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FAQs about Hong Kong BN(O) Visa & UK Education

【Updated on September/2021】FAQs about Hong Kong BN(O) Visa & UK Education

As more detail of the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa emerges, many adult learners and parents are re-considering relocating to the UK and reviewing the UK education plan for themselves and their children. Here we have gathered a list of frequently asked questions to help you make an informed plan.

Type Boarding School, Further Education & Sixth Form College, University

FAQ #1 – What are the changes to the rights of British Nationals (Overseas)?

The British government is introducing a new Hong Kong BN(O) Visa, providing an immigration route to BNO through which they will be allowed to reside, work and study in the UK, with a pathway to settlement and then full British Citizenship.

The Hong Kong BN(O) Visa route is open for applications from 31st January 2021.

  • The new Hong Kong BN(O) Visa will allow Hongkongers with BNO status to live, work and study in the UK for up to five years.
  • Applicants will be required to pay a visa fee, and the Immigration Health Surcharge to use the National Health Service (NHS) – in the same way as other current visa applicants do.
  • Applicants can apply for 5 years’ leave from the outset, or in two applications of 30 months’ leaves.
  • Applicants can apply for the visa from Hong Kong or from within the UK.
  • There will be no quota on numbers, nor will there be any skills tests or income requirements.

FAQ #2 – How do BNO acquire British Citizenship through the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa?

Holders of the new Hong Kong BN(O) Visa will be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after 5 years of residence in the UK. After a further year of settlement, they are will be eligible to apply for British Citizenship.

When applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain and British Citizenship, applicants must meet the rules for continuous residence – and this is where the idea of allowable absences comes in! These are the requirements about continuous residence under existing rules:

  • When applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain: Allowable absences of up to 180 days in any 12-month period.
  • When applying for British Citizenship: Allowable absences of up to 450 days within 5 years (90 days per year on average) before the application, and absences of up to 90 days the year before the application.
Stage Status Allowable Absences (Days per Year)
The 1st – 5th year Hong Kong BN(O) Visa 90 to 180 Days
The 6th year Indefinite Leave to Remain 90 Days
The 7th year British Citizenship N/A

FAQ #3 – How much will the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa cost? Is there any additional fees?

On 22nd October 2020, the British Government announced the visa application fees for the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa:

  • Hong Kong BN(O) Visa: £250 (for a 5-Year Visa), £180 (for each 30-Month Visa)
  • British Citizenship: £1,206
  • Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS): £624 / Year (Adult Applicant), £470 / Year (Child Applicant under 18) (Effective from October 2020)

The Hong Kong BN(O) Visa will last for up to 5 years. Applicants will have the option to apply for 5 years’ leave from the outset, or in two applications of 30 months’ leaves:

Length of Visa No. of Application Visa Fees Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)
5 Years 1 £250 £3,120 (Adult Applicant), £2,350 (Child Applicant under 18)
30 months 2 £180 £1,560 (Adult Applicant), £1,175 (Child Applicant under 18)

FAQ #4 – What are the eligibility requirements to apply for the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa?

  • The British National (Overseas) Status: It’s required that applicants hold BNO status, but they are not required to renew their BN(O) passports.
  • Applicants must hold a valid passport that enables them to travel to the UK (ie. applicants can travel to the UK with a HKSAR Passport or a BN(O) Passport)
  • Applicants must be ordinarily residents in Hong Kong.
  • Applicants must demonstrate the ability to financially support themselves in the UK for a minimum of 6 months.
  • Applicants must demonstrate the commitment to learn English – when applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain, your English proficiency must be at level B1 or above (that’s IELTS 4.0 or above).
  • Applicants are required to take a tuberculosis test (TB test), in line with current visa regulations.
  • Applicants shall have no serious criminal convictions.

FAQ #5 – Should I renew my BN(O) Passport?

For the sole purpose of applying for the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa, you are not required to renew your BN(O) Passports. Applicants with BNO status can apply for the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa without a valid BN(O) Passport, and enter the UK with other passports (such as a HKSAR Passport).

FAQ #6 – How will my spouse/partner and dependents be benefited under the scheme?

BNO with their immediate family dependents (including their spouse/partner and children aged under 18) are welcome to relocate to the UK via the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa scheme. As long as one of the parents hold BNO status, children under 18 will be eligible to apply for a dependent visa, which will also allow them to live, work or study in the UK.

