Hong Kong British national overseas (BNO) passport holders have begun to access the new British National Overseas (BNO) visa scheme launched by the UK government on Sunday. The move was followed by swift reaction from the PRC government who announced they will no longer recognize the document as a valid identity.
The new plan launched by Britain’s Home Office introduces the right to move to Britain with a path for citizenship in the following five years. The scheme was announced after the Chinese government introduced the new national security law in July.
“Those who apply and secure the visa will be able to apply for settlement after five years and then British citizenship after a further 12 months.” BBC News
About 5 million Hongkongers and their dependents qualify for the scheme and online applications opened on Sunday. Reasons for the move include a desire to have children educated in Britain or realizing a long-held wish to migrate that was previously legally or financially impossible. Previously, the only channel for migrating was meeting other visas requirements like entrepreneur and the threshold is very low for the new mechanism.
Historically, Hongkongers are detail-minded and have experience with not knowing what will happen in coming years so they are looking at all their options.
Some remain concerned that a BNO visa could result in being disadvantaged in future after China indicated plans to take “further action” following officially withdrawing its recognition of the BNO passports as a valid travel and ID document.
There is some hesitancy because online application requires attending the visa office with their passport to complete the process and receive their visa with some waiting for the mobile app expected to launch later this month that does not require an in-person presentation or a physical visa in their passport.