More than 1m people from Hong Kong could emigrate to the UK in the next five years under new visa arrangements, according to official estimates.
Plans were set out to allow British National (Overseas) (BNO) citizens and their families who live in Hong Kong to apply for visas and live and work in the UK.
Around 3m people are thought to be eligible for BNO status and Home Office estimates suggest some 500,000 could arrive in the first year the visa becomes available in January. This “high” estimate rises to more than 1m over five years.
The Home Office said this would be an “extreme” scenario and the more likely estimate calculates 123,000 to 153,000 people would arrive in the UK in the first year, and between 258,000 and 322,400 over five years.
The visa will be open for applications from 31 January 2021 and BNOs will be able to apply for a 30-month or five-year visa to live, work and study in the UK. After five years they can apply to settle in the UK, and for citizenship after a further 12 months.
It is likely to bring in a swathe of educated workers and the central assessment of the economic net impact of the arrivals is thought to boost the economy by between £2.4bn and £2.9bn. The majority of this positive boost comes in the form of additional tax collected.
British consul-general to Hong Kong Andrew Heyn said: “This new route to the UK is part of our commitment to the people of Hong Kong. The UK is ready to welcome BN(O) citizens and their dependents to the UK.”
Earlier this year the Home Office announced plans to help grant rights to BNOs living in Hong Kong. It came after the UK suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and introduced an arms embargo in response to China’s national security laws, which ended freedom of speech for Hong Kongers.
Home secretary Priti Patel said the introduction of the laws breached the SIno-British joint declaration outlining the terms of the 1997 territorial handover.
She said the visa changes were a “proportionate response” and “very generous”.