On 22 July 2020, the United Kingdom announced some policy details in relation to the proposed Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas) (“BNOs”) visa scheme. The United Kingdom Government announced that the BNO visa scheme will be live from January 2021, and although the United Kingdom Government recommends that BNO status holders and their family members should travel when the scheme becomes live, it is nonetheless recognised that BNO status holders and their dependants may wish to leave Hong Kong sooner in light of the situation in Hong Kong.
To facilitate BNO status holders and their dependants leaving Hong Kong and entering the United Kingdom before the BNO visa scheme becomes live in January 2021, the Home Office has announced a special leave outside the Rules (“LOtR”) specifically for Hong Kong BNO status holders and their dependants. On 22 July 2020, the Home Office also published guidance on this LOtR specifically for Hong Kong BNO holders.
為了讓BNO身分持有人及其受養人能在2021年1月計劃實施前離港並入境英國，英國內政部公布為香港BNO身分持有人及其受養人提供 “leave outside the Rules” (LOtR) 的特別安排，並在2020年7月22日宣布有關指引。
To be considered for LOtR, the LOtR section in the Home Office guidance states you will need to show the following:
- your identity
- your BNO status
- that you normally live in Hong Kong
- that you can accommodate and support yourself financially in the UK (and health insurance for the full period of your LOtR)
The LOtR scheme is also open for non-BNO status dependants travelling as a family unit. The Home Office guidance considers the following as a dependant:
- spouse or civil partner
- unmarried partner
- child (under the age of 18 when they first applied)
- other family members where they can show there is a high level of dependency
The LOtR section of the Home Office’s guidance sets out the kind of documents which you may use to show, so it is not intended to repeat this here. This document is intended to be a brief practical guide, rather than a piece of legal advice. With the amount of cases coming out of the woodwork showing that Border Force officers are applying the wrong restrictions, or simply not stamping passports, this is a practical guide as to what you might be able to do to make your intentions clear to the Border Force officer. Of course, there is nothing to guarantee that following the suggestions herein would necessarily mean the Border Force officer would apply the correct stamp to your passport, but at least it makes it easier to rectify afterwards if you have tried to follow these steps
Step 1 – Pre-departure
步驟一 – 離境前
Go through the requirements in the Home Office guidance carefully, and make sure you have documents to show that you can meet all of the requirements. If you are unsure whether all the documents which you have gathered together is satisfactory to meet the requirements, speak to a lawyer.
Although the Home Office guidance does not say you need to provide health insurance documents, it is recommended you have this with you, since the guidance says, “You’ll need full health insurance throughout your stay with ‘Leave Outside the Rules’.”
Please also print out a copy of the guidance.
All the documents you have gathered above, including your health insurance documents and the guidance should NOT be packed into your hold luggage. You will be facing the Border Force officer before you collect your luggage, therefore these documents should be brought with your person in case you need these at the United Kingdom Border.
Due to the ongoing Covid-19 concerns, you will need to complete the journey and contact details form before you travel. You can only fill in this form 48 hours before you are due to arrive in the United Kingdom.
Also, please do not forget your travel passport(s) and other travel documents!!!
Step 2 – Before you get to the United Kingdom Border
步驟二 – 入境英國前
Take out a copy of the guidance which you have printed an keep it with your passport(s). The rest of the documents which you gathered and collected from step 1 above should be within easy reach in case they are needed at the United Kingdom Border. If you are travelling as a family, please make sure that your entire family sticks together so you can present yourself at the United Kingdom Border together as a family unit.
Step 3 – At the United Kingdom Border
步驟三 – 在英國邊境
At the United Kingdom Border, you will need to present your passport(s) to the Border Force officer. Please also present the printed copy of the guidance which you have with you, and tell the Border Force officer that you wish to be granted “leave outside the Rules for BNOs”.
當你身處英國邊境，你須向邊境人員出示護照。請同時出示你所列印的指引副本，並告知邊境人員，你希望申請 “leave outside the Rules for BNOs” 。
Although the anecdotes seem to suggest very few people will be asked for the supporting documents which you have gathered in step 1, keep them within easy reach in case you are asked to show them in order to document that you do meet all the requirements for LOtR.
The Border Force officer may ask you some questions. Do not panic, and try to answer them as best as you can truthfully. If you do not understand, then simply tell the officer that you do not understand, and ask if the officer could ask the question again.
You may be asked questions like where are you staying, or how long do you intend to stay. If you are asked about how long you want to stay, just tell the officer again that you are here for “leave outside the Rules for BNOs”, and wishing to wait for the BNO visa scheme.
