Advice for British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) visa holders

What is a BN(O) visa?

If you are from Hong Kong and are a British national (overseas), you and your family members can apply for a British National (Overseas) visa. This is a BN(O) visa. The visa allows you to live, work and study in the UK.

You can apply for a BN(O) visa from inside or outside the UK. The visa allows you to enter or stay in the UK for a period of 30 months (which you can extend by a further 30 months) or a period of 5 years.

A BN(O) visa has a ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) condition. This means that a BN(O) visa holder cannot get government benefits or any other support classed as public funds. This includes benefits like Universal Credit and Child Benefit. However, if you are at risk of destitution, you can apply for a change of conditions of leave. This will allow you to claim benefits. For further information on NRPF, click the button below.

You can find everything you need to know about applying for a BN(O) visa on the government website.

What if I overstayed my visa?

The BN(O) visa allows you to apply to stay for either 2 years and 6 months, or 5 years. You are able to extend your visa once you’re in the UK if you want to stay longer, the BN(O) visa allows you to apply for an extension before your visa’s expiry date.

You can apply to extend your visa as many times as you want, however it is important that you make note of your visa’s expiry date so that you don’t overstay. The Home Office won’t remind you when your visa, or leave, expires. If you’re not sure when your leave expires, check your biometric residence permit, online immigration status or any stamp or sticker in your passport.

If you have overstayed your visa you need to seek immigration advice. To find an Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) Adviser, click here. To find an immigration solicitor, click here.

You could also contact Citizen’s Advice using the Adviceline (England): 0800 144 8848 or web chat service.

You could also speak to someone at UK Visa and Immigration contact centre via telephone: 0300 790 6268 – select option 2. The contact centre is open Monday to Thursday (excluding bank holidays), 9am to 4:45pm and Friday (excluding bank holidays), 9am to 4:30pm.

Waiting for a decision

If you have been waiting for more than 6 months for a decision on your BN(O) visa, you can contact your local Member of Parliament (MP). They can contact the Home Office on your behalf. You can search for your local MP online.

Rights to work and rent

You can only use share codes to prove your right to work and right to rent. A share code is valid for 90 days and it can be used multiple times during this period.

You can find out more about proving your right to rent and right to work on the government website.

Employers and landlords cannot accept physical documents for a right to work or right to rent check, even if they show a later expiry date.

Routes to citizenship and settlement

The BN(O) visa route offers a route to citizenship.

After 5 continuous years in the UK, a BN(O) visa holder will be able to apply for settlement (indefinite leave to remain). After a further 12 months, you will then be able to apply for citizenship. 

To count as a continuous year in the UK, you should not have spent more than 180 days outside of the UK in any given 12-month period.  

There is more information on the route to settlement and citizenship on the government website.

Home Fee Status

Aside from some exceptional immigration categories, individuals must generally be resident and ‘settled’ in the UK to be eligible for home fee status and student finance. They must generally also have been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for the three years before that date.

Students from Hong Kong with a British National (Overseas) visa have immigration restrictions on their stay and so are not settled. In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, such students are therefore not eligible for home fee status or student finance. This means they must pay international fees and cannot access publicly funded loans or grants. After they have lived in the UK for five years, they can apply to live in the UK permanently, and so would become eligible for home student status.

Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)

Temporary migrants in the UK usually pay an annual ‘surcharge’, which raises funds for healthcare spending. The Immigration Health Surcharge increased from £624 to £1,035 per year on 6 February 2024. The IHS would cost £2,587.50 if staying for two years and six months, or £5,175 if staying for five years, for adults. The cost for children under 18 is cheaper.