Feb 03 2021

British Nationals (Overseas) Route Opened

United Kingdom

At a Glance

  • The UK government opened the British Nationals (Overseas) Route (BN(O)) on January 31, 2021. 
  • The route allows BN(O) status holders to live, work and study in the United Kingdom, with the opportunity to obtain permanent residence after five years of residence.
  • Applicants are encouraged to wait until February 23, 2021 to apply, when an app will launch to allow applications to be submitted and granted digitally.

The situation

As expected, the UK government opened the British Nationals (Overseas) Route (BN(O)) on January 31, 2021. 

A closer look

  • Eligibility. The route allows BN(O) status holders to live, work and study in the United Kingdom, with the opportunity to obtain permanent residence after five years of living in the United Kingdom.
  • Family members. The BN(O) status holder may sponsor their partner (spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner with two years’ cohabitation) as well as their or their partner’s child or grandchild under age 18.  Unusually, they may also sponsor their children over 18 who are born after July 1, 1997 if they normally live together. Importantly, all family members must apply together, even if they do not all travel to the United Kingdom together.  It is not possible to add other members of the household once the main BN(O) status holder has been granted their visa.
  • Costs. Applicants may choose to apply for a visa for 2.5 years, or for five years.  The combined visa fee and immigration health surcharge cost is GBP 1,740 (2.5 years) or GBP 3,370 (5 years) per adult, and GBP 1,355 (2.5 years) or GBP 2,600 (five years) per child (under the age of 18). Applicants must demonstrate that there will be adequate maintenance and accommodation for them in the United Kingdom, by way of cash savings or credible offers of third-party support. Job offers in the United Kingdom cannot be taken into account.
  • Applicants between 1987-1997. Those who applied for BN(O) status between 1987 and 1997 were issued with a BN(O) passport, which would usually be valid for 10 years.  It is not necessary to apply for a new BN(O) passport in order to make use of the new visa category. Those holding a BN(O) or a Hong Kong (SAR) passport may apply using the UK Immigration ID check app.

 

Impact

Although the route is now formally open, applicants are encouraged to wait until February 23, 2021 to make their application, when it will become possible to apply using the ‘UK Immigration: ID check’ app to prove the applicant’s identity and upload documents, instead of going to an application centre.  In addition, the visa status will then be granted digitally.

Background

  • History of BN(O) status. BN(O) status is a form of British nationality that was created in the runup to the handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China in 1997.  Holders of the status can hold a British passport, but this does not entitle them to full UK citizenship rights.
  • Other entry pathways for Kong Kong (SAR) nationals. Outside of the BN(O) category, Hong Kong (SAR) nationals can apply to the Youth Mobility Scheme, which allows applicants aged between 18 and 30 to come to the United Kingdom for two years on a working holiday, and allows them to switch into the Skilled Worker category if they find qualifying work.

 

Looking ahead

Although there is reported interest in the new visa category within Hong Kong, it is uncertain how many people will make use of it due to the coronavirus pandemic severely restricting international travel and creating significant economic uncertainty. 

Nevertheless, there are 2.9 million BN(O)s in Hong Kong as well as a further 2.3 million eligible dependants under the UK scheme, and the UK government’s central projection is that between 258,000 and 322,400 applicants might use the route to settle in the United Kingdom over a five-year period, with an estimated net benefit to the UK economy of GBP 2.4 billion over five years.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact your Fragomen immigration professional or send an email to [email protected].