The UK government on Thursday confirmed its offer of a route to citizenship for nearly 3 million Hong Kong residents as part of its response to the Chinese regime’s imposition of a draconian national security law on the former British colony.
The new immigration route for Hong Kong residents with British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) status will be open for applications on Jan. 31, 2021, the government said in a statement.
All those with BN(O) status are eligible to move to the UK to study and work, as are their family dependents, provided they are usually resident in Hong Kong. There will be no quota on numbers, according to the statement.
The cost of the visa has been set lower than many other visas routes to the UK, the government said. A five-year visa will cost £250 per person. The 30-month visa option will cost £180 per person.
“The imposition of the National Security Law on Hong Kong marked a clear erosion of the rights and freedoms for the people of this city. This new route to the UK is part of our commitment to the people of Hong Kong,” Andrew Heyn, the British Consul-General to Hong Kong, said in the statement.
The national security law, which went into effect on June 30, criminalizes individuals for any acts of subversion, secession, and collusion with foreign forces against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the visa offer to Hong Kong residents on July 1, after declaring the law “constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration” as it “violates Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and is in direct conflict with Hong Kong basic law”.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said on July 22 the UK was making a “very generous” offer.
“There will be no skills tests or minimum income requirements, economic needs tests, or caps on numbers,” she said. “They do not need to have a job before coming to the UK—they can look for work once here. They may bring their immediate dependents, including non-BN(O) citizens.”
Like other nationals moving to the UK, BN(O) citizens will pay the immigration health surcharge to receive access to the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, and they will need to demonstrate they can support themselves and their dependents financially for at least six months in the UK.
Lily Zhou contributed to this report.