Guide for Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa holders in the UK

Guide for Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa holders in the UK

On April 25, 2021 | In General | By A Y & J Solicitors

The new visa route to allow British National (Overseas) (‘BNO) Status Holder to enter the UK has eased freedom of movement between Hong Kong British National and the UK for those who are eligible under this route. The new visa route recognises the UK’s historic and moral commitments to Hong Kong Citizens and offers BNO Status Holders and their family members to study, work and live in the UK.

What is a British National (Overseas) Visa

BNO is a form of British Nationality created by the British Nationality Act 1981. Hong Kong Citizens were given a 10-year period to register themselves a BNO before the transfer of sovereignty in July 1997. 

Although BNO Status Holders is considered as British Nationals, they do not have the rights to work and live in the UK and are typically subject to the requirements under the Immigration Rules. Under this route, if an individual is a BNO holder and is an ordinarily resident in either Hong Kong or the UK, the individual and their family members can apply for a British National (Overseas) visa which will allow them to live, work and study in the UK. 

Eligibility for this visa

You are eligible to apply for a BNO visa if you are:

  • A British national (overseas)
  • Aged 18 or older

Your permanent residence must be:

  • In Hong Kong only if you are applying from outside the UK
  • In the UK, Isle of Man, Channel Islands, if you are applying in the UK

Your family members

Your family members can apply for a British National(Overseas) visa if they are eligible for it. They must usually apply at the same time as you.

How long you can stay

You can apply to stay in the UK

  1. For 2 years and 6 months, or
  2. For 5 years

You will have to extend your visa if you want to stay longer and are not eligible for settlement. There is no limit on the length of time you can remain under this route and you are allowed to extend your visa as many times as you want. 

After you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years, you can apply to live in the UK permanently and eventually go for British citizenship.

Freedom and restrictions with BN(O) visa

You will be able to

  • Work except as professional sportsperson or coach
  • study at school, college or university

You cannot apply for the UK public funds.

What is a National Insurance (NI) number

In order to work in the UK, you will need a National Insurance number.

You can start work without a National Insurance number if you can evidence you have the right to work in the UK. However, you will need to apply for one within 3 months of starting your employment.

Careers advice and support

You can get career advice, counselling and support from the National Careers Service.

Starting a business in the UK

The British Business Bank is the UK’s government-owned bank. It provides advice and support to all the small businesses in the UK, including help to identify suitable financing options available. 

If you are working with partners it also offers start up loans and free mentoring advice to newly establish. 

There are several other organisations that can help you start a business. These include Local Growth Hubs or chambers of commerce that will help you finance and start your business. 

How to set up bank account

You can find more information on how open a bank account in the UK by visiting the ‘Citizens Advice’ website.


You could get free childcare if your child is aged 2 to 4 years.

Choosing a school

If you are living in England and your child is aged between 5 and 16, you will be required to ensure they are in receipt of a full-time education. You should contact your local council to find state-funded schools in your area and the admission criteria for your child.


The UK European Network Information Centre (UK ENIC) provides expert advice on behalf of the UK government on the comparability of international qualifications, including those from Hong Kong to UK qualifications. 

UK ENIC has researched the comparable levels of study that precede the full completion of the HKDSE and are therefore able to issue Statements of Comparability, despite the formal exit qualification not having been completed, to help schools and colleges on A level enrolment and 16-19 funding exemptions.

Further education and training for adults

You will be eligible to access further education and training including English language courses funded through the Adult Education Budget (AEB) if you meet the published residency eligibility criteria including the 3 years ordinary residency requirement. The AEB funding rules set out the general eligibility and residency criteria. Education and training will either be fully funded or co-funded (approximate 50% government contribution) depending on your age, prior attainment and circumstances.

Learning the English Language

There are privately run English language courses you can access via the British Council if you are willing to pay a fee for these.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidelines

The UK government’s COVID-19 advice webpage has all the information about the vaccination programme, and how to report symptoms and how to self-isolate at home. It also highlights the rules in place about what you can do during the covid-19 pandemic, and guidance on social distancing.

If you are travelling from a ‘Red List’ country, you must quarantine in a government approved hotel for ten days upon arrival and book your covid tests in advance.

Booking a coronavirus vaccination

The vaccine will be provided and made available to everyone living in the UK free of charge. You do not need to be registered with a General Practitioner surgery or have an NHS number to receive the vaccine.

How to register with a General Practitioner (GP)

Anyone can register with a General Practitioner (doctor’s) surgery. The individual does not need proof of address or immigration status. You can find out more information on how to register with a GP via this link.

Victim of Crime

To report a crime to the police, you should call 101 for a non-emergency report, or 999 in an emergency. You must report any incidence of hate crime and Covid-related hate crime. You can also receive free support and advice if you have been the victim of crime.

The administrations

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland consists of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

 Information on services may be different depending on which country of the UK you live in.

CONCLUSION: Living in the UK can be very exciting and one full of opportunities for growth. The world’s 5th largest economy has been the hotspot of opportunities and rising talents. The lifestyle, work environment, security and financial growth are the reasons one can be persuaded to move to the UK and fully utilise the rights as a British National (Overseas). 

A Y & J Solicitors

A Y & J Solicitors is a multi-award winning, 14+ years experienced, recommended by Legal 500, boutique UK immigration law firm based in Central London. Having assisted 5000+ clients, we are well equipped to help you with our ‘In It To Win It’ approach. For your assurance and confidence, we are pleased to share our trust rating of 4.9/5 based on 1000+ reviews on Trustpilot & Google.

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