Short termCurrently Hong Kongers do not require a visa to enter the UK for short-term stays for purposes such as tourism, leisure or business. However, the UK electronic travel authorisation (ETA) for Hong Kong travellers will become a mandatory requirement in late 2024, when the official launch is expected.
LONG TERMHong Kongers who plan on visiting the UK for the long term or with the intention to settle in the UK will need a visa specific to their needs.The well-known BN(O) visa route is clearly very attractive but there are still many other immigration options available for Hong Kongers who are not eligible or who do not wish to apply under the BN(O) visa route.
Is there a ‘6-month in 12 months’ (or 180 day a year) rules?This is the most common immigration myth, and you may be pleased to know that there is actually no such rule. There is no specified maximum period in the immigration rules that an individual can spend in the UK as long as each visit does not exceed the maximum period for that visit, normally 6 months. However, if it is clear from your travel history that you are seeking to remain in the UK for extended periods or making the UK your home, the entry to the UK will be refused. This is because longer periods of stay in the UK comes with a rebuttable presumption of ‘non-genuine visit’.Nevertheless, spending over 183 days in the UK in any tax year may trigger UK tax residency.
Are you an innovative entrepreneur?Innovator Founder visa opened in April 2023, designed for individuals who wish to set up and run a UK-based enterprise, without the need to show any initial capital to invest in the business and allowing you to take employment alongside running your own business.A key requirement is that you must be endorsed by a Home Office approved endorsing body who will then assess your business in the aspects of innovation, viability, and scalability.Therefore, a meticulously researched and well-structured business plan is crucial for the application and we, Quastels LLP, has a track record of securing endorsements for game-changing ventures, like a recent beverage company leveraging the metaverse and NFT tech.
Do you have a job offer from a UK business or work closely with a UK-based business partner?The UK’s main work visa route is called Skilled Worker visa, which is under a sponsorship system. This means you cannot simply apply for this visa unaided and securing a job offer from a UK business is a prerequisite for this visa route.There are currently over 61,153 licence holders in the UK but you may not be aware that any UK employer who is a legitimate business trading in the UK is eligible to apply for a sponsor licence, including a one-person business. Therefore, although the Register of licenced sponsors list is an extremely helpful tool to look for visa sponsorship, don’t limit yourself to any possibility.
Is your company looking to expand to the UK?Global Business Mobility visa provides five pathways for overseas firms to establish a UK footprint or transfer staff to the UK. If you own or are employed by an overseas company, this visa allows you to enter and work in the UK as a representative of your company, then potentially be sponsored by the UK establishment and switch into the above-mentioned Skilled Worker route.
Are you a talented and promising individual?
Global Talent visa is one of the most interesting types of visas as it covers a wide range of industries such as science, research, engineering, humanities, social science, medicine, architecture, digital technology, arts and culture, fashion, film, and television.
The most complex part of the process is to get endorsed by a Home Office approved endorsing body who will assess your career history including your international standing, the significance of your work and the impact of your activity in a company or as an individual. Each endorsing body has very different criteria and so it is crucial that you thoroughly read and understand their specific assessment criteria.
Are you aged 18 to 30?Youth Mobility Scheme visa is designed to enable people aged 18-30 to live and work in the UK for two years. It is straightforward to apply for, however, you should be aware that there is a cap of 1,000 places for Hong Konger and you must be selected in the ballot, which is typically opened in January and July each year.
Are you a graduate of Chinese University of Hong Kong or University of Hong Kong in the last 5 years?High Potential Individual visa allows recent graduates of a top global university to live and work in the UK without any sponsorship for two years (or 3 years for PhD or other doctoral qualification), which means you will not be tied to a particular job, you can be employed or self-employed.
Are you looking to join an internship programme in the UK?Government Authorised Exchange visa is for individuals who want to come to the UK for a short time for work experience for up to 12 months or to do training, research or an Overseas Government Language Programme for up to 24 months.
Owning to the UK’s colonial history with Hong Kong, you may want to explore whether you have a claim to British citizenship under the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1990.
For example, if one of your parents were granted British dependent territories citizenship by the Hong Kong government between January 1983 and June 1997, amongst other ways to potentially qualify through a British parent, ancestor or colonial connection.
Changes to the Immigration Rules in recent years have created many new opportunities for people to relocate to the UK.
However, navigating the UK visa system can be complex and the Immigration Rules contain strict requirements.
Consulting with an experienced immigration lawyer at Quastels LLP is crucial to ensure you understand the most appropriate visa options and comply with all legal requirements. Our team is here to guide you through the process and provide tailored advice based on your unique circumstances.
To discuss any of the points raised in this article, please contact Cheryl Ma or fill in the form below.