Bedford ESOL Advice Service

Arrivals from Hong Kong

As a result of a change to immigration rules, Hong Kong residents with the British national overseas (BNO) passport can now apply for a new immigration route that enables them to stay in the UK for five years.

According to a paper produced by Hackney Chinese Community Services (HCCS), Hong Kong Assistance and Resettlement Community (HKARC) and Hongkongers in Britain (HKB) for the Mayor of London, there are approximately 5.4 million Hongkongers with the BNO status. The reasons for moving to the UK include the historical ties and the current security situation, which has seen thousands of people arrested and the imposition of a new National Security Law (July 2020). The UK government expects 600,000 people to arrive in the UK.

The report indicates several categories of people who may wish to move to the UK:

  • Young people who have been involved in the protests. These are often aged 18-23 and are fleeing to escape persecution. Some of these may not have the BNO status and will arrive as asylum-seekers. Their education has frequently been disrupted.
  • Professionals who fear persecution by China. These could include journalists, teachers, social workers, community workers, lawyers and civil servants.
  • Families looking to improve their children’s education and future. They are frequently affluent and able to support themselves.
  • BNOs with independent means.

It is important to note that recent Hong Kong arrivals may be suspicious of and unwilling to use the networks of existing Chinese communities in the UK. Many of these new arrivals will be Cantonese speakers but it is not yet known to what extent they will need to improve their English levels. There is currently also very little information on what other support needs these people may have.

In response to the needs of recent arrivals, the UK government has published a guide to assist: Welcome: a guide for Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa holders in the UK - GOV.UK ( In addition, the MHCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government – GOV.UK ( is going to provide funding to the Strategic Migration Partnerships around the country to support the new arrivals (National welcome for Hong Kong arrivals – GOV.UK (

We at the EELGA SMP are just starting to set up this support. It has been confirmed that BNO passport holders will be able to access our AMIF-funded WW4RI project (Well being and Work for Refugee Integration Project – EELGA SMP) for example. However we need to better understand their support needs as well as their locations.

If you work in a school, for a council or local charity and have had requests for help from newly arrived people from Hong Kong, please contact us and let us know where you are based, how many families you are working with and what sort of resettlement advice they need. Please email us at

If you are newly arrived from Hong Kong - welcome to the East of England

If you have recently arrived from Hong Kong, we would like to start providing you with assistance. The East of England Local Government association covers the following counties:

Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

This includes the local authorities listed on this page: Local Government in the East of England – EELGA.

If you live in a different location, you will need to contact the Strategic Migration Partnership in your area. You can find a list of these here: About – North West Regional Strategic Migration Partnership (

If you live in the East of England, please complete our questionnaire so we can know a little more about you:

We will then contact you for more information. This could include referring you to local organisations that already help people from other countries who have arrived recently.

We look forward to providing you with a warm welcome to the East of England!