British National (Overseas) passport

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British National (Overseas) passport
British new style passport.jpg
The cover of a 2010 version biometric British National (Overseas) passport
Information page and observation page of a British National (Overseas) passport issued at Passport Customer Service Centre, London.jpg
The identification page and observation page of a 2010 version biometric British National (Overseas) passport
Issued by  United Kingdom
Type of document Passport
Purpose Identification
Eligibility requirements British National (Overseas) status

The British National (Overseas) passport, commonly referred to as the BN(O) passport, is a British passport for holders of the nationality British National (Overseas) (BN(O)). The passport was first issued in 1987 after the Hong Kong Act 1985, from which this new class of British nationality was created. Holders of the BN(O) passports are primarily permanent residents of Hong Kong, who were born in the British colony (up to 30 June 1997).

Physical appearance[edit]

Cover[edit]

BN(O) passports are currently issued in their latest biometric versions (as of 2014) and they bear the "electronic travel document symbol" (EPassport logo.svg) on the burgundy-coloured cover. The text United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is present above the coat of arms of the United Kingdom; the word Passport is printed underneath the coat of arms.

Design of the BN(O) passports are almost identical to that of the British Citizen passports, except that the latter bear the text European Union on their front cover. In non-biometric versions of all types of British passports, including those of the BN(O), omission of this text does not render the holder's status as a European Union Citizen invalid. The current BN(O) passport's cover is also identical to that of the British Overseas Territories Citizen (formerly British Dependent Territories Citizen), British Overseas Citizen, British Protected Person and British Subject passports.

Holder's page[edit]

The holder's page is identical to the identification page of British Citizen passports with the nationality being indicated as British National (Overseas). The machine-readable zone starts with P<GBR, indicating Great Britain (the United Kingdom) as the passport's issuing country.[1] The request page, made in the name of the 'Secretary of State' (currently the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), is also identical to that of a British Citizen passport.

Each BN(O) passport contains a contactless chip, which stores digital data and includes the holder's personal data, on the Endorsement page. (Refer to the Endorsements section below) [2]

Popularity[edit]

Initial rollout[edit]

Since the introduction of the nationality British National (Overseas) in 1985, most permanent residents of Hong Kong, who were British Dependent Territories Citizens, could either remain as such or immediately register for the new type of nationality, the BN(O). People who chose to remain as BDTCs, however, would not be able to renew their BDTC passports upon their expiry. Following the introduction of the BN(O) passports in 1987, renewals of BDTC passports could only take the form of registering as a British National (Overseas).

Registration for the BN(O) passports was not regarded as a popular, practical option during the early years (e.g. from 1 July 1987 to 21 December 1989, only 15% of newly issued passports were of the BN(O) type; the majority still held the British Dependent Territories Citizen passports). Permanent residents of Hong Kong had until 30 June 1997 to voluntarily register themselves as a British National (Overseas).

After the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong[edit]

After the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China on 1 July 1997, the British National (Overseas) passport became the most popular travel document among the people of Hong Kong. From April 1997 to the end of 2006, the British government has issued a total of 794,457 BN(O) passports. This has reached a peak in 2001, when 170,000 were issued in a single year.

Holders of BN(O) passports, who are Chinese Citizens in Hong Kong (gained whether involuntarily or by naturalisation), could also opt for the Hong Kong Passport. By 2006, the less-expensive Hong Kong Passport has been granted visa-free access to more than 100 countries and territories. This makes the number of visa-free countries of the BN(O) passport comparatively similar. As a result, only 30,000 BN(O) passports were issued in 2006 against an expectation of a peak in passport renewals.

From 2007 onwards[edit]

As of May 2007, there were only 800,000 holders of valid BN(O) passports. Some 2.6 million out of the 3.4 million British Nationals (Overseas) did not renew their passports upon expiry.[3] As the nationality British National (Overseas) is non-hereditary, i.e. children born on or after 1 July 1997 to parents who are British National (Overseas) cannot acquire this nationality jus soli, nor could people who had failed to register themselves as a British National (Overseas) by the end of 30 June 1997, regardless of their connection to British Hong Kong, register for this nationality. The number of British National (Overseas) passports in circulation, therefore, would continue to decline over the next decades.

Previous versions of BN(O) passports[edit]

The cover of British National (Overseas) passport was originally blue, as in all other types of British passport. Early residents of Hong Kong were Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies and their relevant passports bore the texts 'British Passport' at the top and 'Hong Kong' at the bottom of the cover.

When machine-readable passports were introduced on 1 June 1990, the cover colour was changed to burgundy.

Endorsements[edit]

Although the nationality British National (Overseas) does not grant the right of abode anywhere (not in the United Kingdom or Hong Kong), most holders of the British Nationals (Overseas) passports are Hong Kong permanent residents. In this case, the following statement is printed in their BN(O) passport:

The holder of this passport has Hong Kong permanent identity card number XXXXXXX(X) which states that the holder has the right of abode in Hong Kong.

