British National Overseas [BNO] visas

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Click here to read the BNO visa information in Cantonese.

What is a BNO visa?

A British National Overseas visa, known as BNO visa, enables Hongkongers holding BNO status and their dependent family members to come and stay in the UK.

For more info about the context, conditions, and requirements of the BNO visa, read our briefing.

Where can I find more info about a BNO visa?

For more info about the BNO visa, including eligibility and process, please check the BNO leaflet. For queries regarding your visa, contact UK Visa and Immigration contact centre on 0300 790 6268.

Application process

How can I apply for a BNO visa?

If you're from Hong Kong and hold BNO status, you can apply for a BNO visa from the UK, if you haven’t already. If you're currently in the UK on a different UK visa, you can apply to switch to a BNO visa, if you meet the criteria.

Your family members can also apply for a BNO visa if they’re eligible, but they must usually apply at the same time as you.

How can I apply for a BNO visa for a child born in the UK?

The process is the same as normal – apply for a BNO visa and the application has to be made within 3 months of the child’s birth.

As a BNO dependent, do I need to apply for a BNO visa at the same time as my sponsor?

From 6 October, it is no longer required that the dependent partner or a child of the BNO Status Holder form part of the same household on the date of application. The dependent partner or child must instead only show that they and the BNO Status Holder intend to live together throughout their stay in the UK. There is no time limit on when a partner must follow the BNO Status Holder and make an application as a dependent partner on the route.

For dependent children over the age of 18 and dependent adults, the rules remain the same, meaning that they have to form part of the BNO status holder’s household on the date of the application.

My son is in UK under the BNO dependent visa. If a year later he marries his girlfriend from Hong Kong, can his wife apply for a BNO dependent visa?

No. The Home Office expectation is that dependent partners will apply at the same time as the person they are dependent on. They cannot apply to join them a year later.

How is your BNO application considered?

Home Office guidance for caseworkers provides more information on how the Home Office process your BNO application.

What rights do I have with Leave Outside of the Rules [LOTR] granted at the border?

LOTR allows you to work, study and rent a property but not access the NHS free of charge. You need a private health insurance to cover the costs of healthcare if you arrived in the UK before your BNO visa has been granted.

What can I do if I wait for a decision on my visa for over 6 months?

You can contact your local member of Parliament [MP] and ask them to contact the Home Office on your behalf. Make sure you put your address in the email, as MPs can only support individuals living in their constituencies.

You can also make a formal complaint to the UK Visas and Immigration about the length of time it takes for your application to be processed. This is an online form you can fill in. The Home Office have service standards for completing applications which includes specified timescales for processing. If you make a complaint, it will not affect the outcome of your application.

What rights do I have if my LOTR expired, and I am still waiting for a decision on my visa?

If an application for BNO visa had been submitted before LOTR expired, LOTR remains valid beyond the date on the stamp and the rights you have with LOTR continue until the decision on your visa is made. This is called 3C leave, you can read more about 3C and 3D leave [publishing.service.gov.uk]

Do I need to ‘activate’ my BNO visa if I applied for it outside of the UK and travelled to the UK while the visa application was still outstanding?

No, at this stage the Home Office doesn’t ask anyone to ‘activate’ their BNO visa and the UKVI will be in touch with a visa holder if anything needs to be done in the future. They will be communicating via the email address provided with the application so please make sure to keep this up-to-date. You can update your email address and any other contact details via this link.

Rights with BNO visa

What rights do I have with a BNO visa?

A BNO visa allows the holder to work, study, rent a property and access the NHS.

A BNO visa has a no recourse to public funds [NRPF] condition attached to it, which means that a visa holder cannot access benefits or any other support classed as public funds, such as Child Benefit, Universal Credit or Personal Independent Payment [PIP].

However, if the visa holder is struggling to cover the costs of housing and living [if they become destitute or are at ‘imminent risk of destitution’], they can get the NRPF condition removed from their leave by applying for a change of conditions of leave. Such an application requires access to OISC-regulated legal advice and is not covered by a free legal aid.

While the change of condition application is pending, a BNO visa holder can receive support with housing and living costs from their local authority [council].

Please contact Ewa at Migration Yorkshire for more details on how to access legal advice and support in your area.

How can I prove my rights as a BNO visa holder to employers and landlords?

From 6 April 2022, you can evidence your right to work / rent using a share code only. Employers / landlords are no longer able to accept physical documents for the purposes of a right to work / rent check even if they show a later expiry date. You can:

Frequently asked questions for employers and landlords, about the rights of Hong Kong BNO visa holders explains how landlords and employers can verify your right to rent and work in the UK, including while you are still waiting for the outcome of your applications.

How can I prove my rights as a BNO visa holder to banks and other services?

If you have a BNO visa in a physical form [biometric residence permit] you can use that to prove your rights to access services.

If you applied via an app on the phone, you have a digital status and generating a share code is the only way to prove your rights to access services. You can prove your immigration status and choose an appropriate service.

A bank or other service can then use this share code to verify your immigration status.

Can I generate a share code if I have a BNO visa in a form of BRP?

