On Wednesday, the UK government announced additional information on the new Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa conditions that will help almost three million Hong Kong residents to sow the seeds of UK citizenship.
“The UK has a strong historic relationship with the people of Hong Kong and we are keeping our promise to them to uphold their freedoms,” Home Secretary Priti Patel said.
Under the new visa conditions, from January, Hong Kong British National (Overseas) (or BN(O)s), will be allowed to apply for two periods of either a thirty month leave or five year leave to remain in the UK.
Once they have lived in the UK for five years, Hong Kong, a former British colony, BN(O)s will be allowed to apply to settle in the UK with indefinite leave to remain. After another twelve months with the status, they will be able to apply for British citizenship.
Besides providing a route for BN(O)s to come to the UK, this will also provide a pathway for BN(O)s immediate families and holder’s children under the age of eighteen, if they were born after 1 July 1997.
New rules vastly expand the options for BNO holders
The applicants will need to show a commitment to learning English, thus giving them the right to work and study in the UK.
The visa will not have a set minimum salary requirement attached to it, and applicants will have access to the job market at any skill level. However, they will not qualify for benefits.
Entrants will not need to show a valid BN(O) passport. To be eligible, they will have to show a BN(O) status and that they can accommodate and support themselves financially in the UK for at least six months.
Priti Patel said that BN(O) citizens, who currently have the right only to visit the UK visa-free for six months, “will now have a choice to come and live, work and study in the UK, building a new life for them and their family.”
Chinese government gives warning to the UK
Wednesday’s announcement came after the Chinese government decided to impose a new National Security Law in Hong Kong that, according to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, is “a clear and serious violation of the UK-China Joint Declaration”, outlining the terms of the 1997 territorial handover.
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in May that all BN(O) passport holders are “Chinese nationals and if the UK insists on changing this practice it will violate not only its own stance but also international law”, according to the BBC.
Today, China’s foreign ministry stated: “China will consider not recognising BNO passports as a valid travel document, and reserves the right to take further measures.”
However, Dominic Raab said that announcement shows the UK is keeping its word. “We will not look the other way on Hong Kong, and we will not duck our historic responsibilities to its people.”
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