Ahead of the launch of the UK’s BNO visa - exclusively for Hong Kong nationals - on January 31, new research shows that Britain has emerged as the relocation destination of choice for citizens of the Special Administrative Region. In December 2020, Workpermit.com reported that the UK government had underestimated the take-up of the BNO visa.
The BNO visa was launched by the UK government in response to controversial security laws imposed on Hong Kong by China. The new research shows that the number of Hong Kong nationals considering a move to the UK has risen by almost 50 percent.
Meanwhile, there has also been increased interest in moves to Australia, Canada and the US, countries which have relaxed visa rules for Hong Kong citizens since China introduced stringent security laws.
Britain’s popularity as a relocation destination for Hong Kong nationals has been attributed to the UK government’s offer of bureaucracy-free entry for up to three million British Overseas National (BNO) passport holders and their families.
According to the research, interest in Britain among Hong Kong citizens is down to the fact that it has fewer entry requirements compared to Australia, Canada and the US.
Hong Kong nationals with a valid BNO passport are simply able to move to the UK with minimal restrictions.
Interest in relocating to Britain from Hong Kong reportedly peaked in May 2020, shortly after China introduced its much criticised security laws. According to official data released by the UK Passport Office, 216,398 Hong Kong citizens successfully applied for a BNO passport in the first 10 months of 2020.
This represents by far the highest number since Hong Kong was handed back to China by Britain on 1 July, 1997.
A report published by the South China Morning Post (SCMP), shortly after China hit Hong Kong with new security laws, said: “Beijing’s imposition of a sweeping national security law, widely seen as a suppression of Hong Kong’s freedoms, has prompted many citizens to think about relocating.”
Security laws breached Sino-British joint declaration
In July 2020, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said that China’s security laws, which restrict the right to protest against the Chinese government, had violated the Sino-British Joint Declaration – a document that outlines the terms of the handover of Hong Kong back in 1997. Patel said that China’s actions ‘could not be ignored.’
The SCMP report stated: “This prompted a lot of Hong Kong families holding BN(O) passports to start thinking about the UK to secure what they see as a good education and life for the next generation.”
However, research conducted by HongKongers in Britain (HKB) in December 2020 showed that the UK government could have underestimated the number of Hong Kong citizens likely to act on its BNO visa offer.
The UK Home Office estimated that around 500,000 Hong Kong citizens would arrive in Britain within the first three years of the BNO visa scheme being launched. HKB’s research shows that the figure will likely be closer to 600,000.
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