Moving to the UK from Hong Kong

Relocating from Hong Kong to the UK

In 2021, there were 117,714 Hong Kong (HK) nationals living in the UK. Since then, it is estimated that a further 125,000 Hong Kongers have arrived in the UK under the new British National (Overseas) visa. Many Hong Kong nationals have chosen to come to the UK following the introduction of the National Security Law in January 2021, which placed restrictions on the freedoms of citizens. As a result of the new security laws in Hong Kong, the British government decided to make it easier for Hong Kong nationals to come to the UK as British Nationals (overseas). If you are a Hong Kong citizen considering moving to the UK in 2024 or beyond, this guide is for you. Here, we will explain everything you need to know about moving from Hong Kong to the UK, including the legal requirements, the cost of living in the UK (and how this compares to HK), the actions to take before moving, and answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on moving as a Hong Kong citizen to the UK.

Moving to the UK from Hong Kong benefits

As a place to relocate to, the UK offers a wide range of benefits for Hong Kongers, including:

  • A strong economy.
  • Excellent transport system.
  • Availability of highly skilled and well-paid jobs.
  • Minimal levels of business administration and ‘red tape’.
  • Limitless history and culture (e.g. museums, theatres, and cathedrals)
  • Beautiful villages, mountains, hills, lakes, and countryside, and
  • Excellent education, including highly respected and internationally renowned schools and universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, St Andrews, and University College London (UCL).

Transforming Lives: Real Stories of Client Satisfaction

"This was my first application for a skilled worker visa and A Y & J helped me through it, making me feel at ease with the process. Very quick replies on e-mails & assistance provided by Imad and Silvia was excellent. Truly could not have had a better experience. Would absolutely recommend them if assistance required."

Isis Smid

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"They are the best, very reliable and always on time"

Mashavave Viola

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"I will be glad to work with you again and again ❤️ you are the best 💋 and l will love to contact you when ever l need your support."

Ogunnaike Olakunle

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"This was our 2nd application for my wife's visa. A Y & J Solicitors were recommend to us and they delivered. Right from the outset. The process was explained thoroughly. We was not pushed to commit. Our appointed Solicitor Nagina was absolutely brilliant. Took all our concerns away and approached our application in a professional manor. Can not recommend enough. Thank you A Y & J & a special thanks to Nagina"

neil Pedder

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"I'm very pleased to recommend Diana and her team. They have consistently provided excellent service and achieved successful outcomes in our applications, thanks in part to Ikra's outstanding casework and exceptional support throughout the process. She ensured we fully understood everything and addressed any questions we had promptly and professionally."

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"My experience with the A Y & J and Team was amazing. Mehak was very accessible and honest person which makes you feel instantly at ease. if you are looking for an affordable law firm, that actually treats you like a real person and makes everything run smoothly, then you have found it! I finished all my uk skilled work visa application with A Y & J. Thanks A Y & J."

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UK Innovator Founder visa

The UK Innovator Founder visa enables business people and entrepreneurs from Hong Kong to set up a new UK business. Holders of this type of visa can settle permanently after just three years compared to the standard requirement of five years.

UK Innovator Founder visa applicants from Hong Kong must be aged 18 years or over and have a business idea that is unique, viable, scalable and endorsed by an approved endorsing body.

This is just a small selection of the many UK visas available to HK nationals. To better understand all of the immigration routes available to you, including self-sponsorship, it is advisable to speak to an experienced immigration specialist based in the UK.

How to set up your finances in the UK?

  • Banking - Where possible, we would advise waiting until you arrive in the UK to open a new bank account. This is simply because UK banks will require proof of your identity and your permanent UK address.
  • Money transfer - Another consideration is transferring money to the UK. You can do this through your chosen UK bank for a fee or a money transfer service such as OFX or Wise. Always use a reputable money transfer service and check that any fees and the exchange rate are competitive.
  • National Insurance (NI) - After you have arrived in the UK and before you start work, you will need to apply for a National Insurance (NI) number before you start working.
  • Taxation - Tax is also very simple in the UK. If you are employed, you will simply need to provide your NI number to your employer, who will then deduct any tax you owe and ensure it is paid to HMRC through the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system.

Many HK nationals are in a fortunate position to have access to the British National (Overseas) visa (BNO visa), which makes it much easier to move to the UK. Other options include the Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) visa, which is open to young Hong Kong citizens with a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) passport, and the Ancestry visa. Those who are not eligible for a BNO, YMS or Ancestry visa can choose from a wide range of other UK visas, as explained below.

