The UK government has hinted that it will extend its flagship BNO visa scheme. This is currently reserved for Hong Kong nationals with a British National Overseas (BNO) passport, to Hongkongers aged 18 to 24, who have been at the center of civilian protests in Hong Kong over Chinese security rules imposed on the former British territory.
The current BNO visa system began last year and is only open to BNO passport holders. Specifics include being born before 1997 when Hong Kong was returned to China and the BNO scheme came to an end.
For months, however, a movement has been ongoing with the support of senior Conservative MPs. One of them is former Foreign Secretary William Hague and the last Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten.
The campaign calls on the government to create a path to UK citizenship for young Hongkongers. These are the children of BNO passport holders and do not wish to immigrate to the United Kingdom.
Home Office minister Andrew Sharpe indicated during a recent discussion on the new Nationality and Borders bill that the government was seriously considering expanding the BNO visa system to Hongkongers born after 1997 for the first time.
“We have heard concerns raised, and are very sympathetic to the circumstances of children born on or after July 1997 with BNO parents,” Sharpe said.
By the time the Nationality and Borders bill reached the report stage, he hoped to have an update available.
Young Hong Kong natives who are ineligible for the BNO visa system could enter the UK through the Youth Mobility Scheme.
Following the introduction of the BNO visa scheme, the Johnson administration predicted that up to 300,000 Hong Kong residents would visit the UK in the next five years.
According to Sharpe, 88,000 Hongkongers had sought to come to the UK by the end of September 2021.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong migrants arriving in the UK are worth aprox. £2.4 to £2.9 billion to the UK Treasury over the next five years.
David Alton, a crossbench peer, backed a call to modify BNO visa criteria for young Hongkongers, saying:
“These are courageous young people that need a lifeboat out of the city. These are the very people that flooded the streets and stood up for freedom in 2019.”
According to an article published by The Guardian, 200 young Hongkongers have applied for asylum in the UK. Among them, some are facing criminal charges relating to their protests. This makes it more difficult for individuals to petition for asylum, and some have already waited more than a year.