UK will start offering the British Nationals Overseas BN (O) visas to Hong Kong Residents from Sunday, January 31. The BN(O) visa allows Hong Kong Residents to enter or stay in the UK for a period of 30 months (which can be extended by a further 30 months) or a period of 5 years. After this, the visa holders can apply for citizenship of the UK.
“I am immensely proud that we have brought in this new route for Hong Kong BN(O)s to live, work and make their home in our country,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.
The UK government last year had decided to extend the visa to Hong Kong residents in response to China’s new security legislation. The UK has accused China of violating the 1997 treaty which transferred the control over Hong Kong from the UK to China.
“In doing so we have honoured our profound ties of history and friendship with the people of Hong Kong, and we have stood up for freedom and autonomy – values both the UK and Hong Kong hold dear,” said the UK Prime Minister.
With this visa, the applicants can study, work, and avail the National Health Services (NHS). However, the BN(O) holders cannot claim social welfare benefits. Dependent children of the successful applicants can attend school if they are under 18 and attend education and training if they are aged 16 to 19.
The applicants submitting their applications between January 31 and February 22 would have to make an online appointment to submit fingerprints at its North Point visa centre. February 23 onwards, a new smartphone app will be available to submit visa applications and conduct all processing online. February 23, a new smartphone app will be available to allow the entire process to be done online. With this app, the applicants will no longer need to visit the North Point centre to submit their fingerprints. The app is available for both iOS and Android.
The new BN(O) visa will allow successful family applicants to stagger their arrivals. The new scheme allows one parent to remain in Hong Kong to continue earning an income while the other goes to the UK with their dependents.
China has reacted sharply to the UK’s initiative and called it an interference in internal affairs of China. The foreign ministry spokesperson of China Lijian Zhao siad, “No forces under whatever circumstances can erode the determination of the Chinese government and the Chinese people to uphold national sovereignty and security, safeguard Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, and oppose external intervention.”
He added, “this will only end up hurting its own interests.” He was speaking at the daily press briefing on January 28.