BNO visa
If you hold a British National (Overseas), or "BNO" passport in Hong Kong, this visa scheme was created for you. Source: Anthony Wallace/AFP

The Hong Kong BNO visa (British National Overseas visa) allows Hong Kong citizen to study or work in the UK. In January, the UK government announced that it would introduce a new visa for Hong Kong BNO status holders. This week, it launched an app that allows biometric passport holders to apply for this route on their smartphones.

The UK introduced this BNO visa route to welcome Hong Kong citizens after the Chinese government imposed its national security law in Hong Kong last year. Nevertheless, not all Hong Kong citizens are eligible. Here’s what you need to know.

Who is eligible for a BNO visa?

Any Hong Kong citizen who held no nationality on June 30, 1997 became a British overseas citizen on July 1, 1997. This marks the period in history when the UK “returned” Hong Kong to China. If you are a Hong Kong citizen over the age of 24, you likely hold a BNO visa.

Hong Kong BNO visa holders can apply to stay in the UK for two years and 6 months or fove years, with unlimited opportunities to extend the visa. You will hold a British passport and get consular assistance and protection from the UK. At the same time, you are not recognised as a UK national by the European Union, and will not have the automatic right to live or work in the UK.

After staying in the UK for five years under BNO visa, you can apply to settle in the UK under “indefinite leave to remain.” One year later, you will qualify to apply for British citizenship. This is therefore a valid immigration pathway for eligible international students from Hong Kong and their families.

How do I use the app?

Any Hong Kong biometric passport holders within or outside the UK can submit their biometrics and validate their identity using the app. From February 23 onwards, Hong Kong citizens can apply for the BNO visa route via the UK Immigration: ID Check smartphone app for iPhone and Android. If you face an issue reading your passport on the app, it’s likely that your Hong Kong passport was issued before summer 2019.

As the UK government stated: “BNO visa is already a success, with thousands of BNO status holders and their family members already applying to live, work and study in the UK under this visa.”¬†Future Borders and Immigration Minister Kevin Foster says the introduction of the app marks a major step forward in digitising UK’s immigration system. “I am pleased we have not only managed to launch this new route, enabling those with BNO status and their households to settle in the UK, but have now enhanced it with this new wholly digital application process,” he commented in the official statement.