Government to expand BNO visa scheme for Hong Kongers born post-1997

The UK Government has said it will commit to expanding the British Nationals Overseas (BNO) Visa Scheme from October 2022, people from Hong Kong with at least one parent who is a British national (overseas) to apply for a BNO visa.

Since 31 January 2021 BNO citizens and their immediate family have been able to apply for two periods of five years to reside and be employed in the UK.

Last November a group of cross-party MPs, including former cabinet minister Damien Green and chairman of the foreign affairs committee Tom Tugendhat, forwarded an amendment to the Nationality and Borders Bill in support of these proposals.

The motion was later re-introduced by Lord Alton, Lord Patten, Lord Falconer and the Bishop of St Albans in the House of Lords. 

British National Overseas (BNO) citizenship is a form of British nationality introduced in 1985 that Hong Kong residents could apply for prior to the 1997 handover.

It is a lifelong status which cannot be passed down to family members.

Previously no special rights were available for those with BNO citizenship, asides from the ability to visit the UK for six months without a visa.

In a written ministerial statement, the Immigration Minister, Kevin Foster MP,  outlines measures to address the current gap in the BNO Visa Scheme, said:

“It is right and important to address this so the Government has made the decision to enable individuals aged 18 or over who were born on or after 1 July 1997 and who have at least one BN(O) parent to apply to the route independently of their BN(O) parent.”

Benedict Rogers, chief executive officer at Hong Kong Watch said: “We are delighted that the Government has taken the bold and moral step to expand the BNO Visa for those brave young Hong Kongers who are not currently covered by the scheme.

“Hong Kong Watch has made this  call for nearly two years and are pleased that Ministers have now taken this important step to plug the gap in the policy.

“We greatly appreciated the parliamentary and civil society alliance that has stood with the people of Hong Kong to ensure the Government lived up to its historic, legal, and moral obligations to help those most in need of a lifeline out of the city.”