This article outlines why is this step is being taken and who will benefit.
Following months of protests and civil unrest in Hong Kong, China has announced a new national security law will be imposed on the former British colony. In response, the British Government have declared this change to be a breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration agreed between the countries which governed the transfer of control of Hong Kong to China in 1997. The UK Government have therefore pledged to protect Hong Kong residents by extending UK residence rights for those residents of Hong Kong who have registered as British National (Overseas) citizens.
Prior to the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong to China in 1997 the majority of Hong Kong residents would have been British Dependent Territory citizens. Following transfer of sovereignty, most of those Hong Kong residents became Chinese citizens (entitled to a special 'Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. passport). However, those who also wanted to maintain ties to the UK could apply to register for a new status known as British National (Overseas).
The final deadline for registering was 1 July 1997. Therefore individuals who do not already hold this status are no longer able to apply to become one. However, it is estimated that approximately 2.8 million of Hong Kong's 7.5 million residents hold British National (Overseas) citizenship.
British National (Overseas) citizens currently enjoy the following rights:
Under the proposed arrangements, British National (Overseas) citizens and their dependants who reside in Hong Kong will be eligible to apply for a visa which will give them:
It would also appear that holders of these visas (and their dependants) will be permitted to work in a self-employed capacity in the UK, or set up and run businesses.
At the time of writing, the UK Government have not provided further detail on how or when the scheme will come into operation. Employers considering hiring workers from Hong Kong may wish to wait to see whether those workers might qualify under this route and many holders of British National (Overseas) passports will be keenly awaiting details of how to apply.