There are nearly 3 million Hong Kong nationals who are affected by China’s security laws that are currently imposed on them. Priti Patel, the UK Home Secretary, has announced officially that UK will offer them a warm welcome with BNO (British National Overseas) status conferred on them to help them settle in the country.
As the details of the scheme are now revealed, concerns have started clouding the benevolent gesture. One of the terms is that Hong Kong nationals who reach the UK via this program won’t be allowed to access the state’s public benefits like financial assistance if the job is lost.
Also, these people will be charged £7,000 upon UK immigration to meet expenses related to UK citizenship and visa fees.
Priti Patel has also expressed doubt on those from Hong Kong below the age of 23 could enter the UK. The youth of this age group has been a significant part of protests against the Communist regime in Hong Kong.
The BNO visa scheme of the UK is slated to start sometime in January 2021. Nevertheless, those who want to immigrate to the UK before that can seek leave, provided they declare their intention to apply for a BNO the sooner they are made available. This will be a move outside the rules.
The territory of Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997. Any citizen of Hong Kong who was granted BNO status at that time will be deemed eligible to move to the UK with their spouse and children (if any) living in their household where they are living. The child could even be aged over 18 years.
The UK migration won’t be conditional if the candidate has a job offer or possess a particular skill level. But still, once they are in the UK, they won’t have assistance from public funds. Hence, they must be able to support themselves.
Another factor, the estimates of which could strike up a concern is the cost of the BNO visa. There will be hundreds of pounds charged and immigrants will be charged and estimated £624 annually as immigration health surcharge for NHS services.
The Hong Kong nationals who move to the UK will be eligible for indefinite leave to remain, after they have stayed in the UK for 5 years. This is similar to granting permanent residence, and will be charged £2,389. Another 12 months of stay in the UK will enable them to apply for citizenship in the UK. For this, they will have to pay £1,206 as fees.
For Hong Kong nationals who are too young to qualify for the BNO status, the UK offered to apply for a Tier 5 youth mobility scheme visa. This visa permits young people to work in the UK on a temporary basis.
There is however a new system in the offing for the post-Brexit immigration in the UK. This could be alternately used by youngsters who may try the Tier 5 visa. The aim, as Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat MP, would put it, is to ensure that nobody is left behind and every Hong Kong national, irrespective of their BNO status, should be given the right to settle in the UK.
The post-Brexit UK immigration system is slated to be launched in January 1, 2021.
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