UK granting British National Overseas passports to Hong Kong residents



As tensions continue in Hong Kong, the British Passport Office has reported the granting of 216,398 British National (Overseas) passports to Hong Kong residents during the first ten months of 2020 - representing the highest annual figure since the BPO began readily compiling records in 2015. Of this number, which also includes renewals, 59,798 were issued in October alone - a 52% rise when compared to the same period in 2019.

Although originally a product of the British colonial era that ended in 1997, the British National (Overseas) passport gave Hong Kong residents recognition as overseas British nationals and gave holders the right to visit the UK for six months.

The number of applications began spiking in July 2020 following an announced upgrade to the status and rights of British National (Overseas) in the United Kingdom, with the massive increase largely viewed as being due to the sudden enactment of a new National Security Law in Hong Kong. The law itself was a response to the anti-Beijing protests that took place last year.

A UK government study has estimated that approximately 2.9 million Hong Kong residents are eligible for British National (Overseas) passports, with a potential additional 2.3 million of their families or dependents. Although the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in July 2020 that the country might not recognise such passports as valid travel documents, estate agents in London have since seen a surge in interest from Hong Kong – with an increase in enquiries of up to 80% reported by some agents.

The Home Office is due to launch a new visa at the end of January 2021 for British National (Overseas) and their family members to move to – and work – in the UK, as well as offer an eventual path to full British Citizenship. Whilst holding a valid British National (Overseas) passport is not required for the visa, applicants are required to hold a valid travel document, a fact that may contribute in the surge of applications.

 
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