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March 7

Ordinary Residence requirement for BNO Visas


OTB Legal

Understanding the Ordinary Residence requirement for the BNO visa.

The Hong Kong BNO visa is quite generous compared to many other types of visa. The fees are low, there is no English language requirement and in some cases it allows applicants to bring grandchildren or their adult relatives who require care. It is also possible to apply for a BNO visa from inside the UK if you are a visitor, which is highly unusual.

However, we are increasingly seeing refusals where applicants cannot meet one key requirement of the visa- the ordinary residence requirement. Usually, these are the partners of BNO nationals who have never lived in Hong Kong themselves. The couple may have met while studying abroad or travelling. This has become a bigger problem since the rules changed to allow the grown up children of BNO status holders to apply independently if they were born after 1st July 1997. These applicants are more likely to be younger and at an earlier stage in their personal relationships.

What is the ‘ordinary residence’ requirement for the BNO visa

The details of the requirement depends whether you are applying inside the UK, or from outside the UK.

The ordinary residence requirement applies to all applicants, including dependent children and partners of the main applicant.

If you are applying from outside the UK

All applicants applying from outside the UK must prove that they are ‘ordinarily resident’ in Hong Kong when they submit their application. If any applicant is not ordinarily resident in Hong Kong, they will be refused.

Applicants must show that they are ordinarily resident at the date that they submit their application. If the applicant previously lived in Hong Kong but doesn’t live there anymore, then their visa may be refused.

If you are applying from inside the UK

The rules for in-country applicants are more generous than those applying to out-of-country applicants.

All applicants applying from inside the UK must show that they are ordinarily resident in one of the following places;

  • Hong Kong;
  • UK;
  • The Bailiwick of Guernsey;
  • Bailiwick of Jersey;
  • The Isle of Man;

If an applicant is not ordinarily resident in any of those places, then they will not be granted a visa on the Hong Kong (BNO) route. However, the caseworker has the option to grant them ‘leave outside the rules’ (LOTR) for 12 months.

LOTR allows the applicant to live, work and study in the UK for 12 months. It gives the applicant the opportunity to establish ordinary residence in the UK. At the end of the 12 month period, they can re-apply for leave on the Hong Kong BNO route. By that time, they should meet the requirement.

It’s important to understand that LOTR is not guaranteed. The caseworker has the discretion to grant LOTR, but they don’t have to. The Home Office do not publish the factors that they take into account when deciding whether to make a grant of LOTR.

Unfortunately, this is only possible if you make an application inside the UK.  

What if I can’t meet the ordinary residence requirement?

If you or your dependant family member does not meet the requirement, then you can consider the following options;

If you are applying in-country, request that the caseworker exercise discretion and grant LOTR;

If you are applying from outside the UK, consider whether you can establish ordinary residence in Hong Kong before applying for your BNO visa. As set out above, there is no minimum period that you have to live in Hong Kong in order to establish ordinary residence. The key issue is that you are living in Hong Kong and not just visiting Hong Kong.

You could also consider whether you could apply for a different type of visa to live in the UK, and then switch into the Hong Kong BNO route at a later date. You can see some potential options in our article ‘what type of visa can I get’.

How we can help

If you have concerns about the ordinary residence, we can advise on whether we think that you meet the requirement and how to prove it. We also have extensive experience with applications that include a request for LOTR.

If you are concerned about these issues, you can contact our expert team and book a FREE initial consultation here:

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