邊境人員或會問你將居於何處，或你打算逗留多久等。如人員問及你擬逗留多久，你可告知人員，你此行是為申請 “leave outside the Rules for BNOs”，並希望等候BNO護照簽證計劃實施。
If all goes well, the Border Force will stamp your passport(s) and let you into the United Kingdom. If possible, check your passport(s) when you get it back, and make sure the passport has been stamped. If there is no stamp, you should ask the Border Force officer to stamp your passport. The United Kingdom, to an extent, relies on citizens to enforce Immigration Rules, like imposing fines for employers for employing those who are not legally in the United Kingdom, as well as imposing fines on landlords for renting to those who are not legally in the United Kingdom. Therefore if your passport is not stamped with anything, you may face difficulties in finding work as employers may not be willing to take the risk to employ someone without a stamp in their passport, or landlords may be unwilling to let property to someone without a stamp in their passport! If the Border Force officer indicates that you do not need a stamp, you should ask if the officer could check with the Chief Immigration Officer on duty, explaining that you are NOT a British citizen, but a BNO status holder wanting to be granted “leave outside the Rules for BNOs”.
如過程順利，邊境人員會為你的護照蓋章，並讓你入境。如情況許可，你在領回護照後，請檢查護照是否已蓋章。如未有蓋章，應請人員補印。某程度上，英國政府有賴國民協助執行各項入境規例，例如向聘請非法逗留人士的僱主或出租予該等人士的業主施加罰款。因此，假如你的護照未獲任何蓋章，你將難以就業，因為僱主或不欲冒險僱用護照欠蓋章的人士，而業主亦可能不願意把物業租予該等租客。假如邊境人員表示你的護照無須蓋章，你應要求人員向當值的邊境主管查證，並解釋你並非英國公民，而是希望取得 “leave outside the Rules for BNOs” 的BNO身分持有人。
If the Border Force officer stamps your passport(s), this will usually comprise two stamps. One stamp is the entry date stamp, and another stamp will indicate for how long you are allowed to remain, and whether employment and recourse to public funds are prohibited or not.
If you get a stamp which prohibits you from employment, this is wrong as the guidance says that LOtR for BNOs allows for work and study. You should try to clarify this with the Border Force officer. If the Border Force officer insists this is correct, you can either ask if the officer could check with the Chief Immigration Officer on duty explaining that you are here for “leave outside the Rules for BNOs”. If you do not feel comfortable with this, pass through and deal with the matter later.
如你的護照被蓋上禁止就業印章，便是蓋錯印章，因為指引訂明，BNO身分持有人獲發的LOtR容許其就業和就學。你應嘗試為此要求邊境人員作出澄清。如該人員堅持蓋章無誤，你可要求人員向當值的邊境主管查證，並解釋你此行是為申請 “leave outside the Rules for BNOs”。如你不希望這樣做，你亦可先行入境，其後才予處理。
Step 4 – If you have been given a stamp restricting you from work
步驟四 – 假如護照被蓋上限制就業印章
Sadly there have been cases where people have been given the wrong restrictions on work and study. If you are one of these people and you did not get this corrected at the airport, then you need to get clarification from the Border Force as to your ability to work and / or study.
You should speak to a lawyer about your situation and ask them to write to the Border Force for you in order to correct this.
If you do not want to pay a lawyer to do this, you can try and write to the Border Force yourself at email@example.com. You may find the following template useful, although please note that ideally you will seek legal advice to cater for your specific situation, and the template below is not to be construed as legal advice, or interpreted as the most suitable way for you to resolve your case.
Subject: [insert name(s), DOB(s), passport nationality, passport number(s)]
My name is [insert name]. I am a British National (Overseas) (“BNO”) from Hong Kong. I entered the United Kingdom using my BNO passport numbered [insert passport number]. [If appropriate, indicate with whom you entered the UK , and what nationality is / are their passport(s), and their passport number(s)] (I / We) entered the United Kingdom on [insert date] at [insert port of entry and terminal].
(I / We) entered the United Kingdom seeking leave outside the Rules for BNOs, however, (I / we) were given a stamp by the Border Force officer applying a prohibition on employment and study. (I / We) told the Border Force officer [insert a brief account of what you told the Border Force officer, and include whether you handed a copy of the policy to the Border Force officer]. I have attached herewith a copy of (my / our) passport biodata page(s), and the entry stamp(s) which (I was / we were) given by the Border Force officer.
I have also attached (my / our) Hong Kong ID card(s), and (my / our) boarding pass(es) for your reference. Furthermore, I have attached documents which (I / we) had with (me / us) when (I / we) presented (myself / ourselves) at the United Kingdom Border showing that I can meet the requirements of the leave to remain outside the Rules for BNOs guidance.
I would be grateful if the Border Force could provide a correction and clarification letter to confirm that (I am / we are) able to work and / or study as per the guidance for leave outside the Rules for BNOs which was first published on 22 July 2020.
Should you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.
As mentioned, nothing in this guide should be construed as legal advice, and you should always seek independent legal advice for your specific circumstances. Please note that this is just a practical guide showing what you may expect at the United Kingdom Border, but there is, of course, no way to predict precisely what will happen when you arrive at the United Kingdom Border.
Header image: Wikimedia Commons.