The United Kingdom has extended a new visa scheme for British National (Overseas) Passport holders offering them a pathway to British citizenship, after China imposed national security law. The law has been brought to put down the democratic protests in Hong Kong that often turn violent. The visa offers grants working and living rights to BN(O) passport holders.
Starting today, anyone with a BN(O) passport and their dependents can apply online for the visa. The visa would allow them to live, study and work in Britain for five years and then eventually apply for British citizenship. Reportedly, there are 2.9 citizens who are eligible for the visa. The British government has estimated that including dependents approximately 3,00,000 people will be moving to the UK in the first five years. In response China has announced that it will not be recognizing BN(O) as a legal travel document from 31st January.
Since last July, 7000 Hong Kong citizens had moved to the United Kingdom before the scheme was announced were also allowed to settle by being granted Leave Outside the Rules provision which allows the government to make exception in immigration rules on certain grounds.
Referring to the move Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “”I am immensely proud that we have brought in this new route for Hong Kong BNOs to live, work and make their home in our country. In doing so we have honoured our profound ties of history and friendship with the people of Hong Kong, and we have stood up for freedom and autonomy – values both the UK and Hong Kong hold dear.”
On the other hand, Chinese foreign ministry has called the scheme a violation of the country’s sovereignty. China had warned the UK earlier as well to not interfere in its domestic issues.