Northern Ireland

  1. Fill in an online form on the UK Home Office website.
  2. Pay the required fees.
  3. Submit the relevant supporting documents.
  4. Confirm your identity. You may receive an appointment to visit your nearest Visa Center and deliver your biometric data (fingerprints and photo) or use the app called UK Immigration: ID Check.

You will normally receive a decision on your application within 12 weeks from the date you submitted your application. If available, we may opt for the Priority service should you wish to shorten the processing time.

Applying for a BNO Visa Within the UK

  1. Fill in an online form to switch to a BNO Visa.
  2. Pay the required fee.
  3. Submit the relevant supporting documents.
  4. Confirm your identity. You may receive an appointment to visit a Visa Center to provide biometrics (fingerprints and photo) or use the app called UK Immigration: ID Check.

You will receive a decision on your application within 12 weeks from the date you submitted your application, or faster if you have opted for any available Priority service, you can remain in the UK all this time.

After your application is approved, you can check your BNO Visa status using the Home Office’s online verification service.

Comparison With Other Visa Categories and Residency Routes

BNO Visa

  • Purpose: Hong Kong citizens with BNO status moving to the UK;
  • Right to work and study: Provides the right to work and study;
  • Right to permanent residence: Leads to settlement and citizenship.

Partner or Parent Visa

  • Purpose: Family reunion with a qualifying child, spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner;
  • Right to work and study: Provides the right to work and study;
  • Right to permanent residence: Leads to settlement and citizenship .

Temporary Work Visa

  • Purpose: Temporary stay to work;
  • Right to work and study: Provides the right to work;
  • Right to permanent residence: Does not lead to permanent residence.

This data provides a general understanding of the differences between the BNO Visa and other visa categories, including purposes, eligibility, and paths to permanent residence.

Settlement and Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)

After 5 years in the UK with the Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa, you become eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. The ILR application requires applicants to demonstrate continuous residence in the UK over 5 years. It means you must have spent time outside the UK by BNO Visa for no more than 180 days during any 12 months.

From our experience with BNO Visa residents, many of you have spent time previously in the UK under other Visa category. The good news is, you may combine previous time spent in different Visa routes towards the 5 years’ calculation if they include these:

  • ‍Skilled Worker visa
  • Tier 2 visa (General, Minister of Religion, Sportsperson) ;
  • Global Talent visa;
  • Innovator visa;
  • Representative of an Overseas Business visa;
  • Tier 1 visa (Entrepreneur, Investor, Exceptional Talent, General) ;
  • Global Talent visa (or a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa) ;
  • UK Ancestry visa ;
  • Family visas (Appendix FM Partner, Parent of a child in the UK, Bereaved partner, Victim of domestic abuse, Adult dependent relative).

You must apply for ILR before your BN(O) Visa expires, with the earliest within 28 days of completing the qualifying 5 years’ period. Once you have an ILR, you are no longer subject to immigration controls and can remain in the UK permanently. If you are away from the UK for over 2 years, your ILR status may be revoked.

With ILR status, you can apply for British citizenship under Section 4 of the British Nationality Act 1981.

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BNO Visa Validity Period

The visa can be issued for either 2 years and 6 months or 5 years. Those applying for the first option must extend their visa for 2 years and 6 months to be eligible to apply for permanent residence in the UK.

Terms of Renewal of BNO Visa Status

You can apply for a BNO Visa extension, provided that you comply with visa requirements. You must apply for BNO Visa renewal before its expiration. Renewal applications typically take 12 weeks to process, or shorter if we choose Priority service where available.

You can extend your BN(O) Visa unlimited times.

How Much Does a BNO Visa Cost?

To apply for a BNO Visa, replace it, or extend it, you must pay:

  • Application fee: £180 for a 2.5-year visa and £250 for a 5-year visa.
  • Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS fee): £2,587.50 for a 2.5-year visa and £5,175 for a 5-year visa. For each child (under 18), you must pay an additional £1,940 for a visa for 2 years and 6 months and £3,880 for 5 years.

How Can QC Immigration Help You?

The Immigration Rules include strict requirements regarding the documents that must be provided to obtain a BN(O) Visa. It is an important stage of the immigration process that requires careful preparation and compliance with the latest policy and regulations.

QC Immigration is a team of highly qualified specialists ready to provide professional support in applying for a BNO Visa. This UK Visa may be issued via the BRP – biometric residence permit or digital status in future.

Contact us in any convenient way, and we will ensure that your application is strong to avoid any delay to your plans.

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FAQ

What is the meaning of BNO status?
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It is a special status given to Hong Kong residents who were British citizens before the handover of sovereignty to China in 1997.

Can I extend my BNO Visa after 5 years?
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Yes, you can extend your visa after five years. It is allowed to be done an unlimited number of times.

How long can I stay in the UK with BNO?
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The BNO Visa can be issued for 2.5 years or 5 years, with full right to live and work or study in the UK.

Is BNO a UK citizen?
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No, the holder of BNO status is not a fully-fledged British citizen, but you may apply for ILR (permanent residence) after five years and British citizenship after another year.

How long does the BNO Visa application take?
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It depends on how quickly you collect the necessary package of documents. The processing time for your application is 12 weeks from the submission date or sooner if we opt for the applicable Priority service.

How much is the BNO Visa fee?
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The application fee is £180 for a 2.5-year visa and £250 for a 5-year visa.

Can Hong Kong people apply for BNO now?
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All eligible Hong Kong nationals can apply for a BNO Visa and gain Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK after 5 years.

What is the BNO 5+1 Visa?
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BNO 5+1 is another name for the BNO Visa. Its holders can receive PR (permanent residence) in 5 years and British citizenship in +1 year.BN

Is BNO a Tier 1?
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No, the BNO Visa is a special concession to qualifying Hong Kong residents. The Tier 1 visas have now been replaced with similar Business Visas such as the Innovator Founder Visa, Global Talent Visa and more

Can you work in the UK with a BNO Visa?
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Yes, you can work in the UK as an employee or self-employed.

Can I check my UK visa status online?
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Yes, you can check your visa status and prove your right to work or rent using the Home Office’s online verification service.

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