Hong Kong tells 14 countries to stop accepting BN(O) passports for working holiday applications

Danny Mok
·2-min read

Hong Kong has told 14 countries to stop accepting British National (Overseas) passports as a valid travel document for applicants of working holiday visas, in the latest enforcement of countermeasures against London for offering its residents with BN(O) status a pathway to citizenship.

A government spokesman said local applicants to the young people’s working holiday scheme should instead present their Hong Kong passports and that partner countries had been informed of the requirement.

Reacting to media reports of the new instruction for consulates, the spokesman said that “BN(O) passports are no longer recognised as a valid travel document and proof of identity in Hong Kong” as part of the response to the British government’s “blatant interference” in China and the city’s internal affairs.

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The administration was referring to Britain’s offer of a route to citizenship for 5.4 million eligible Hongkongers, issued in July following Beijing’s imposition of a national security law on the city.

Britain granted BN(O) status to 3.4 million Hong Kong residents born before the 1997 handover, when the city returned to Chinese sovereignty.

A new visa allows everyone with BN(O) status and their dependents to stay in Britain for up to five years, with the right to work and study, and to apply for citizenship after six years.

A diplomatic row broke out at the visa’s launch in January, with Beijing saying it would stop recognising the passports as travel and identification documents.

The working holiday scheme, which is available to Hongkongers aged between 18 and 30, seeks to facilitate cultural and educational exchange between the city and the other registered jurisdictions. It is popular with young Hongkongers wanting to get work experience in Europe, North America and parts of Asia.

Officials from Japan, South Korea, Italy and New Zealand, which are among the signatories to the scheme, told Reuters they still recognised the passport for visas.

Hungary, which joined the scheme in 2016, reportedly said it had received the letter and was discussing changes to the programme. The Post has contacted Hungary’s consulate general in the city for comments on Thursday.

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