British National (Overseas) visa

The British National (Overseas) visa allows holders to live, work, and study in the UK and is for nationals of Hong Kong who are classed as British nationals (overseas) or are the child of a British national (overseas) born on or after 1st July 1997. Applicants must have their permanent home in Hong Kong or in the UK. It is also possible for dependants of applicants to come to the UK (i.e. partner, children, and adult dependant relative) under this visa. If granted a BNO visa, holders can stay in the UK for 30 months or 60 months. The visa can be further extended, or after 60 months, it is possible to apply for permanent residence in the UK.

UK Ancestry visa

The UK Ancestry visa enables HK nationals with strong ancestral connections to the UK to live in the UK for up to five years and later gain a permanent settlement. Applicants must be aged 17 or over and have a grandparent who was born in one of the following circumstances:

  • in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man
  • before 31st March 1922 in what is now Ireland
  • on a ship or aircraft that was either registered in the UK or belonged to the UK government

You can still apply for an Ancestry visa if you or your parent were adopted or your parents or grandparents were not married.

UK Youth Mobility Scheme visa

The UK Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) visa enables citizens of Hong Kong aged between 18 and 30 to live in the UK for up to two years. You must have at least £2,350 in savings to support yourself while in the UK. It is not possible to extend the YMS visa or acquire the right to settle permanently, but you can switch to a different visa type when in the UK.

To apply for a YMS visa, Hong Kongers must first express their interest in the scheme and have their name drawn from a ballot.

UK Skilled Worker visa

The UK Skilled Worker visa enables HK nationals who are not eligible for a BNO visa to live and work in the UK for up to 5 years. Before the 5 years expires, it is then possible to apply for permanent residence in the UK, and after a further 1 year, British citizenship.
To apply for a UK Skilled Worker visa as an HK national, you must have a job offer from a licenced employer in the UK and receive a salary of at least £38,700 per year (or the ‘going rate’ for your occupation) for your new job. The salary threshold may be lower if you have a PhD, a job on the UK government’s immigration salary list, or you are a new entrant to the job market. If you are not sure, please speak to an immigration Solicitor.

You will also be able to read, write, speak and understand English to at least level B1 on the CEFR scale. This is typically demonstrated by passing a secure English language test (SELT) with an approved test provider.

UK Student visa

If you would like to move from Hong Kong to the UK to study at a British school, college or university, you will need to apply for a study visa. Applicants must be 16 years or older and have been offered a place on a course with an approved educational provider in the UK. They must also have funds to support themselves and to pay for their course. Applicants must also be able to read, write, speak, and understand English to at least level B1 or B2 on the CEFR scale (B2 is required for degree level or higher).

Student visa holders who wish to stay in the UK once their course ends can then apply for a graduate visa, which will allow them to stay here for a further two years to find employment. If you secure a job, you can then switch to a work visa, or if you get married or enter into a civil partnership, you can apply for a family visa.

Get in touch with our immigration experts for help with your move to the UK from Hong Kong

What is the cost of living in the UK?

Prices are around 12% higher in London compared to HK. According to the price comparison website Numbeo, this means that a person would need in the region of around HK$60,887.50 (£6,211.0) in London to maintain the same standard of life that you can have with HK$53,000.00 in Hong Kong (assuming you rent in both cities). Grocery prices are around 20% cheaper, however. That said, the cost of living in the UK is much lower outside of London and the South of England. This is why it is vital to research where you would like to live and the costs in each area before you move to the UK.

Emigrating to the UK from Hong Kong – Checklist

Making the move from Hong Kong to the UK can be daunting, especially if you are relocating your whole family. However, by taking the following pragmatic steps first, you can make the whole process of moving to the UK as simple and straightforward as possible:

  • Thoroughly research all of the immigration options open to you and your family members as nationals of Hong Kong. An immigration law specialist will be able to explain the immigration routes available to you.
  • Get a job offer from a UK employer – this is necessary before you apply for your work visa.
  • Create a detailed budgeting spreadsheet. If possible, speak to someone you know who lives in the UK and can give you details on the current cost of groceries, car insurance, council tax, transport, electricity, and heating. Also, factor in your net pay after tax and national insurance.
  • Estimate your moving costs, including transport, removal costs, and rent deposit, etc. Remember to include the cost of your visa and any additional visa-related costs, such as the healthcare surcharge.
  • Shortlist where you would like to live in England, Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland.
  • Visit the UK to shortlist your preferred areas.
  • Speak to the schools in your shortlisted areas to check if they have spaces for your children.
  • Check the time and cost of commuting to work.
  • Ask friends and family who live in the UK for advice and tips on moving from Hong Kong to the UK.
  • HK / UK Driving licence – You can use your HK driving licence in the UK for one year, after which you will need to apply to switch to a UK one.

