LONDON, July 1 – 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 this week.
“The UK has a historic and moral obligation to British Nationals Overseas in Hong Kong and we will honour our commitment to them,” foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Wednesday.
“We have now developed proposals for a bespoke immigration route for BN(O)s and their dependants,” Raab said.
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 a 12 months with settled status, they can apply for citizenship.
The immediate family of those with BN(O) status will also be eligible.
WHEN WILL THE CHANGES COME INTO FORCE?
The new immigration rules will be implemented “in the coming months”, the foreign office said. Until then, the government said BN(O)s would be able to come to the UK, subject to standard immigration checks. (Reporting by William James; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Giles Elgood)