British National (Overseas) passport

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British National (Overseas) passport
BNO Cover.svg
The cover 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 persons with British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) status. 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 BN(O) passports were permanent residents of Hong Kong, until July 1st 1997 when Hong Kong was returned to Chinese sovereignty from British rule (especially true for non-Chinese ethnic minorities [even though born in Hong Kong}).

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. 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. The nationality on the machine readable zone, however, is GBN rather than GBR.

Each biometric 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. The peak was reached in 2001, when 170,000 were issued in a single year.

Hong Kong permanent residents who are Chinese nationals could also opt for the Hong Kong SAR passport. By 2015, the less-expensive Hong Kong SAR passport has been granted visa-free access to more than 150 countries and territories. This makes the number of visa-free countries of the BN(O) passport comparatively smaller. 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 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 at 31 December 2015, there were only about 143,200 holders of BN(O) passports.[4]

As British National (Overseas) cannot be passed through jus sanguinis to children of current BN(O)s, any children born on or after 1 July 1997 to parents with British National (Overseas) status only acquired either Chinese nationality or British Overseas Citizen status on birth (although it is possible for a BOC with no other nationalities to be registered as a British Citizen). Any British Dependent Territory Citizens with connections to Hong Kong who had failed to register themselves as British Nationals (Overseas) by the end of 30 June 1997 would also be ineligible to make further claims for BN(O) from 1 July 1997, and those people would either become Chinese nationals or British Overseas Citizens. 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:

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:

Criticism[edit]

The British National (Overseas) passports has been criticised[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, the fee for renewing BN(O) passports has reduced by 35% as of April 2014.[5]

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.[6]

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.[7]

With the introduction of biometric passports, the British National (Overseas) passport has recovered credibility among the international community. Most immigration officers at major British and European ports have been briefed on the 6 different classes of British nationalities, 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.[citation needed]

Immigration, borders and visas[edit]

Hong Kong SAR and the Common Travel Area[edit]

At Hong Kong immigration control points, holders of the BN(O) passport possess the right to land and would normally use their Identity Cards to enter Hong Kong's border. It is uncommon to present the BN(O) Passport to enter Hong Kong, however, in such cases, the person's Hong Kong Identity Card number could be retrieved from his or her BN(O) passport.

Macau SAR[edit]

Main article: Visa policy of Macao

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).

Mainland China[edit]

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

Republic of China (Taiwan)[edit]

Holders of British National (Overseas) passports or Hong Kong SAR passports require an Exit & Entry Permit, which can be issued for a fee on arrival, to enter Taiwan.[8]

From 1 September 2010, the Ministry of the Interior of Taiwan announced a new policy to allow holders of British National (Overseas) passport or Hong Kong SAR passport to register on the internet before travelling. After registration, they need to travel with a printout of the confirmation. There's no cost for the service.

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. ^ Number of valid British passports by type, WhatDoTheyKnow, 11 January 2016
  5. ^ Passport fees for British nationals overseas reduced by 35%, GOV.UK, 17 March 2014
  6. ^ Hong Kong smugglers rely on UK passports, Daily Telegraph, 23 July 2000
  7. ^ Hong Kong: Gateway to the West, BBC News, 5 July 2000
  8. ^ "Entry requirements" Taiwan, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, retrieved in 2008.

External links[edit]