Citizenship Route Could Affect Millions In Hong Kong
The British Government has said it will offer UK citizenship to eligible Hong Kong residents after China passed its controversial security law in the region.
The move, which was announced earlier this week, was in response to a culmination of the ongoing democratic crisis in Hong Kong which saw China pass sweeping laws introducing new crimes with severe penalties.
Those who are eligible fall into the British National Overseas (BNO) passport special status granted to Hong Kong by the UK in the 1980s up until the handover in 1997; currently this only allows visa-free access to the UK for six months, but this is set to be extended to five years.
Under the new bespoke immigration route announced by the British Government, almost three million people would be eligible to come to the UK for five years, apply for settled status and, after a further 12 months with that status, apply for British citizenship.
Those looking to move to the UK would be able to do so immediately, but Immigration experts at national law firm Irwin Mitchell point out it could be an expensive process for Hong Kong citizens looking to apply for British citizenship.
Expert Opinion“For those with eligible BNO statuses who wish to emigrate to the UK this offers a new route to full citizenship, but there are details that need working out now in order to determine whether the path would be financially worthwhile.
“Any new policy introduced by the Government isn’t going to be as generous as a conversion of BNO status to a full British citizenship; they would still have to make their visa applications and meet the residency requirement (i.e. living in the UK for a minimum period of six years) before becoming eligible for citizenship.
“For example, with an application fee of at least £1,000 per person for the initial five-year period together with the £624 Immigration Health Surcharge per person per year, it could potentially cost almost £20,000 for a family of three to apply for British citizenship.” Ben Xu - Senior Associate
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said there would be an unlimited quota and promised the process would be simple for those looking to move to the UK, highlighting “[Britain’s] historic commitment to the people of Hong Kong”.