BN(O) Visa Policy Statement

Authors: Kevin HolderArthur Lo
In: Article Published: Monday 27 July 2020


On 1st July 1997, after 156 years of British colonnial rule, Hong Kong was transferred to The People's Republic of China in accordance with the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration

Prior to 1983, all citizens of the British Empire including Hong Kong were Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies ('CUKCs'), with an unrestricted right to enter and live in the UK. In 1984, the UK Parliament passed the British Nationality Act 1981 under which citizens in Hong Kong became British Dependent Territories Citizens ('BDTCs'). BDTC status did not confer a right to live and work in the United Kingdom, but merely a right of abode in Hong Kong.

In 1985, in anticipation of the handover of Hong Kong in 1997, and as set out in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the UK Government created a new nationality for Hongkongers that did not confer a right of abode in the UK, British National (Overseas) ('BN(O) status'). 

BN(O) status merely conferred a right to visit the United Kingdom for up to 6 months, but not the right to work or live in the UK. 

In July 2020, in response to political developments in The People's Republic of China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the UK Home Secretary issued the Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa Policy Statement ('the BN(O) Visa Policy Statement').

In the BN(O) Visa Policy Statement, the Home Secretary stated:

  • From January 2021, BN(O) citizens will be able to apply for a BN(O) Visa that will enable them to work and live in the UK for up to five years, after which they will be able to apply for settled status and eventually UK citizenship. 
  • From July 2020, Border Force Officers will be able to consider granting Leave Outside the Rules for a period of six months to BN(O) citizens and their accompanying dependents if they are not eligible for entry via another immigration route. 

The UK government estimates that there are nearly three million BN(O) citizens eligible to work and live in the UK under a BN(O) Visa. It is anticipated that large numbers of Hong Kong residents will wish to make use of this "bespoke immigration route" to relocate to the UK.

The 33 Bedford Row China Desk can assist BN(O) citizens and their dependents in seeking advice and representation from barristers at 33 Bedford Row in relation to:

  • Immigration matters
  • Property matters
  • Business matters
  • Private Client matters, including wills and trusts

Whilst we recognise that many BN(O) citizens wish to communicate in English, we also have fluent Cantonese and Mandarin speakers, and the ability to retain the services of specialist interpreters where appropriate. 

To go to 33 Bedford Row's China Desk - Hong Kong British National (Overseas) page, please click here