BNO Passport and How Hong Kong Residents Can Apply for British Nationality Through BNO Passports


About BNO Passport and How Hong Kong Residents Can Apply for British Nationality Through BNO Passports

New changes to the BNO passport, which will take effect from 31 January 2021, make it possible for BNO passport holders to apply for UK citizenship. So far, the BNO holders have been able to move to the UK with their dependents. Keep reading to learn more about the BNO passport and how Hong Kong residents can apply for British nationality via the BNO passport.

What is a BNO passport?

The British nationality overseas passport, abbreviated as BNO passport, is essentially a travel document with no citizenship rights. However, it entitles the bearer to access specific consular help outside of Hong Kong.

The passport was first issued in 1987 after the Hong Kong Act 1985 that created the new citizenship class. 

If one is not already a British National Overseas, they cannot apply to become one. BNO holders are permanent Hong Kong residents who were British Dependent Citizens up to 30 June 1997 and registered for BNO. People born after that date can only apply for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) passports. However, holders of BNO passports have the liberty of continuously renewing their passports.

Since the first roll out on 1 July 1987, permanent Hong Kong residents who were British Dependent Territories Citizens had either retained this status or registered for the new type of nationality. Those who settled on the former could only renew their BDTC passport until 30 June 1997. Those who got the BNO passport were allowed a validity period of up to 10 years.

Back then, not so many people were keen to get a BNO passport.

For the period between 1 July 1987 and 21 December 1997, only 15% of all the passports issued were of the BNO type. However, that changed the moment the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong took place.

British National Overseas passport became the most popular travel document among Hong Kong residents. The British government issued 794,457 BNO passports. The year 2001 saw the most extensive applications of this type of nationality, with the British government giving a total of 170,000 passports that single year. By 2007, there were 800,000 valid BNO passports. Most holders had not renewed their passports upon expiry. Data released in October 2020 showed that there was a total of 469,416 BNO passport holders. About 2.7 million people are eligible to apply for this type of British nationality.

What BNO passport can and cannot do

As mentioned, the BNO passport is a travel document without citizenship rights. It allows you to visit Britain Visa-free for six months. However, you cannot use it to:

·      Work in the country

·      Activate right of abode

·      Access public funds such as government benefits

BNO passport extendable period offer

On 21 May 2020, China formally approved plans to push forth the controversial national security legislation in Hong Kong. The approval rolled in motion a series of political reactions. Britain announced that it would look into ways to extend BNO passport holders' stay in the country for an extendable period of 12 months.

Before July 2020, Hong Kong holders of BNO passport could only visit the United Kingdom for up to six months. Any BNO holder who wanted to stay for long had to apply for the relevant visa at the UK diplomatic missions overseas.

Starting 31 January 2021, BNO passport holders will apply for the right to work and study in the UK for up to five years. Once the five years are over, you would be able to apply for the "settled status," which would then let you apply for British citizenship a year later.

Applying for British citizenship using a BNO passport and what would be possible

For Hong Kong residents who would rather not stay at home due to the updated security laws, the BNO passport provides an opportunity to get British citizenship. BNO holders can now relocate to the UK with their close family members for up to five years. After completing the five years, you can apply for indefinite leave to stay, after which you can apply for British citizenship a year later.

Unlike in the past, BNO visa holders would be able to study or work in the UK. After 31 January 2021, they would be allowed to apply for higher education courses and use the NHS. However, they are still subject to No Recourse to Public Funds. That is, they cannot claim benefits.

Even more impressive is the ability to be accompanied by close family members, even if that family member does not have a BNO passport. Some of your loved ones that can move to the UK thanks to your BNO status include:

·      Unmarried partner, civil partner, or spouse

·      Grandchild or child under 18 years

·      Adults born on or after 1 July 1997

·      Other family members like a brother, sister, parent, grandparent, son, or daughter

The new route to getting British citizenship using a BNO passport does not have any limitations so far. Starting as early as mid-2020, more BNO passport holders have been able to enter the UK with their dependents, ahead of the opening of applications for the British Nationality Overseas visa from 31 January 2021.

Here is a list of BNO agencies that help support BNO passport applications.


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