The effectiveness of the BNO passport

July 28, 2020 07:48
Photo: Reuters

With the implementation of the National security law in Hong Kong, Britain has announced that starting from January 2021, 3 million people in Hong Kong, who are holders or eligible for the British National (Overseas) passport, commonly known as BNO, can apply to work or study in the UK for a period of 5 years after which they can apply for citizenship one more year later. Perhaps this might be a shot in the arm when this generous gesture was extended by the British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. To understand more about the background of this motion, let us have a look at the Immigration Acts passed in various periods by the UK government.

Under the British Nationality Act 1948, all Commonwealth citizens could enter the UK without any restriction from 1949. This means that all citizens in Hong Kong could have free access into the UK with the right of abode there. Those were the days when a lot of farmers in the New Territories migrated to the UK after they had their land sold to property developers. However, with a perceived influx of immigrants, the British government tightened the regulations with the passing of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962, permitting only those with employment letters to settle in the UK.

Upon the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China in 1997, only the ethnic minorities in Hong Kong would be granted full British citizenship under the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1997.

Perhaps I might here share a story of my colleague, who is an ethnic minority in Hong Kong and was granted a British passport in 1997 under the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1997. It came to me as a surprise that a British subject could have been stuck in Hong Kong for 23 years when he has been desperately keen to migrate to the UK with his family. My colleague then explained to me that he has to meet some basic requirements before a settlement visa will be granted to his wife who is not a British national: the first being that he is required to have HK$400,000 in his bank account for a family of 3; and that he needs to have found a proper job in the UK that can maintain his family’s living before he lands. It is stated clearly in the spouse visa guide that “The UK doesn’t want to bring people that are not capable of financially maintaining themselves, therefore they are requiring them to be able to earn a minimum amount of money”. So it is unequivocal that the British government are strict to those who are not bringing in moolah, but only overloading their social welfare.

Ichabod! With the looming of Brexit, British diplomats claim their responsibility over Hong Kong when they are leading us up the garden path with a prosperous future ahead. Citizens in Hong Kong enjoying a tax system, which is the lowest in the world, need to understand that it is a far cry from the UK where one is subject to an income tax of between 20 – 45%. But one might take comfort in the fact that the education in the UK is second to none, providing a much atmospheric learning environment to say the least.

-- Contact us at [email protected]

HKEJ contributor