FAQ #7 – What if the children are over 18? Will they still be able to benefit from the scheme?

Child (18 or older) can apply as your dependant if they meet the following criteria:

  • They are 18 or older at the date of application.
  • They were born on or after 1st July 1997.
  • They normally live with you, unless they’re living away from home to study.

FAQ #8 – Are children (dependents) of BNO eligible for free education at state schools in the UK?

Yes! Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, announced on 3/8 (Monday) that school-age children are eligible for free education at state schools.

According to Welcome: a guide for Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa holders in the UK, if you’re applying to a state school, you should normally be resident within the UK before you apply for a school place. You can apply for a school place just before you move, but the place would not normally be allocated before you live in the country.

FAQ #9 – Are children (dependents) of BNO eligible to pay university tuition fees as local students?

UK universities currently charge two sets of tuition fees to local and international students.

Under existing policies, British Citizens who live outside the UK will have to pay the international fees. If they’re to be eligible for local fees, the general rule is that students will need to demonstrate that they have resided in the UK for at least 3 years.

According to Welcome: a guide for Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa holders in the UK, students could be eligible for local fees after receiving Indefinite Leave to Remain. As universities control their own admissions policies and requirements independently from the Government, you’re advised to keep an eye on the latest policy updates from universities.

Below is a comparison of the current local and international fees:

Local Tuition Fees (Annual) International Tuition Fees (Please Find out from the University Profiles)
England Up to £9,250 BathLiverpool Hope
Wales Up to £9,000 * CardiffTrinity St David
Scotland Free * GlasgowStrathclyde
Northern Ireland Up to £4,395 * Queen’s BelfastUlster
* Local tuition fees differ in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Only students residing in the same country can enjoy local tuition fees (e.g. A family has to live in Scotland if their children were to be considered for local fees at a Scottish university)

FAQ #10 – What immigration control am I subject to after I enter the UK with the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa?

Holders of Hong Kong BN(O) Visa are free to go in and out of the UK, but are subject to existing immigration controls.

When applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain and British Citizenship, applicants must meet the rules for continuous residence – and this is where the idea of allowable absences comes in! These are the requirements about continuous residence under existing rules:

  • When applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain: Allowable absences of up to 180 days in any 12-month period.
  • When applying for British Citizenship: Allowable absences of up to 450 days within 5 years (90 days per year on average) before the application, and absences of up to 90 days the year before the application.
Stage Status Allowable Absences (Days per Year)
The 1st – 5th year Hong Kong BN(O) Visa 90 to 180 Days
The 6th year Indefinite Leave to Remain 90 Days
The 7th year British Citizenship N/A

FAQ #11 – What is LOTR (Leave Outside the Rules)?

While the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa will only open for applications from January 2021, the British Government understands that some applicants may wish to leave Hong Kong before that. The British Government therefore has announced that they may consider granting these applicants a six-month visa at the border under the Leave Outside the Rule (LOTR) policy, which will come with the right to live, work and study in the UK. These applicants can then apply for the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa from within the UK when it’s open.

It should be pointed out that applicants will only be considered to enter the UK through LOTR, if they are not eligible for entry via other immigration routes. We therefore do not recommend students substituting their student visas with the LOTR.

BNO parents who would like to enter the UK through LOTR and apply for a dependent visa for their children must also travel to the UK as a family unit.

The Leave Outside the Rules (LOTR) policy has ceased to apply after 19th July 2021.

FAQ #12 – Should I use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to apply for my Hong Kong BN(O) Visa, or attend an Appointment at a Visa Application Centre?

You must apply for your Hong Kong BN(O) Visa online and use one of the following methods to prove your identity:

Method to Prove your Identity The ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ App Attending an Appointment at a Visa Application Centre
Eligibility Holder of a valid biometric BN(O), HKSAR or EEA passport * If you’re not eligible to use the App, or the App cannot read your passport
Biometric Information to Provide Photo Photo, Fingerprint
When do you need to travel to the UK? You can travel as long as your visa is valid You must travel to the UK within the 90-day period^ stated on your Visa Vignette, and collect your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) within 10 days upon arrival
How do you prove your Immigration Status in the UK? Using the ‘View & Prove Service’ on the GOV.UK website Using the Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)
* Passports issued before Summer 2019 may not be read by the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app.
^ Validity of the Visa Vignette was extended to 90 days during the pandemic. Previously it was 30 days long.

