Easy path to citizenship makes UK top choice for Hongkongers fleeing political upheaval, says Midland Immigration Consultancy

Lam Ka-sing
·3-min read

The UK is by far the most desirable destination for Hongkongers looking to up sticks and leave, with inquiries skyrocketing this year, according to Midland Immigration Consultancy.

The proportion of Hong Kong people considering a move to the UK has surged by nearly 50 percentage points to 84 per cent of total emigration enquiries this year, data from Midland shows.

“The number of Hongkongers who liked the UK showed the largest increase because the threshold for Britain is the lowest among [choices like] Australia, Canada,” said Tina Cheng, senior strategy director at Midland. “Hong Kong people simply holding BN(O) can apply to move to England, with almost no other requirement than living there for a period of time.”

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British National (Overseas) passports were issued to Hongkongers born before the 1997 handover.

Beijing’s imposition in the summer of a sweeping national security law widely seen as a suppression of Hong Kong’s freedoms has prompted many citizens to think about relocating.

In July the British home secretary, Priti Patel, said the controversial new law had breached the Sino-British Joint Declaration – laying out the terms of the Hong Kong’s 1997 territorial handover – and “could not be ignored”.

Some 216,398 Hong Kong residents received BN(O) passports during the first 10 months of the year, higher than any annual figure stretching back to 1997, according to data provided by the UK’s Passport Office obtained by Bloomberg. As of December last year, about 300,000 Hongkongers held a BN(O) passport.

In October, the British government announced it would also create a special class of visa next January for Hong Kong holders of BN(O) passports and their close family members as the first step in a new pathway to earning the right of abode in the country and full British citizenship.

This has prompted a lot of Hong Kong families holding BN(O) passports to start thinking about the UK to secure what they see as a good education and life for the next generation.

The number of people approaching Midland – one of many consultancies in the city – about emigrating from Hong Kong peaked at 800 in May.

Australia and Canada have also seen a surge of interest from Hongkongers keen to relocate.

Thanks to a relaxation of immigration laws, Australia saw an increase in enquiries of 30 percentage points while Canada’s rose nearly 10 percentage points.

In July, Australia announced the extension of temporary graduation and work visas for Hong Kong people, paving the way for permanent residency applications. Canada in November announced that with effect from 2021 it would relax the migration route too.

Because of the easier paths to migration being offered by some Western nations, Asian countries saw a decline of 30 per cent in inquiries during the same period.

As Hongkongers now have more choices, Cheng said the initial scramble for applications to emigrate seen in the summer would subside. People will slow down and collect more data before making a decision, which may eventually halve the number of immigration queries, he predicted.

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