Allowing British Nationals (Overseas) from Hong Kong and their families to move to the Isle of Man
In this section
Following recent events in Hong Kong, the British government has committed to providing the BN(O) Visa, a new immigration route for British Nationals (Overseas) and their families to become resident in the UK for work or study. In due course, they will be able to apply for full British citizenship. Similar provision is likely to be made so that eligible people can move to the Isle of Man on a matching route.
British Nationals (Overseas) are persons connected with Hong Kong with a special category of British nationality that allows them to visit the UK and Isle of Man freely. However, for longer stays for work or study, British Nationals (Overseas) require immigration permission.
The BN(O) Visa opportunity
In July 2020, the UK Government announced that it would introduce a new immigration route – the “BN(O) Visa” – open only to British Nationals (Overseas) and their dependants, to commence from January 2021. The Isle of Man is expected to introduce its own BN(O) Visa at the same time, or shortly after the UK.
The BN(O) Visa is expected to allow people registered as British Nationals (Overseas) to apply for leave to remain in the Isle of Man for five years, either by way of two applications for a 2.5 year period, or a single application for the full five years. It is not necessary for the main applicant actually to hold a BN(O) passport, provided the main applicant can demonstate BN(O) status. They will be able to bring with them their spouses or partners, and any children under 18, who can hold Chinese Hong Kong SAR passports or other citizenship. Children over 18 may (in compelling or compassionate circumstances) also move with their parents, proivded they are still dependant on them.
After five years on the BN(O) Visa, you and your dependants can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), which is permanent residence in the Isle of Man and United Kingdom. After (usually) one further year, you can apply for registration or naturalisation as a full British citizen.
Why the Isle of Man?
As a British Crown Dependency and international financial centre, the Isle of Man has much in common with Hong Kong. While the two territories are a similar size, the Isle of Man has a far smaller population and much opportunity for population growth. Hong Kong qualifications and British professional memberships are widely accepted in the Isle of Man. At the same time, the Isle of Man is a clean and safe environment allowing excellent work-life balance, high-quality affordable accommodation and excellent access to all parts of the UK within a low-tax economy. In the last 30 years, many Hong Kong people have already made the Isle of Man their home.
Unlike the UK, the Isle of Man does not levy the NHS Surcharge. For a family of four applying for BN(O) Visas for five years, that will mean a considerable saving of GBP8,000 on the costs of applying in the Isle of Man, compared with the UK.
Reasons to consider alternatives to the BN(O) Visa
- The BN(O) Visa will not be available until 2021. For people intending to move to the Isle of Man before this route is available, existing routes such as the Business Migrant (Innovator) or (Start up) or the Isle of Man Worker should be considered.
- Many Hong Kong people do not have BN(O) status, such as those who moved to Hong Kong from mainland China and other countries after 1997, and people between the ages of 18 and 23 who are no longer dependent on their BN(O) parents. For these people, we recommend the Business Migrant (Innovator) & (Start up) as the best route to re-locate to the Isle of Man.
- The BN(O) Visa is politically controversial. The mainland Chinese and Hong Kong SAR governments have indicated that Hong Kong people who take advantage of the BN(O) Visa may lost their right to hold Chinese Hong Kong SAR passports and Hong Kong Permanent Identity Cards, meaning they could lose their right to return to live in Hong Kong in future. People concerned about this should consider alternative Isle of Man immigration routes, particularly the Business Migrant (Innovator) & (Start up), which it would appear will not trigger any negative Chinese reaction.
- In general, the Business Migrant (Innovator) & (Start up) routes may be more suitable than the BN(O) visa for many Hong Kong people looking to establish or join a business in the Isle of Man, particularly as the Innovator route allows Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) to be obtained in only three years, and British citizenship to be applied for after only five years (compared with five years for ILR and six years for British citizenship in the case of the BN(O) Visa).
Kinley Legal has a long association with Hong Kong and a proven track record of assisting Hong Kong people with all types of Isle of Man immigration applications. Please contact us to find out more about how to make your relocation a reality.
How good does my English need to be?
You will not need to demonstrate your English level in your initial application. You will require a good knowledge of the English language at the point of application for Indefinite Leave to Remain, for instance by passing an IELTS Life Skills SELT test at CEFR level B2 in speaking and listening.
Can I bring my family?
Yes, this category allows a spouse or partner and dependant children to move with the main applicant, and they can work, subject to work permits and conditions set out in the Immigration Rules. Older, non-dependant children may need to be considered as a separate case: Kinley Legal can advise on this.
Can I live in the UK if I have an Isle of Man BN(O) visa?
If you intend to live in the UK, you should apply for the UK BN(O) Visa rather than in the Isle of Man. However, if you are granted an Isle of Man BN(O) Visa and at some point after arrival decide to move to the UK instead, we do not expect that you will have to re-apply for the UK BN(O) Visa. Provided that you comply with the conditions of the visa, you can visit the UK without restriction on an Isle of Man BN(O) Visa, including having a second home there.
Do I need a criminal record certificate to obtain this visa?
As the BN(O) Visa will not be available until 2021 and the Immigration Rules have not yet been published, we do not know whether a criminal record certificate will be required. If required, Kinley Legal has wide experience of assisting clients obtaining Certificates of No Criminal Convictions from the Hong Kong Police. In any event, you will have to disclose all criminal convictions, including those considered spent, as part of your application.
Do I need to pay NHS Surcharge?
No, there is no NHS Surcharge in the Isle of Man. This means that the costs of making an Isle of Man visa application are often considerably cheaper than in the UK.
Do I need a work permit in addition to my visa?
The main holder of a BN(O) Visa and your dependants may need Isle of Man work permits. However, there is a range of exemptions from the Work Permit requirement. Kinley Legal can help assess whether or not work permits are required.
If I applied for this visa, but get refused, can Kinley Legal help?
Yes, contact us as soon as possible so we can discuss your options. Unlike in the UK, in the Isle of Man applicants have a full right of appeal against immigration decisions, which means that if you have wrongly been refused, an appeal can often be heard by an independent immigration judge within weeks.