100,000 apply to reside in the UK

Hong Kong individuals demonstrated in ten completely different cities in Hong Kong to protest the one-year anniversary of the promulgation of Hong Kong’s Nationwide Safety Act and the centenary of the Communist Celebration of China.

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LONDON – It has been 9 months since Adrian Leung and his household packed their lives in Hong Kong seeking a brighter future within the UK.

The 51-year-old trainer was about to flee political turmoil to Canada together with his spouse and son. However when Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s authorities introduced a brand new visa programme, giving Hong Kong residents the correct of residence – and eventual citizenship – in Britain, he stated his selection was clear.

“In comparison with Canada’s plan, the UK plan has a a lot decrease criterion: we solely want to remain within the nation for 5 years. For me, it is quite simple,” Leung informed CNBC.

Many in Hong Kong are outraged at what’s seen as China’s encroachment on the semi-autonomous area within the wake of a brand new nationwide safety regulation handed in June 2020.

For the sake of my son’s future, I believed we needed to depart.

A spokesman for Hong Kong’s Division of Info Companies stated it “condemns and opposes” the launch of UK visas, whereas the Chinese language embassy in London stated the scheme “interferes in Hong Kong affairs, that are China’s inner affairs”. Huh.”

China has individually rejected claims that the regulation undermines native freedoms, saying it was a vital measure to quell the chaotic mass protests that hit Hong Kong in 2019.

Leung, a few of whom had been college students prosecuted and in some circumstances, imprisoned for demonstrations, is considered one of hundreds of Hong Kongers who’ve immigrated to the UK over the previous yr.

“It appeared to me, after June 2019, that Hong Kong was not going to be below the rule of regulation,” Leung stated, referring to the beginning of the protests. “For the sake of my son’s future, I felt we needed to depart,” he informed CNBC.

Britain welcomes over 97,000 Hong Kongers

The British Nationwide (Abroad), or BNO, visa program was launched in January 2021 with nice fanfare, with Johnson embarking on a program designed to honor Britain’s “deep ties of historical past and friendship with the individuals of Hong Kong”. Proud declared.

The UK authorities stated on the time that this system would open the door to an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 Hong Kongers (although as much as 5.4 million are eligible) and generate as much as 2.9 billion ($3.9 billion) in web advantages for the UK financial system. 5 years.

Adrian Leung moved to Durham, UK together with his spouse and son in June 2021, shortly after the federal government opened its BNO visa scheme to Hong Kong residents.

Adrian Leung

Within the 12 months that adopted, the UK acquired 103,900 functions for the visa programme, which supplies holders and their dependents the correct of five-year residency alongside the trail of citizenship. Up to now, greater than 97,000 functions have been profitable, based on figures launched by the UK House Workplace on Thursday.

Most of these candidates are extremely expert and are working in skilled or managerial roles.

In a survey of 500 individuals granted visas, the House Workplace discovered that seven in 10 (69%) had been college educated and three-quarters (76%) had skilled occupations. Nearly all (96%) had been of working age, of whom two in 5 (21%) had been below 35 years of age.

The findings recommend a victory for the UK authorities because it seeks to place itself as a magnet for worldwide expertise, even because it closes its doorways to EU employees after Brexit. provides. But the expertise of Hong Kong expatriates who spoke to CNBC has been much more nuanced.

a private and monetary price

Whereas BNO visa holders praised the pace and ease of processing functions (often round six weeks), some stated the private price of constructing the transfer has been excessive – at the least not financially.

A five-year visa prices £250 ($340) along with the obligatory NHS surcharge of £3,120 for adults and £2,350 for youngsters. A household of 4 can count on to pay £11,940 in charges earlier than coming into the UK.

Because the UK faces its worst life disaster in many years, amid hovering costs for dwelling, meals and power.

Leung and his spouse offered their residence, redeemed their pension and used their financial savings to maneuver to Britain. They just lately purchased a home in Durham, within the north-east of England, however not everybody has been as fortunate.

Katie, a Hong Kong nurse, relocates to Nottingham, England in December 2020 throughout the top of the UK’s coronavirus lockdown.


A BNO visa holder, who spoke anonymously to CNBC for worry of backlash or being recognized by new colleagues within the UK, arrived in Nottingham, England in December 2020 – throughout the top of the UK’s coronavirus lockdown.

