UPDATE: BNOs and the new pathway to citizenship for Hongkongers 香港人

This article will discuss the new pathway to UK citizenship for Hong Kongers

Individuals who did not acquire Chinese nationality and would have been stateless on 1 July 1997 automatically became British Overseas citizens (under Article 6(1) of the Hong Kong (British Nationality Order) 1986). This generally only applied to those not ethnically Chinese. But otherwise, acquisition was not an automatic process. Eligible residents had to have applied for the status between before the end of the registration period. The deadline depended on your date of birth but the last were in 1997.

While about 3m people acquired BN(O) status, 2.5 million non-British Dependent Territories Citizens (almost all Chinese nationals) were ineligible for BN(O) status. Those ineligible who wished to register as BN(O)s were required to have been naturalised as Hong Kong-connected British Dependent Territories Citizens by 31 March 1996. Acquiring Hong Kong British Dependent Territories Citizen status other than by birth was no longer possible after that date.

With a BNO passport you will likely soon be able to use the new pathway to British citizenship, but there are also other options for Hongkongers, i.e.

  1. Sole representative;
  2. Tier 2 (General);
  3. Start up visa;
  4. Innovator visa;
  5. Investor visa;
  6. Global talent visa.

The next video is on how to apply for a BNO passport 在香港申請英國國民(海外)護照

The government has announced a new potential route for BNOs to secure British citizenship, by saying:

“China’s National People’s Congress has formally announced its decision to impose a national security law on the people of Hong Kong … if China goes down this path and implements this national security legislation we will be required to change the status of BN(O) passport holders and set in train arrangements which allow them to come to the UK for longer than the current six month period and to apply for extendable periods of 12 months to work and study, which itself will provide a pathway to citizenship.”

As of 24th February 2020, there was 349,881 holders of BN(O) passports and there are also around 2.9m people in Hong Kong eligible for the passport.

The British National (Overseas) passport, commonly referred to as the BN(O) passport, is a British passport for persons with British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) status. The passport was first issued in 1987 after the Hong Kong Act 1985, from which this new class of British nationality was created. Holders of BN(O) passports are permanent residents of Hong Kong who were British Dependent Territories citizens until 30 June 1997 and had registered as BN(O)s.

The British National (Overseas) status itself does not automatically grant the right of abode anywhere (including the United Kingdom and Hong Kong). However, all BN(O)s possess the right of abode or right to land in Hong Kong by virtue of their previous British Dependent Territories Citizen status with connection to British Hong Kong.

Below, you will find the transcript for the video on the update


Hi, in this video I’m going to give you an update on the new pathway to citizenship that’s being discussed as a potential new route for BNOs to register as British citizens. Ultimately, it would be renewable after periods of 12 months and it’s been discussed in Parliament. I’m going to just go through the details and explain both the history and the new pathway as it’s likely that we don’t know the details. Ultimately, there will be a six-year pathway to register as a British citizen because under Section 4(2) of the British Nationality Act- you would need one clear year before registering and that’s both under the guidance and under the legislation which I’ve cited in previous live streams. Another point before we go into clarifying things is Dominic Raab confirming that dependents would be considered for this status and then he said the purpose of offering extendable periods of 12 months is that there will be no guillotine that comes down it allows being passport holders to come here. Moreover, we’re removing the six-month limitation they can apply to work and study and that will itself create a pathway to citizenship I have engaged with the Home Secretary and indeed other ministers. Plus, more consideration is being given to it so it’s still only hypothetical at the moment but if the Chinese government has the go ahead then this would come into effect.

Now there’s one other exchange which I just wanted to highlight for you and that’s concerned with the example of the students who hadn’t got BNO status and a Member of Parliament asked “what’s their position given that they may not be eligible? How would you be protecting them”. This was the question from Wendy Chamberlin to Dominic Raab yesterday. She continues, “I was contacted by a constituent who is an overseas student Essent Andrews University he did not apply for a BNO passport at the time the original offer because he was a toddler and his parents did not apply on his behalf. I welcomed the foreign secretary statement but there are many Hong Kong citizens who like my constituent did not receive a being no possible in the first place and missed out will he consider the proposal made by my right honourable friend the man for me to offer a pathway for all Hong Kong citizens” and Dominic Rob said “we need to be realistic about the volume of people that we in this country could credibly and responsibly absorb”. This is the reason why there was this ambiguity and certainly. What he was talking about was 300,000 rather than 3 million. But this is a person in this example wouldn’t even fall within the three million category of people the government says would be eligible.

Individuals who did not acquire a Chinese nationality and would have been stateless on the 1st of July 1997 automatically became British overseas citizens under Article 6(1) of the Hong Kong British Nationality Order 1986. But this generally only applied to those not ethnically Chinese so this was the part of it that was automatic in 1997 but otherwise, acquisition was not an automatic process. Eligible residents had to have applied for the status before the end of the registration period and the deadline depended on your date of birth but the last of these were in 1997 so it was necessary to register within the registration period so about 3 million people acquired via no status. Almost all Chinese nationals were ineligible for BNO status. Those ineligible who wish to register as BNOs were required to have been naturalized as Hong Kong connected British dependent territories citizens by 31st of March 1996 and then acquiring Hong Kong British dependent territories citizen status other than by birth was no longer possible after that date.

The guidance issued by the government on July 2017, says an application to register as a British national overseas made at the same time as an application for a passport registration in the UK done by the passport service arrangements allows governor’s in the British overseas territories to register people as British nationals overseas. Where an application was approved, the holder would have been issued with a passport describing the holder as a British national overseas. They will not be issued with a certificate of registration. If you need to check whether an individual is a British national overseas, you can contact the team in her majesty’s passport office. Essentially, it appears that those who are being referred to here by the government must have been people who the government assesses as having been issued a BNO passport. But where that passport has expired, you can apply for a BNO passport.

I would add this as a potential pathway to registering as a British citizen. You might want to consider applying for a possible BNO status now. If you’re not sure whether you do have BNO status or you’re not sure whether it was issued factually, the application requires that you have produced immigration documents. So what I was going to highlight here is that you can make a subject access request for emergencies. I’m going to be doing this for a couple of clients just to secure further information where the passport has been lost and there’s a lack of information or there was insufficient information to actually make the make the application. It may ultimately be that the applications go hand in hand. It doesn’t necessarily have to be done through this form. In theory, you could make the subjects access request as part of your application for a passport but that may lead to administer difficulty. So given these are new developments and I’m going to be in the process of requesting information on behalf of clients, I will keep you updated. Below, I have a an email address you can contact me. You should take legal advice on your individual circumstances. This videos is not advice but just for information purposes only and I would be delighted to help you.