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BN(O) Visa

Allowing British Nationals (Overseas) from Hong Kong and their families to move to the Isle of Man

BN(O) Visa


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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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