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

In this video, I 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.

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 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.