In 2020 the UK government changed the rights attaching to British National (Overseas) status in Hong Kong. The move followed the application by China of the new National Security Law to Hong Kong. As a result, a new UK visa became available to BNO citizens and their close family members as of 31 January 2021.

The new BNO Visa permits Hong Kong citizens with BNO status to come to the UK with their close family members for five years. After five years of residence in the UK, they will be entitled to apply for settlement – termed ‘indefinite leave to remain’ – and after one further year of residence to apply for British citizenship.

BNO Visa holders are able to work or study freely in the UK, including applying for higher education courses. Although they will not generally be entitled to claim benefits, they will be able to use the UK National Health Service (NHS).

There is no limit on the number of eligible people who can come to the UK under this new visa. The UK government said there were around 2.9 million BNO citizens in total and has estimated that, with dependents and members of family units, a further 2.5 million Hong Kong residents may also qualify.

Any BNO citizens in Hong Kong who are looking to relocate or invest in the UK will need to ensure that they have a clear understanding of the UK tax system and should make pre-arrival tax planning a priority. UK income tax rates of up to 45% are generally much higher than those in Hong Kong, while the UK also levies tax on capital gains and inheritance.

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