British National (Overseas) Immigration Pathway

Defence – in the House of Commons on 1st February 2021.

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Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Independent, Rutherglen and Hamilton West

What discussions he has had with the (a) Prime Minister and (b) Home Secretary on securing UK citizenship for UK armed forces veterans arriving in the UK from Hong Kong via the new British National (Overseas) immigration pathway.

Photo of Johnny Mercer Johnny Mercer Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

There have been no discussions on this matter. British national overseas status holders who serve in our armed forces already have the option either to apply for British citizenship while serving or to settle in the UK on discharge. BNO veterans who have not pursued these routes and choose to apply under the new BNO route will be on a pathway to settlement in the UK and can then apply for British citizenship.

Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Independent, Rutherglen and Hamilton West

During the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, the existing immigration rules meant that only 159 of the 654 soldiers who had served in the British armed forces in Hong Kong and applied to live in the UK were successful at the time. With the opening of the new settlement scheme for British nationals overseas, many of those veterans are keen to escape the crackdown of the Chinese Government on Hong Kong. Can the Defence Minister confirm that he will defend their right to UK citizenship in any consultations on the matter with Cabinet colleagues?

Photo of Johnny Mercer Johnny Mercer Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

The hon. Member raises a good point and a good question. These negotiations are ongoing at the time. We are very clear, though, that those who have served in the armed forces should suffer no disadvantage because of their service, and that of course extends to those who apply for BNO residency, should they be eligible.