UK Government Extends Citizenship offer to Hong Kong Residents

The British government is proposing to offer a pathway to citizenship for around 3 million residents of Hong Kong. The move is a response to China’s introduction of a new national security law in the Special Administrative Region. The UK views this as a breach of the agreement surrounding the handover of the territory in 1997.

“We made clear that if China continued down this path we would introduce a new route for those with British National Overseas Status to enter the UK, granting them limited leave to remain, with the ability to live and work in the UK, and thereafter to apply for citizenship,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom.

Some three million Hong Kong residents are thought to be eligible for British National Overseas Status. Under current regulations, a British Overseas National is able to move to the United Kingdom for six months.

In response to developments in Hong Kong, the British government is planning to extend that period from six months to five years. UK rules mean a person can apply for citizenship if they can prove they have lived in the United Kingdom for five years.

This is not the first time the United Kingdom has taken such a step. In the 1970s, thousands of Ugandans of Indian descent emigrated to London after they were expelled by Idi Amin. Many Kenyan Indians also migrated to the United Kingdom around this time.

With Hong Kong, the scale could be one-hundred-times larger. While it is estimated that around 30,000 Ugandan Asians emigrated to Britain in the 1970s, around 3,000,000 Hong Kong residents could claim the right to take up the British government’s opportunity.

Just how many people would seek to emigrate is uncertain. The younger generation are likely to be more receptive to the move. Hong Kong remains a major global business hub, despite the febrile situation on the streets.

That said, to be eligible for the British National Overseas Status, a person must have been born prior to the handover in 1997. This means that a person under the age of 23 might not be eligible.

So what are the alternatives? Well, Britain is just one of the options open to Hong Kong residents seeking a way out. The United States, for example, has a range of visas that could be attractive to Hong Kong residents. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa program offers a Green Card in exchange for a $900,000 investment in the US.

Each country is limited to 700 EB-5 visas per year. Fortunately, Hong Kong is eligible for its own quota, separate to China. The EB-5 program in China has been oversubscribed for years, and Chinese face a long waiting list. Please note, the EB-5 program is determined by country of birth.

Alternatively, countries all around the world offer citizenship by investment programs. The two countries with the fastest and most cost-effective programs are Grenada and Turkey. Grenadian citizenship can be obtained in less than two months starting from just $150,000.

Both Turkey and Grenada offer the additional benefit of providing Hong Kong residents with access to the United States E-2 Visa. This non-immigrant visa allows a person to move invest around $100,000 or more to acquire or start-up a business in the United States.

Davies & Associates can help our Hong Kong clients with all the aforementioned visas, including their interest in the United Kingdom. Please contact us to discuss your specific circumstances.

Written by Duncan Hill, Marketing Director, D&A. This article is published for clients, friends and other interested visitors for information purposes only. The contents of the article do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Davies & Associates or any of its attorneys, staff or clients.

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