With over 34,300 applications for the Hong Kong BN(O) visa scheme by the end of March, London Mayor Sadiq Khan expects that up to a third will choose to settle in the capital.
In an exclusive interview with City A.M. this afternoon, Khan sent a clear message to Hongkongers who have or intend to move to the capital: “London is open” for them.
The British government launched the Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa scheme earlier this year. It was a response to Beijing’s imposition of the national security law in its former colony.
Those who have BN(O) status and their dependents are eligible to apply for the visa and stay in the UK for up to 5 years. After the period, they can apply to settle, and for citizenship after a further twelve months.
The Home Office previously projected 123,000 to 153,000 Hong Kong BN(O) visa holders to arrive in the country in the first year.
The mayor of London expects a large proportion of them will settle in the capital.
“We predict that between a quarter and a third of those who come to the UK will choose London. By the end of March, the number of applications for visas was around 34,300. We know because of the pandemic, many weren’t coming. From Monday, Hong Kong became on the green list. So I have to wait and see how many of those will come,” said Khan.
He pointed out London has plenty of job opportunities for the Hong Kong new arrivals, and City Hall will use the £900,000 grant which is given to community groups and local organisations to assist Hongkongers in relation to employment, education and housing.
According to a recent survey by UKHK.org, over two-fifths of Hong Kong migrants plan to start their own businesses in the UK.
Khan said all entrepreneurs coming from Hong Kong are welcome and London would be the best place for them to do business.
“Our underlying strength is very good, the time zone, the language, professional services, financial services, culture, tech and life science.”
“The city with a large number of top universities and international students. So there is a pipeline of talent coming through to your business. But also working with the banks, we also have ourselves given support financially in relation to capital to help you start up, scale up and accelerate.”
Khan reiterated the UK has a historical commitment to Hong Kong people and there is no tolerance for discrimination towards Hong Kong new migrants in the capital.
“Since the coronavirus [pandemic] first began, we have seen an increase in xenophobia and hate crimes against Eastern, Southeast Asian Londoners, using phrases like ‘the Chinese virus’ and so forth. So we got to make sure that we will do whatever we can, there are not to be any discrimination against those coming from Hong Kong.”
“We as a city over successive generations have welcome new arrivals to help them to achieve great things in terms of politics, media, law, medicine, science and so forth. We have a track record of being welcome and giving support,” he added.
“I’m a prime example of somebody who is a child of immigrants. So we’ve got a track record of supporting people from overseas, and I hope you can be a generation that comes to London and has the potential fulfilled,” Khan concluded.