- Boris Johnson has announced that the UK will allow around 3 million Hong Kong residents to live and work in the UK
- Under the scheme, Hong Kong citizens with British visa rights will be allowed to apply for a five year visa before becoming eligible for full British citizenship.
- The move came after Beijing introduced a controversial security law in Hong Kong which has already seen hundreds of protesters arrested.
- Here are the full details on how the visa application system for Hong Kong residents might look and what we know so far.
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Boris Johnson has confirmed that the UK will allow around 3 million Hong Kong residents to apply for residency in the UK.
The move comes after China passed a controversial national security law in Hong Kong which critics say allow Beijing to clamp down on freedoms on the semi-autonomous island.
Speaking on Wednesday, the UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who called the national security law a "grave and deeply disturbing step," set out details of the UK's residency offer to millions of Hong Kong citizens.
Which Hong Kong residents will be able to apply for a British visa?
The new immigration offer will allow a group of Hong Kongers called British National (Overseas) Citizens (BNOs) to apply for UK residency. Dominic Raab said there are about 3 million eligible BNOs, 300,000 of whom already hold British passports.
Applicants will be able to apply for a five-year visa, which allows them to live, work and study in the UK. At the end of those five years, those people will be able to apply in the UK for indefinite leave to remain in the UK, and one year after that they will be able to apply for British citizenship.
How much will a visa application cost?
Dominic Raab said on Wednesday that Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, would set out further details of the immigration scheme "in due course," so it remains unclear exactly what immigration route will be available to BNOs.
John Vassilou, a lawyer specialising in immigration and nationality at law firm McGill & Co, said on the Free Movement website that he believed the visa route would be similar to the UK Ancestry visa.
If the visa route for British Overseas Nationals in Hong Kong did mirror the UK Ancestry visa, it would cost £516 (4,990 Hong Kong dollars) and requires people to submit applications 3 months before they travel at the earliest.
Will Hong Kong residents have to pay the NHS surcharge?
While the UK Ancestry visa is significantly cheaper than many others, it also requires applicants to pay the health surcharge, an annual fee levied on many visa applications which permits people to access NHS services.
In all likelihood, Hong Kong residents will have to pay this charge, which currently applies to all visa applicants from outside the European Economic Area.
The health surcharge will cost £624 a year for adults from October 2020, which would amount to a total of £3120 over the initial five-year period for which eligible Hong Kong citizens able to apply for residency. Rates are discounted for children.
However, the annual health surcharge has risen steeply in recent years. It was £200 in 2018, before rising to the current £400 before it rises again later this year, meaning fees could have risen further if Hong Kong residents apply in future years.
At current rates, Vassilou said, a family of four applying to come to the UK could expect to pay — up front — £10,940 on the health surcharge, as well as £2,064 on visa fees.
How much would indefinite leave to remain cost?
Applying for indefinite leave to remain — which Hong Kong residents would be eligible to apply for after five years — costs a further £2,389 per person.
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