British Nationality Selection Scheme

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The British Nationality Selection Scheme (BNSS) was a process used to grant British citizenship to selected persons in Hong Kong between 1990 and 1997. Established in accordance with the 1990 British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act, the scheme allowed 50,000 families to acquire full British citizenship.

Hong Kongers who met certain eligibility criteria could apply for British citizenship under section 1(1) of the Act during two three-month periods:

  • 1 December 1990 to 28 February 1991
  • 3 January 1994 to 31 March 1994

The Governor of Hong Kong retained the power to invite applications after 31 March 1994. However, no person could be registered as a British citizen under s. 1(1) after 30 June 1997.

Spouses and children of those who were granted British citizenship under section 1(1) could apply for registration under section 1(4) of the Act. All applications from spouses and children for registration under s. 1(4) were required to be made on or before 31 December 1996.

As a consequence of the scheme, a significant number of Hong Kongers who would not otherwise have obtained British citizenship (for example, because they were of Chinese descent and would therefore have been regarded by China as having Chinese citizenship) obtained British citizenship prior to the handover of Hong Kong.

Eligibility criteria[edit]

To be considered for registration as a British citizen under s. 1(1), a person was required to be settled in Hong Kong and to be one of the following:

There were four classes of eligible s. 1(1) applicants:

  • General Occupational Class (GOC), for managers and professionals.
  • Entrepreneurs Class (EC), for businessmen and women.
  • Disciplined Services Class (DSC), for Hong Kong civil servants in the police, fire, immigration, customs, and correctional services.
  • Sensitive Service Class (SSC), for those in public or private sector roles with particular vulnerabilities on account of their positions.

Selection of persons in the GOC and DSC classes was primarily based on a "points system". Those who held citizenship of another country, excluding the People's Republic of China (see Home Return Permit for details), were penalised in the points test, although there was no specific bar to registration.

Spouses and children of family heads who registered under s. 1(1) were eligible for registration under s. 1(4) regardless of their nationality. However, a spouse who married the family head after that person was registered under s. 1(1) was required to be settled in Hong Kong on the date of the marriage in order to be eligible for registration under s. 1(4).

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