To move or not to move? Life in the UK with the BN(O) visa

By and Published February 25, 2021

Since 31 January 2021, 5.4 million people in Hong Kong, out of the city’s population of 7.5 million, have been eligible to apply for the British National (Overseas) visa, which offers them a path to British citizenship.

Britain introduced the new visa in response to the national security law which Beijing imposed on Hong Kong last June, declaring the legislation a “clear and serious breach” of the Sino-British Joint Declaration that was signed between the two countries before the 1997 handover.

The new BN(O) visa would allow everyone with BN(O) status, and their dependants, to live, study and work in Britain and, after six years, apply for citizenship.

Hong Kong residents who registered as British National (Overseas) citizens before July 1, 1997, can apply for the BN(O) visa for themselves and their family members from January 31, 2021.

Find out if you’re eligible for this visa route by taking the following quiz.

1/7. Do you hold BN(O) status?

Unless you are a dependant of those who have BN(O) status, you are not eligible for the visa.

If you do not hold BN(O) status and are aged between 18 and 30, you can apply for the youth mobility scheme, which has 1,000 places available each year.

Individuals from Hong Kong will also be able to apply to come to Britain under the terms of the country’s new Points Based System, allowing people in based on a wider range of professions and at a lower general salary threshold than in the past.

Congrats! Please move on to the next question.

2/7. Do you normally live in Hong Kong or Britain?

You have to be ordinarily a resident in Hong Kong, which includes those currently in Britain but who are also ordinary residents in Hong Kong.

Congrats! Please move on to the next question.

3/7. Can you financially support yourself in Britain for at least six months?

You need to demonstrate your ability to accommodate and support yourself in Britain for at least six months.

As well as money for housing costs, you’ll need at least the same amount as someone who would get on Income Support in Britain.

How much you need depends on how many family members are applying with you. For example, you’ll need about:

  • • £2,000 as a single adult
  • • £3,100 as a couple with a child
  • • £4,600 as a couple with 3 children
  • • £9,200 as a couple with 2 parents and 2 adult children

Congrats! Please move on to the next question.

4/7. Are you comfortable communicating in English/committed to learning English?

On entry, there will be no English language requirement. But when you apply to settle in Britain after living there for five years, you will be asked to take an English-language test and another called the Life in the UK Test, which is about your knowledge of the country. Some people will not be required to take the English-language test though. They include people aged 65 or above, or those with a degree taught in English.

Congrats! Please move on to the next question.

5/7. Can you get a tuberculosis test certificate?

You need to hold a current tuberculosis test certificate from a clinic approved by the UK Home Office.

Congrats! Please move on to the next question.

6/7. Can you pay a fee for the visa and an immigration health surcharge of £3,120 per adult for five years?

Sorry, you must pay for the fee. The visa application fee costs:

  • • £180 if you’re applying for two years and six months
  • • £250 if you’re applying for five years

(You’ll also need to pay £19.20 to have your fingerprints and a photo [biometric information] taken as part of your application.)

You and your family members will also each need to pay the health care surcharge. This is so you can use the National Health Service (NHS) in Britain. You’ll still need to pay for some NHS care such as prescriptions, dental care and eye tests.

  • For each adult (18 or older) it costs:
  • • £1,560 if you’re staying for two years and six months
  • • £3,120 if you’re staying for five years
  • For each child (under 18), it costs:
  • • £1,175 if you’re staying for two years and six months
  • • £2,350 if you’re staying for five years

You pay the health care surcharge as part of your online visa application

Congrats! Please move on to the next question.

7/7. Do you have serious criminal convictions?

Congrats! Please submit your answers.

You should not have engaged in behaviour unconducive to the public good as deemed by the government, and not be subject to other general grounds for refusal in Britain's immigration rules.


You meet all the requirements. You can apply to settle in Britain (known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’) after you’ve lived there for five years, and gain citizenship after an additional 12 months. You will enjoy the right to work, access to health care and education but not recourse to public funds.


You need to meet all the above criteria set out by the British government to apply for the Hong Kong BN(O) visa. Please feel free to find out more about the situation facing Hongkongers who are interested in moving to Britain.

How many people will apply for the visa?

A British government estimate published last October predicted that more than a million Hongkongers might move there over the next five years, although that was the maximum forecast. A more likely number was estimated to be around 320,000 over five years.

Sources: UK Parliament, UK Home Office

Median monthly wage of full-time workers by industry

Salaries in London are higher than the median monthly wage in Hong Kong across most key industries. The biggest difference is for those working in finance and insurance who would earn around £5,000 per month in London, compared to £3,000 per month in Hong Kong. Those working in science, construction and IT all earn significantly more in London than Hong Kong. The salaries closest to those earned in Hong Kong are for jobs in real estate, administration, and the food and beverage sector. (However, the standard salary tax rate in Hong Kong is 15 per cent, compared to between 20 per cent and 45 per cent in Britain, depending on how much you earn.)

Sources: Office for National Statistics; Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

Annual gross earnings in London, 2019

Annual earnings in London in 2019 ranged from £16,000 per year to more than £110,000 per year. The graphic below offers a guide to the job market in London. To find out how much your job earns in London, type in an occupation in the search bar below.

Source: Office for National Statistics

Average weekly household expenditure in London

Housing costs, fuel and power typically take up the most of a weekly budget for a household of 2.6 people, costing around £129 per week. Transport costs make up around £78 per week. The total weekly budget is estimated at around £686 per week.

