The Home Office has extended the British National (Overseas) (BNO) visa route to include young Hong Kongers with one parent holding a BNO passport. Following the handover of Hong Kong to China, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel announced that Hong Kongers born after 1997 who are over 18 and with at least one parent holding BNO status will be able to get a UK visa to live, work and study in Britain.
Patel said: “I'm delighted that thanks to the scheme we introduced, thousands of Hong Kongers have already made the UK their home and integrated into communities across the country. The further changes I have announced, which will come into effect this autumn, will continue to deliver on our historic and moral commitment to the people of Hong Kong.”
Launched in 2021, the BNO visa route was introduced following a controversial new security law imposed by China on Hong Kong, which has since been described by Britain as a ‘means to crush dissent against Beijing’.
According to the UK government, the law imposed by China – which targets the restriction of pro-democracy movements – has led to violent clashes between protestors and the police and is a breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration – a deal that saw Hong Kong passed back to China from Britain in 1997.
As of January 2021, just under three million people were eligible for the new BNO visa route. So far, 123,400 have applied, with 113,742 UK visas granted.
The Home Office has said that the latest extension, which will allow dependents of BNO visa holders to join them in the UK, would let an additional 11,700 into the country if they choose. As with other UK visa routes, after five years, Hong Kongers can apply for settled status. After a further 12 months, they would be eligible to apply for UK citizenship.
Patel said: “I know the British people will continue to welcome more Hong Kongers and help them rebuild their lives free from fear.”
The BNO passport was first introduced and issued to Hong Kongers when Hong Kong was a British colony. The passport allows holders to visit the UK for an extended length of time, but does not offer UK citizenship rights.
Following the launch of the BNO visa scheme, Beijing said it would ‘no longer recognise the BNO passport’. However, while significant, it was largely considered a ‘symbolic move’ and would not actually stop Hong Kongers from leaving.
Tory MPs including Damian Green, Iain Duncan Smith and Tom Tugendhat have backed calls to change the current visa scheme, and under the new rules, young adults applying for visas will not need to submit their parent’s passport or ID document as part of the application process where they are unable to, but will have the option to do so.
The change is seen as beneficial as campaigners have warned that more than nine in 10 people who have faced protest charges in Hong Kong have been too young to access the visa scheme that enables residents to travel to Britain.
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