What is a Self-Sponsored Route?

The Self-sponsorship route offers a new and innovative way for foreign nationals, including those from Hong Kong, to relocate to the UK without the worry and stress of applying for a job. Taking this route means you can set up and run your own business in the UK and essentially sponsor yourself. At AY&J, our immigration specialists can handle your application and advise on the requirements for an endorsed business idea. With self-sponsorship, you can settle permanently after a number of continuous years in the UK and later gain British citizenship.

Emigrating to the UK as a non-HK national

If you are a non-HK national living in Hong Kong, and if you wish to live, work, study, or join your family here, you will most likely need to apply for a visa. To fully understand your visa options as a non-HK national, it is advisable to speak to one of our helpful, friendly and knowledgeable UK Immigration Solicitors.

Joining UK Family Members as a Non-HK National

If you are a non-HK national living in Hong Kong with plans to join your partner, spouse, parent, or child living here in the UK, you may need to apply for a UK Family visa. To qualify, your UK-based family member must be a British citizen, a person with indefinite leave to remain, an EU/EEA national who started living in the UK before 1st January 2021 or has refugee status in the UK.

If your family visa is granted by the Home Office, you will be able to join your family in the UK and gain permanent settlement after 5 years of continuous residence.


What documents and information do I need to move to the UK from Hong Kong?

The documents that you need to move to the UK from Hong Kong will depend on the type of visa you apply for. To apply for a BNO visa, you will need evidence:

  • Of your BNO status (e.g. passport)
  • Of your relationship with family members
  • That you live in Hong Kong, the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man
  • That you have enough money to support yourself and your family
  • Of your tuberculosis (TB) test certificate

Your documents will need to be translated if not already in English.

Do HK citizens need sponsorship to work in the UK?

If you are eligible for a BNO visa, you can work in the UK without sponsorship. If you are not eligible for a BNO visa, you must be sponsored by a UK employer. Alternatively, you can consider the self-sponsorship route (see above).

What should I consider before moving back to the UK from Hong Kong?

If you are a British ex-pat who is moving back to the UK from Hong Kong, we recommend looking into your employment, banking arrangements, and credit rating (you may have lost some of your credit rating if you have been outside the UK for many years). We also advise speaking to an accountant about your tax arrangements. If you have lived in Hong Kong for more than 5 years, you may need to meet different rules for income and capital gains tax. Finally, check whether you will need to ‘top up’ your national insurance contributions so that you are eligible for a UK state pension when you retire.

Moving from Hong Kong to the UK requirements

Please see the legal requirements for moving from Hong Kong to the UK above.

Can you move to the UK from Hong Kong?

Yes, however, HK citizens and their family members may require a visa to live in the UK. Please see the visa options explained above.

Applying for a UK visa from Hong Kong

As a citizen of Hong Kong, you can apply for a visa online through the UK’s Home Office website. You will need to fully complete the application form, pay any required fees, and submit any documents required to support your case. You will also need to meet the requirements for the type of visa you are applying for. An immigration law specialist based in the UK can handle all of this on your behalf.

UK entry requirements from Hong Kong

Absolutely, but they require a job offer from a sponsoring employer, a certificate of sponsorship, and a work visa granted by the UK Home Office.

Applying for a UK visa from Switzerland

Please see the legal requirements for moving from Hong Kong to the UK above.

How long can an HK citizen stay in the UK?

The length of time you can spend in the UK will depend on the type of visa you hold:

  • The BNO visa lasts for 30 or 60 months
  • The Ancestry visa lasts for 5 years
  • Work visas last up to 5 years
  • Student visas typically last for the duration of the course, but holders can then apply for a Graduate visa to stay in the UK for a further 2 years to find work.

Remember, most UK visas offer a route to permanent settlement after between 3 and 5 years.

What is the cost of living in the UK?

Please see the cost of living section above.

A Y & J Solicitors is a specialist immigration law firm with extensive experience with all types of visa applications. We have an in-depth understanding of immigration law and are professional and results-focused. For assistance with your visa application or any other UK immigration law concerns, please contact us on +44 20 7404 7933 or at contact us today. We’re here to help!

Moving From Hong Kong to the UK

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Moving From Hong Kong to the UK

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