Hong Kong citizens who were born prior to the Hong Kong handover, which took place July 1997, are considered overseas British nationals (BNO). BNOs have a distinct passport that allows them the right to enter the UK visa free but not the right of abode in the UK. There are an estimated half a million people currently living with this document in Hong Kong. Regardless, all Hong Kong citizens currently have the right to apply for BNO status.
As of January 2021, BNO citizens, who wish to work or study in the UK, can apply for a leave to remain status of up to five years. Subsequently, once the individual has achieved settled status, they can then register as a British citizen after another 12 months.
This new route to British citizenship was introduced by the British government just after China enforced new security laws, which were heavily denounced by the international community and British government. These new laws created tensions in Hong Kong and resulted in protests and the arrest of many of Hong Kong’s citizens.
Under this new citizenship route, It is estimated that up to 1 million Hong Kongers could be enticed to move to the UK over the next few years, bringing with them over $75 Billion of capital with them to the UK. The British Home Office has allegedly received over 30,000 applications in February and March of this year, in the first two months the program was introduced. More than 7,000 of these applications have already been accepted. Many of the applications received were from individuals who were in the UK at the time and had been offered temporary settlement as they await the visa change.
It is understandable why so many Hong kongers are jumping on the opportunity to move to the UK. The UK’s historical links with countries such as Hong Kong, is a driving factor for migration. Hong Kong citizens might have family or community networks in the UK, which facilitate the entire migration process and provide a network of support for the new migrant after they arrive. Furthermore, many people choose to migrate to English speaking countries, like the UK, as they want to perfect their English language skills.
This new citizenship route is an opportunity for the Hong Kongers who have always dreamt of migrating to the UK. Regardless of the politics and history behind all of this, this is a chance for people to discover a new world and open a door of opportunity. There are many driving factors that entice foreigners to want to migrate to the UK. High wages and plentiful employment opportunities is one of the main reasons why many choose the UK. Landing a good job in the UK has become easier than ever as the numerous metropolitan centres across the UK push the demand for all types of business positions. All types of profiles of skilled workers are in demand all over the country, meaning that a qualified workforce is always needed.
Another driving force for migrants is the free healthcare system, otherwise known as the NHS. This system is open not only for the residents of the UK but also to expats residing in the UK. The core value of the NHS is to treat all citizens equally with respect and dignity, therefore making sure that the ones in need are all always taken care of. This is a great reflection of British culture which values fairness and respect.
It is without doubt that the UK will continue to receive more applications for migration from Hong Kong. An influx of high skilled workers will be a solid boost to the economy and many Hong Kongers will bring funds for investment. The UK will have to provide its support in offering language learning assistance and support services designed for aiding integration into a country. It is crucial that Britain publicly illustrates the long historic ties with Hong Kong to avoid criticism and potential resentment towards the new migrants from the general public.