The supply shortly discovered himself in a Catch 22; Unable to lease a home with no checking account and unable to open a checking account with no dwelling deal with.

After six weeks at an Airbnb, the 45-year-old lastly discovered a landlord who would home him and his household in change for six months of superior lease. In the meantime, his pension stays below dispute in Hong Kong.

“Cash or wage isn’t our prime precedence,” stated the supply, who, alongside together with his spouse, left his everlasting nursing job in Hong Kong seeking “democracy, rule of regulation, civil liberties and respect”.

The Chinese language Embassy in London and Hong Kong’s Division of Info Companies didn’t instantly reply to CNBC’s request for remark.

Swapping skilled safety for political stability

Like many different extremely expert Hong Kong expatriates in Britain, the supply discovered himself sacrificing monetary {and professional} stability for the sake of political safety. He now works on contract in a hospital whereas his spouse works part-time in a warehouse.

“There was a spot in my life after a yr,” he stated, including that he and his household are utilizing the financial savings to satisfy their wants.

In the meantime, a second CNBC supply discovered himself ineligible for a lot of the accessible work. The PhD-educated college lecturer determined to depart Hong Kong when its “human rights scenario deteriorated”, he stated, the place it threatened the way forward for his kids and his personal psychological well being.

After a six-month job-hunting “nightmare”, the 51-year-old labored part-time at a well-liked central London quick meals chain, the place he works nights out.

One other supply stated on the situation of anonymity, “If I did not have children, I may have had a unique thought, as a result of coming right here I had to surrender all the pieces – work, cash, associates, standing.”

reside in group

BNO visa holders will not be eligible for welfare advantages, besides in excessive circumstances. As a substitute, the federal government stated it had put aside £43 million for integration tasks for the Hong Kong expatriate, together with assist for entry to housing, work and schooling.

Though one other unnamed supply stated that higher provisions would have been made for the sudden inflow of Hong Kong employees, he nonetheless considers himself “fortunate”.

Inside weeks of arriving in June 2021, he secured a spot for his 14-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter at a “superb state college” in outer London, the place he and his spouse are staying with a pal.

Adrian Leung, who left Hong Kong hoping for a brighter future, stated his 10-year-old son is having fun with extra freedom in Britain.

Adrian Leung

“My preliminary mission was to assist the youngsters modify. It seems they’ve truly adjusted higher than me,” noting that their children shortly settled into native friendship teams.

One yr into this system, competitors for varsity areas is heating up. Studies recommend that some colleges, notably Britain’s elite public colleges, have needed to flip away Hong Kong college students amid file enrollment and curiosity. About three-quarters of BNO visa holders who come to the UK are married or have long-term companions, whereas two-thirds have kids.

“We’re fortunate we have settled down just a little bit,” agreed a beforehand unnamed CNBC supply. “It may be tougher for newcomers – particularly to safe college locations.”

hope for a brilliant future

Challenges apart, BNO visa holders who spoke to CNBC stated they had been grateful for the programme, which, whereas not an obligation, was definitely a “duty” of the UK authorities. Above all, he praised the potential it presents for a brighter future.

“Having come right here, my son has a variety of freedom, [including] freedom to drive,” Leung stated, including that he and his household have adjusted effectively to the approach to life, neighborhood and work setting in Durham.

Based on House Workplace information, 96 % of those that have acquired BNO visas say they haven’t any plans to return to Hong Kong. BNO visa holders are eligible to use for everlasting residence and indefinite depart to remain after 5 years at a price of £2,389. The next yr, they will apply for British citizenship for £1,206.

After all UK citizenship is our final purpose as I’m in keeping with the values ​​of this nation.

“Actually UK citizenship is our final purpose, as a result of I’m in keeping with the values ​​of this nation,” Leung stated, noting that the aged family members are considered one of his few remaining ties with Hong Kong. “If I may select, I’d be right here completely.”

That is doubtlessly unhealthy information for Hong Kong, which, along with dropping many expert locals, additionally faces a migrant exodus as international employees tire of town’s Beijing-led zero-Covid coverage.

“I do not assume it is going to get any higher,” one other CNBC supply stated. “Hong Kong’s location is now carefully linked to China’s politics. Which means growing authoritarianism.”

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