LONDON (Reuters) - Britain has offered a path to citizenship for around 3 million people in Hong Kong, its former colony, after declaring that China had broken the terms of a 1984 handover treaty by imposing a new security law.
Below are details of the offer, which applies to those with British National (Overseas) status and their dependants:
WHAT IS A BRITISH NATIONAL OVERSEAS?
British National (Overseas), or BN(O), is a special status created under British law in 1987 that specifically relates to Hong Kong.
It allows adults and children to register and hold a BN(O) passport if:
- they were a British dependent territories citizen by connection with Hong Kong.
- they would not have been a British dependent territories citizen but for a connection with Hong Kong.
A BN(O) passport holder is still subject to immigration controls and does not have the automatic right to live or work in Britain.
As of Feb. 24, 2020, there are 349,881 holders of BN(O) passports and the government estimates there are around 2.9 million BN(O)s currently in Hong Kong.
WHAT IS BRITAIN OFFERING BN(O)s?
Britain is granting BN(O)s five years “limited leave to remain” that allows them to live and work in Britain.
After five years, BN(O)s will be able to apply for “settled status”.
After 12 months with settled status, they can apply for citizenship.
The immediate family of those with BN(O) status will also be eligible.
WHAT ARE THE CRITERIA?
Interior minister Priti Patel set out eligibility details on July 22.
- There will be no skills tests or minimum income requirements, economic needs tests or caps on numbers.
- Applicants do not need to have a job before coming to the UK - they can look for work once there. Their immediate dependants may include non-BN(O) citizens.
- BN(O) citizens will need to support themselves independently while living in the UK.
- They must meet strict criminality checks and stay of good character.
- They will need to pay visa fees and the Immigration Health Surcharge.
- If they subsequently apply for citizenship after they become settled, they must meet the criteria and pay the applicable fees.
WHEN WILL THE CHANGES COME INTO FORCE?
- The government is planning to open the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa for applications from January 2021.
- BN(O) citizens do not need to hold a BN(O) passport in order to apply for the visa, so there is no need to apply for or renew a BN(O) passport specifically for this purpose.
- All BN(O) citizens will need a visa to be able to settle in the UK.
Reporting by William James; Editing by Stephen Addison
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