LONDON (UK) – Close to 5,000 Hong Kong citizens have signed up for UK visa to live, work and study in the United Kingdom. The move comes under a new visa scheme which opens up a path to British citizenship for people fleeing China’s crackdown in Hong Kong.
About half of the 5,000 applications received were from Hongkongers who were already in Britain, The Times reported, citing sources. Under the rules, Hong Kong residents who hold a British National Overseas (BNO) passport will be allowed to live in the United Kingdom for five years and then apply for “settled status” and citizenship.
Changes were made to the BNO visa rules to give millions of Hong Kong residents a chance to settle in Britain after China imposed a new security law that democracy activists say will end the freedoms promised to the territory in 1997.
Nearly 5.4 million Hong Kong citizens could be ultimately be eligible for British citizenship under the scheme.
Those people had already been offered temporary settlement in the United Kingdom after fleeing China’s security crackdown while waiting for the visa change.
While Britain’s interior ministry declined to comment on the information, a spokeswoman said the data would be published in the coming months.
China and Hong Kong have said they will no longer recognise the BNO passport as a valid travel document from Jan. 31. BNO status was created by Britain in 1987 specifically for Hong Kong residents. Beijing said it would make them second-class citizens
The British government suggests that the new visa could attract more than 300,000 people and their dependants to Britain.