I made my final decision to emigrate to the UK after I swam the Cold Half this year, such that I could apply for a visa as soon as the digital application channel opened.
The newly-established visa, called BN(O) visa, is a visa specifically for BN(O) citizens and their family members to emigrate to the UK as a response to the breach of Sino-British Joint Declaration. BN(O) citizens can apply for a visa for 2.5 or 5 years which is a route to settlement, and their dependents can apply at the same time as well to go together. Also, their children born after 1st July 1997 who’s over 18 can also apply for a visa together, and also their dependents as well. The primary person, called BN(O) status holder, has to be a BN(O) citizen but the possession of a valid BN(O) passport is not a requirement. Any valid passport can be used to apply for the visa.
Apart from the above, the main requirements to apply for this visa includes:
- ordinary resident in Hong Kong if applying outside the UK, or ordinary resident in Hong Kong, the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man if applying inside the UK
- have enough funds for 6 months (credible support from a third-party is allowed)
- have an approved TB test with a negative result
All the crown dependencies (Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man) also operate their version of BN(O) visa which is the same to the one in the UK, allowing BN(O) citizens to emigrate there as well. The major difference is that there is no immigration health surcharge when emigrating to the crown dependencies because there is no NHS there. The healthcare system there is different from the UK, for example, in Jersey, all primary healthcare is private but a discount is given to residents satisfying certain criteria.
I am moving to the UK as a single, therefore I only applied for the visa on my own. The residence time required for settlement is 5 years, therefore by applying for a 5-year visa and stay in the UK, I can apply for settlement immediately afterwards. The application fee on paper for a 5-year visa is £250 and the immigration health surcharge (i.e. health tax) is £3120. However, Home Office operates a policy that all visa application made outside the UK is charged in the currency where the application is made, and if the currency is not pound sterling, 4% markup is applied into the exchange rate.
There are two ways to apply for the visa. The preferred way is to use a mobile app to read your passport to have a fully-digital application process, while the other way is the traditional way, to visit a visa application centre to collect biometrics. Using the former method, you will get a digital immigration status which impose no limit on time to arrive the UK, as long as your entry clearance is valid, and using the traditional method, you will get a visa sticker in your passport, and you must arrive the UK in 90 days to activate it, and collect your BRP afterwards which shows your residence status. The digital application process can only be used with a BN(O), HKSAR or EEA passport, otherwise the traditional method must be used. Therefore I applied the visa using a fully-digital process with my BN(O) passport.
After submitting the application, I should not enter the UK until the entry clearance is given, which can take up to 12 weeks but normally much less. If I was in a hurry instead, I could flew to the UK first, request LOTR (leave outside the rule) at the border, and apply for the visa in the UK. In such case I must not leave the common travel area until I get my leave to remain granted.
Apart from the visa, in order to enter the UK, I also need a negative COVID test taken within 3 days before the departure, a receipt of ordering a compulsory arrival test package (days 2 and 8), and a completed passenger locator form. These are because of the coronavirus pandemic. Also, an international traveller must self-isolate for 10 days after arrival (if passed thru a red country, hotel quarantine is required) unless released early by the negative result of an additional test on day 5. I used it in order to get released 3 days early such that I could find my home as soon as possible.
Before leaving Hong Kong, I closed a few bank accounts and credit cards, consolidated my MPF, cleared my tax, and arranged for mobile contract change when my existing one will expire.
I bought a direct one-way ticket from Hong Kong to London, booked an Airbnb for 13 nights, bought a UK SIM card, packed my luggage, completed the entry requirement listed above, and departed on 20th April.