British Nationals (Overseas) enjoy visa-free access for up to six months as a visitor, entering the United Kingdom and the following statement is also printed in each British National (Overseas) passport:

In accordance with UK immigration rules the holder of this passport does not require an entry certificate or visa to visit the UK.

Criticism[edit]

The British National (Overseas) passports has been criticized[citation needed] for being too expensive, as compared to the HKSAR Passport, which has so far gained visa-free access from a similar number of countries as has the BN(O). In December 2013, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom announced backsourcing of overseas passport processing to their HM Passport Services in Liverpool. As a result of efficiency savings, the fee for renewing BN(O) passports has reduced by 35% as of April 2014. [1]

Counterfeit scandal in the 1990s[edit]

In the early years after the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong, issue of counterfeit British National (Overseas) passports has once aroused international attention and government scrutiny, as such passports were being manufactured and used by illegal immigrants from the People's Republic of China, who wished to gain direct access to the United Kingdom by route of Hong Kong.

Upon crossing the Hong Kong-China border, those illegal immigrants were easily detected by Hong Kong immigration officers, since the Mandarin-speaking immigrants invariably failed to understand or respond to officers when communicating in Cantonese Chinese, the first language among Hong Kong's native population.[4]

With the introduction of biometric techniques, the British National (Overseas) Passport has recovered credibility among the international community. Most immigration officers at major British and European ports should have been briefed on the 6 different classes of British nationalites, so that they do not confuse a person using his or her BN(O) passport to cross the borders with other types of British nationals.

Immgiration, borders and visas[edit]

Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and Schengen Zone[edit]

On arrival of Hong Kong, BN(O) holders could instead use their Identity Cards to gain entry if they are permanent or temporary residents. It is uncommon to present the BN(O) Passport to enter Hong Kong, however, in such cases either a 6-month visa-free access would be granted or the person's Identity Card number retrieved from his or her BN(O) passport.

On arrival of most major British ports, BN(O) Passport holders go through the border under the channel All Other Nationalities, since they are subject to (very minimal) immigration procedures - the usual passport check and fingerprints lodging, as they would do upon entering Hong Kong, and additionally presenting a landing card. Due to cost issues, the government of the United Kingdom is unable to further streamline a 'British' channel as dedicated to British Citizens and the 5 other types of British nationals.

On arrival of most major European ports among countries of the Schengen Area or Schengen Zone, or upon crossing inter-Schengen border on land (by means of driving or cross-border trains), BN(O) Passport holders go through the European Union channels for their passports to be briefly inspected. On direct cross-border trains, which run through borders of multiple countries within the Schengen Area, occasional on-train document checks might be conducted by the respective country's police officers.

As of 26 March 2010, the British Consulate-General Hong Kong states that 118 countries and territories have granted holders of the British National (Overseas) passport either visa-free or visa-on-arrival treatment.[5]

Macao (former Portuguese Colony)[edit]

Visa Policy of Macau Holders of the British National (Overseas) passport are allowed visa-free access for 6 months upon entering Macao from Hong Kong, People's Republic of China, Taiwan or other countries.

If the holder of BN(O) passport presents his or her Hong Kong Identity Card to enter Macao, the visa-free access period is lengthened to one year (12 months).

People's Republic of China[edit]

The People's Republic of China does not recognise dual nationality and refuses to accept people who were born in British Hong Kong as British National (Overseas). As a result, neither the BN(O) passport nor the Hong Kong Passport are allowed as a travel document to enter the People's Republic of China by the Beijing government. As the Chinese government regards all ethnically-Chinese holders of BN(O) passports as Chinese nationals (not Chinese Citizens), any British National (Overseas) who wishes to enter the People's Republic of China must apply for a visa, called the Home Return Permit, in Hong Kong.

Republic of China (Taiwan)[edit]

Holders of British National (Overseas) passports or Hong Kong Passport require an Exit & Entry Permit (landing visa), issued for a fee, in order to enter Taiwan.[6]

From 1 September 2010, the Ministry of the Interior of Taiwan issued a new policy to allow holders of British National (Overseas) passport or Hong Kong Passport to make their visa application on the Internet. This could be done in advance of travelling; the Exit & Entry Permit (landing visa) is accepted in printed form upon crossing Taiwan's border. Holders of this landing visa are granted a 30-day period to remain in Taiwan upon arrival.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Holder's page of a 2007 BN(O) passport". Council of the European Union. Retrieved 31 July 2010. 
  2. ^ Biometric-Passports, British Consulate-General Hong Kong, retrieved in 2008.
  3. ^ Lords Hansard, British House of Lords, 22 March 2007
  4. ^ "British Hong Kong Passports Become Amulets to Illegal Immigrants", BBC Chinese, 5 July 2000.
  5. ^ BN(O)護照免簽證情況 Foreign & Commonwealth Office,2010年04月04日
  6. ^ "Entry requirements" Taiwan, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, retrieved in 2008.

External links[edit]