Yes, if you have a BNO visa in a physical form [biometric residence permit], you can prove your rights online via generating a share code. You just need your biometric residence permit / card number to log in to your online account. You can prove your right to work and prove your right to rent and prove your immigration status for any other purpose.

How long is a share code valid for?

A share code is valid for 90 days and it can be used multiple times during this period. However, a share code generated to prove right to work can only be used to check right to work and the same goes for right to rent.

Can I access free childcare as a BNO visa holder?

A child of a BNO visa holder is entitled to 15 hours per week of free childcare only. This applies to children who are age 3 to 4 years old only and is accessible from the term after the child’s 3rd birthday [September, January or April]. A local childcare provider or local council can be contacted for more information. While some parents can access 30 hour free childcare for their children, a NRPF condition prevents BNO visa holders from applying for additional hours.

Settlement

Can I stay in the UK permanently with a BNO visa?

A BNO allows you to stay for either 2 years and 6 months or 5 years initially, and later you can apply to settle in the UK permanently, including applying for British citizenship, if you wish to.

Will the Home Office contact us after 5 years of settlement to remind us to apply British citizenship?

The Home Office won't contact you to remind you to apply for settlement. You will have to remember yourself as to when your leave expires.

What are the requirements for settlement in the UK?

You will have to make a valid application, including a current passport and paying the relevant fee at the time.

You must apply while you still have a valid BNO visa – apply 28 days before the visa expires.

You can be refused on good character grounds – e.g. if you have been convicted of a serious criminal offence.

You must be in the UK when you apply.

You must have passed the relevant English language test and the Life in the UK test.

You must have had five years continuous residence in the UK. That means no more than 180 days outside of the UK during any 12 month period counting back from when you apply.

What documentation will my child need to apply for settlement? S/he is 17 now and will be applying for settlement in 2026.

S/he will need the documentation that proves that s/he has met the requirements above:

  • Passport [and any previous passport covering the five-year period].
  • Language test pass certificate.
  • Life in the UK test pass certificate.

If they are over 18 when they apply and are no longer your dependent, they no longer need to prove their relationship to you.

What if I don’t qualify for settlement after 5 years? Can I apply for an extension of the BNO visa extension and if so, what are the requirements and when do you submit the extension application?

You could apply for another BNO Visa. The requirements currently would be the same as for the initial application except that you must be in the UK when you apply and there would be no financial requirement. You must submit the application before your existing visa expires – submit it 28 days before.

Where can I find the legislation concerning the Rules for Extension?

You can find it at www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/immigration-rules-appendix-hong-kong-british-national-overseas

How can I prove my residency when applying for settlement in the UK?

An application form for settlement will specify what information and proof are required from an applicant to prove their eligibility for settlement, including residency requirements for those with a digital status.

When does my residency in the UK start to count towards settlement?

The first day of residency counting toward settlement starts from the day a BNO visa is granted [if you are in the UK at time of the decision] or from the day of your arrival to the UK [if your visa was granted prior to your arrival].

Does the time in the UK under LOTR count towards settlement?

No, the first day of residency counting toward settlement starts from the day a BNO visa is granted or from the day of your arrival to the UK, whatever comes later.

I once studied in Leeds in 2014. Would my study duration in 2014 be counted in the settlement 5 years now?

Student leave [under T4] would not be counted even if it is continuous, as student leave does not contribute towards settlement.

If my wife and children applied for BNO visa and go to the UK first, and then I’ll join them 3 years later, how will that affect the entire family’s applications for settlement and British Citizenship?

It won’t. Your wife and child could apply for settlement after they had spent five years in the UK. You would be eligible to apply three years later.

If I received a BNO visa as a dependent of a BNO status holder, what happens to my BNO visa if I separate / divorce from my partner or I am no longer dependent on them?

Your visa continues to be valid until the expiry date indicated on the visa even after you stop being dependent on your BNO sponsor. You also do not need your sponsor, or be dependent of him / her, to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK after your BNO visa comes to an end.

Other questions

Can I apply for a BNO passport after I was granted a BNO visa?

Only BNO status holders can apply for a BNO passport. If you were granted a BNO visa as a dependent and are not BNO status holder, you are not able to apply for a BNO passport as having a BNO visa does not give you any additional rights.

Can I apply for a refund of the NHS health surcharge?

BNO visa holders working in health and social care might be eligible to apply for a refund of their and their family members’ NHS health surcharge. More info on the eligibility and process of applying for reimbursement of the NHS surcharge is available on the government’s website.

I received the BNO visa and immigration health surcharge [HIS] reference number. What should I do with the IHS reference number?

You don’t have to do anything with it except save it for future reference as it will have been added into your application automatically when you paid for it.

I understand that the BNO visa gives me the right to work in the UK but I am a bit confused when employers ask me about my nationality. Can I say that I am a British National, but with the BNO visa?

Yes. Your nationality is British National [Overseas] even though it is actually the visa that gives you the right to work in the UK.

See also

In-depth briefing on the Hong Kong British National [Overseas] visa - context, conditions and requirements

 



Page last updated: 06/04/2022 11:38:19

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Phone: 0113 378 9017

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