The UK Government recently introduced a new visa system that will give millions of people in Hong Kong greater opportunities to live and work in the UK, as well as provide them with a route towards British citizenship.
The British National Overseas (BNO) citizenship has been in place since 1985, allowing Hong Kong residents to visit the UK freely for up to six months. This lifelong ‘pass’, which could not be passed down to family members, did not give holders any special rights.
However, owing to recent moves by the Chinese parliament to impose a severe security law on Hong Kong, the UK Government decided the announce a new scheme for Hong Kong BNO citizens, where they and their close family will be eligible to apply for two periods of five years to live and work in the UK. After the first five years, they would also be able to choose to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK, which means they will be able to live and work without reapplying for a visa.
The British government estimates 5.4 million Hong Kong residents will be eligible for this new scheme, which accounts for approximately 72% of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million population. These include:
- 9 million BNO citizens
- 3 million dependents of BNOs
- 187,000 18-23-year-olds with at least one BNO parent
To apply for the scheme, applicants will need to buy a Hong Kong BNO visa. They would also need to prove they can support themselves and dependents financially for the first six months of their stay. More information on the BNO visa can be found on the government’s website, including how to apply.
Impact on the UK Property Market
Since the new BNO scheme was first announced, there has been an increased interest in UK property among Hong Kong buyers.
The UK, and London has historically attracted a high level of investment from Hong Kong buyers and investors. In more recent years, other major UK cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham have also begun to see strong interest. Property and living costs in these regional cities are more affordable and are home to growing job markets.
We anticipate that interest in the UK property market will likely remain hot from Hong Kong buyers seeking UK citizenship via the BNO scheme. Most buyers will be looking at this as an investment to transfer their capital and avoid the market volatilities in Hong Kong, with a view to live in these places post migration.
As Hong Kong BNO buyers looks for property investment opportunities in the UK, it will be important to receive professional support on how to purchase the right property that would serve their longer-term goals. This will ensure that they can get access to the best options for their circumstances. For example, while there has been a strong push by property developers to sell new build, off-plan projects to Hong Kong buyers, such projects may not meet their investment objectives or relocation plans. Moreover, acquisition, taxes, income and exit strategy all need to be considered.
At Focus Property Investments (FPI), we specialise in advising overseas buyers on the best investment opportunities in the UK, and work with clients to find opportunities that meet their objectives. Our partners include tax advisors, mortgage brokers and solicitors who are well versed with the unique circumstances facing Hong Kong buyers and are in a strong position to guide buyers in making the best investment decision. Please feel free to get in touch with us today for a free, no obligation property investment consultation.