Notes: The data is based on a three-year average from 2017-19 for an average number of 2.6 persons per household; Housing expense excluding mortgage interest payments, council tax and Northern Ireland rates.

Source: Office for National Statistics;

Housing affordability

Hong Kong has racked up a 11th straight year in 2021 as the world’s least affordable housing market

A family in the city would need to save up for 20.7 years to afford a home in the city, according to the annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Study, which ranks 92 major markets across the world based on median affordability scores. In contrast, the same family would need to save 8.6 years for a home in London and 5.8 years in New York.

Click on the play button below to experience the speed of buying a home in the three cities.

Source: Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey

Average house price and floor area in London

The average price of a property in England is £266,742. However London house prices are significantly higher than the average with the most expensive borough to purchase a property being Kensington and Chelsea, where the average cost was £1.5 million in 2020.The cheapest borough to purchase a property was Barking and Dagenham, where the average cost was £302,000 in 2020.

Hover/tap the map to see more details

Notes: The data for average home prices is collected from residential property transactions in November 2020; Monthly rents data is based on self-contained properties with two bedrooms including houses, bungalows, flats and maisonettes and was recorded between October 2018 and September 2019. All figures excluded commercial transactions.

Sources: HM Land Registry; Valuation Office Agency

Dwellings in London are smaller than in other regions in Britain, because 49 per cent of the stock in London is comprised of flats. However, a London flat is larger than the average Hong Kong flat at around 63 square metres compared to 47 square metres.

Notes: The size of the median floor area of Hong Kong accommodation is based on the calculation of private residential flats, villas, bungalows, modern village houses and simple stone structures as well as traditional village houses in 2016. The data for floor space in London was collected from Q1 2012 to Q1 2015.

Sources: London datastore; Census and Statistics Department

Average price by property type in London

A combination of foreign demand, including those from emigrating Hongkongers, and a rush to beat the impending property tax, pushed London home prices to rise, according to a study by a London-based real estate agency, Benham and Reeves. A detached house in London costs an average of £963, 565, a semi-detached house is £615, 937, while a terraced house costs £527, 239 with a flat being the cheapest option at £418, 740, according to data collected in October 2020.

















Source: HM Land Registry

Cost of living

Hong Kong topped research data firm ECA International’s list of the most expensive cities in the world for overseas workers while London ranked sixth place, according to the data released in December 2020. Take a closer look at the cost of common items including groceries and recreational goods in the two cities. For example a Big Mac is £1.89 in Hong Kong compared to £3.39 in London. However, milk is almost double the cost in Hong Kong at £2.18.

  • Big Mac



  • Regular eggs


    12 count

  • Coca-Cola Zero


    2 Liter

  • Starbucks Latte


    Tall size

  • Milk



  • Marlboro Gold


    20 pack

  • IPhone 12 Pro



  • Nintendo Switch



  • Netflix Premium


    Per month

  • Adidas Ultraboost


    1 pair

  • Gasoline-95


    Per liter

  • 1GB data


    Average price

Sources: Wellcome; Tesco; Adidas; Starbucks; Apple store; Netflix;;; Numbeo

Medical services

The National Health Service is the publicly funded healthcare system in England. Most NHS services are free to people who are ordinarily resident in Britain. British National (Overseas) visa applicants will each need to pay the health care surcharge as part of their online visa application so they can use the National Health Service (NHS). However, patients will still need to pay for some NHS care such as prescriptions, dental care and eye tests. As stated on the NHS website, the prescription charge is currently £9.15 for each prescribed item. Hong Kong’s public hospitals, heavily funded by the government, provide not free but “near-free” service to local residents.

Charges of public hospital services in Hong Kong

Notes: The medical services for Accident & Emergency, Specialist outpatient, General outpatient, Dressing or injection are charged as per attendance, Inpatient is charged as per day and community nursing service is as per visit

Source: Hong Kong Hospital Authority;

Hong Kong has one of the world’s top ranked medical services. Its public hospitals take 90 per cent of the patients in the city. But the universal, low-cost public health care system has a downside – including long waiting times due to a shortage of practitioners and increasing numbers of older people. Although Britain is among countries with the highest number of recorded Covid-19 cases, the median waiting time in the NHS is still less than that in Hong Kong’s public hospital system. The NHS set a goal of an 18-week waiting list target for its non-urgent referrals. Below is a chart comparing median waiting times for non-urgent cases in Hong Kong’s public hospitals and the NHS in London commissioning region by specialist treatments.

Waiting time for public hospitals in Hong Kong and London

Notes: The data for Hong Kong Hospital Clusters is based on specialist outpatient clinics in Hong Kong East, Hong Kong West, Kowloon East, Kowloon Central, Kowloon West, New Territories East and New Territories West reported between January 2020 and December 2020. The figures for London are based on the average waiting times for patients waiting to start treatment by NHS providers in the London Commissioning region as of November 2020.

Sources: Hong Kong Hospital Authority; NHS England and NHS Improvement

1 GBP = 10.75 HKD
1 HKD = 0.09 GBP

Creative Director Darren Long.
Illustration by Marcelo Duhalde and Adolfo Arranz
3D illustrations by Dennis Wong
Additional Web development by Yaser Ibrahim

Reporting by Laura Westbrook and Holly Chik
Edited by Phila Siu, Yi Hui Tan and James Cook

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