Number of Hongkongers applying for BN(O) visas this quarter drops to 10,100 as inflation in Britain rises, says experts

number of hongkongers applying for bn(o) visas this quarter drops to 10,100 as inflation in britain rises, says experts

Just over 10,100 Hongkongers applied for a route to British citizenship in the third quarter of the year, marking the sharpest decline since the visa programme was launched last year, official data released on Thursday showed.

The number of applications received between July and September – down by 8,000 compared with the April to June period– was also the lowest since the British National (Overseas) visa scheme was launched in January 2021.

Immigration specialists attributed the decline to the worsening economic situation in Britain and that Hongkongers who were most eager to migrate would have done so in the first year of the scheme.

According to the data released by the Home Office, 10,100 Hongkongers applied for the pathway to British citizenship in the third quarter, taking the total to more than 150,600 from its launch on January 31 last year up until September. About 96 per cent of them – or 144,576 – were approved.

number of hongkongers applying for bn(o) visas this quarter drops to 10,100 as inflation in britain rises, says experts

High inflation in the UK may have contributed to the drop in applications, experts say. Photo: AP

Almost all of the applications in the third quarter – 93 per cent – were filed from outside Britain and the remainder were made from inside the United Kingdom. There were 6,300 main applicants, with 3,800 dependents.

Willis Fu Yiu-wai, a senior immigration consultant at Goldmax Associates, said a gradual decline in the number of applications was to be expected because people highly keen on emigrating would typically apply in the first year of the scheme.

“In my opinion, the recent economic situation would be one of the factors affecting the decline of BN(O) applications,” he said, with Britain in a recession and battling surging food and energy prices.

High inflation in the UK together with a drop in Hong Kong property prices were also factors making prospective applicants take a “wait and see” approach, Fu argued, saying some potential clients with property had told him they were not willing to sell right now.

number of hongkongers applying for bn(o) visas this quarter drops to 10,100 as inflation in britain rises, says experts

Professor Eric Fong Wai-ching, an expert in migration and urban sociology at the University of Hong Kong, said he believed most families moved during summer to accommodate children’s school schedule, so the drop in the past quarter was not surprising.

Pointing to the total number of applications made this year, about 47,700, Fong said: “A more notable phenomenon is that a large number of people have still been moving in 2022 … from Hong Kong to the UK alone, not including other countries.”

Antonia Grant, an immigration lawyer at legal firm Baker McKenzie, said Britain was competing against other countries hoping to attract foreign talent with new visa schemes, such as Dubai, which could account for the drop in figures.

“I think it all impacts particularly with emerging issues in the UK economy,” Grant said.

An estimated 5.4 million people out of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million population are eligible for the scheme, which allows successful applicants and their dependents to live, work, and study in Britain for up to five years, after which they can apply for citizenship.

Britain launched the visa after Beijing imposed the national security law on Hong Kong, which the UK described as a “clear and serious breach” of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration that laid out the conditions for the city’s return to Chinese rule.

Canada and Australia have also offered “lifeboat” settlement schemes to Hongkongers in response to the sweeping legislation.

The law came into force in June 2020 in the wake of anti-government protests the year before and bans acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.

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