FAQ #13 – Do my family member(s) and I have to apply the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa together?

If you wish to relocate to the UK with your children and other dependents, you must apply together.

Every visa applicant will submit their own visa application. The main applicant will submit an online application first to get a application number (GWF/UAN). Your family members will then need to use your application number when they apply, and submit it within 2 days of your application.

Except for a few rare circumstances listed below, if your family member didn’t apply with you, they would not be granted a visa later. We strongly advise you consult an immigration expert or a lawyer, if you’re facing these exceptional circumstances!

  • You start a new relationship when you have a BN(O) visa.
  • Your child was born after you got your BN(O) visa.
  • Your partner cannot travel when you apply, for example because of medical needs.
  • If one parent moves to the UK first to arrange affairs, before the other parent and children join them.

FAQ #14 – Do my family member(s) and I have to travel to the UK together?

According to the latest guidelines (April/2021 version), family members may travel to the UK seperately. However, time spent in the UK will only count towards the Continuous Residence requirement for settlement, after the main applicant has entered the UK.

FAQ #15 – How long does it take to get a Hong Kong BN(O) Visa?

The authority aims to reach a decision on your application within 12 weeks. According to our experience in the peak season of Summer 2021, the process could take up to 4-5 months for some families.

If you use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ to prove your identity, the processing time starts when you submit your online application. If you need to attend an appointment at a visa application centre, your application’s processing time starts once you have attended an appointment and you have submitted your fingerprint biometrics.

Your application may take longer to process if:

  • The authority needs to request more information or supporting evidence from you.
  • You do not have a valid tuberculosis (TB) certificate.
  • You have a criminal conviction for an offence that is recognised in the UK.
  • You are applying as a family group and one or more members of the family are required to attend a visa application centre.

FAQ #16 – If I myself or my children are planning to study in the UK, when should I start applying my Hong Kong BN(O) Visa?

An academic year starts in September in the UK education system. Schools and colleges normally start teaching from the first week of September, while universities start in September or October.

If you need to apply for a Student Visa, you will need to be sponsored by a school or an university to obtain a visa doucment (CAS) to apply. As the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa doesn’t need to be sponsored by a school or an university, you can deal with your school application and visa application concurrently.

If you’re planning to study in the UK (attending an independent primary and secondary school or a university), we normally advise you to start the process a year in advance (ie. if you plan to start in September 2022, do get in touch with us in September 2021). If circumstances allow, do budget 3-4 months for your school application, so that you won’t have to rush your decisions. For urgent cases, a school application can complete in 2-4 weeks, if you, your school and us work together and get everything right.

If you’d like to know more about the application procedures for different types of institutions, do have a look at the following sections on our website:

FAQ #17 – Can I switch to a Hong Kong BN(O) Visa, if I already have a Student Visa?

Yes! You can apply to switch to the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa, if you already have a Student Visa.

You should be reminded that time spent in the UK under the Student Visa and Youth Mobility Scheme do not count towards the Continuous Residence requirement for settlement.

FAQ #18 – If school is starting soon and my Hong Kong BN(O) Visa is still in progress, should I apply for a Student Visa instead?

No! You’re advised against making more than one visa application at the same time. If you’ve already submitted your application for the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa, it’d be best to wait. You should update your school and university regularly, so that they can advise you accordingly.

FAQ #19 – Can I extend my Hong Kong BN(O) Visa?

According to the latest guidelines, you will be able to extend your visa if you want to stay longer. You can apply to extend your visa as many times as you want.

However, you will have to apply for an extension every time and the authority has the rights to refuse your application every time.

FAQ #20 – How do I prove my Immigration Status while I’m in the UK, to prove that I can legally live, study and work in the UK?

You can prove your Immigration Status either through the ‘View & Prove Service’ on the GOV.UK website, or with your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).

If you applied your Hong Kong BN(O) Visa via the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app, you will be able to find your unique ‘Share Code’ via the ‘View & Prove Service’ on the GOV.UK website. Your school will then be able to verify your status with your ‘Share Code’.

FAQ #21 – When do I need to travel to the UK, after my Hong Kong BN(O) Visa is approved?

That depends on how your applied your Hong Kong BN(O) Visa. Please refer to FAQ #12 for more details.

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Updated: 2021-9-10