After China introduced a controversial security law restricting Hong Kong’s freedoms in June, the Prime Minister’s Government offered nearly 3 million people in the territory with British National Overseas status citizenship. An assessment from the Home Office has now calculated that the UK economy would see a “net positive impact” up to nearly £3 billion over five years from tax revenue from the migrating population.
The assessment claimed up to one million Hong Kongers would accept the UK’s offer of citizenship.
Estimates from the government department believe the UK will net between £2.4 billion to £2.9 billion over five years from the migrants, with “the majority attributable to additional tax revenue”.
Their figures are based on £6 billion set to generated for the Exchequer from the Hong Kongers, minus the cost of the incoming populations access to public services.
But they will not be entitled to benefit claims, and will have to pay the health surcharge and visa fees.
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The Home Office also estimated up to 500,000 Hong Kongers arriving in the UK in 2021, dwarfing all other migration schemes in British history.
In contrast, 15,000 people arrived on the HMS Windrush in the 1950’s and 28,000 Ugandan Asians arrived in the 1970’s
Under Mr Johnson’s Government proposal, incoming Hong Kongers will side-step new immigration tests on income and skills, and will be offered five year visas to live, work and study for £250 per person.
After five years, BNO holders from Hong Kong can seek to apply for British citizenship.
Oxford University’s migration observatory has predicted an adult Hong Konger would spend £7,000 to achieve citizenship, with the funds covering the health surcharge and other fees.
For a family of three to achieve citizenship in the UK, they are estimated to spend more than £20,000.
They also reported that as of April 17 this year, there were 357,156 BNO passports in circulation, despite there being around 2.9 million BNO status citizens in Hong Kong.
More conservative “central range” estimates from the Home Office also hold only 153,700 migrating to the UK in 2021, with 322,400 coming over five years.
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A Home Office spokesman admitted there was uncertainty on how many Hong Kongers would migrate to the UK due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
He said: “We should particularly take into account the effects of COVID-19 on travel and we do not yet know how that will affect people’s behaviour in taking up this offer.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel said the offer to BNO’s was in direct response to China’s security law on Hong Kong, which she said “could not be ignored”.
She added the changes to BNO visa status were a “proportionate response” to the situation and “very generous”.
China was outraged by the UK’s offer to BNO citizens in Hong Kong, warning Britain to stay out of its affairs.
Liu Xiaoming, Chinese ambassador to the UK, said the BNO offer amounted to “gross interference”.
He said in a press briefing in August: “The UK government keeps making irresponsible remarks on Hong Kong affairs.”
He also said at the end of July China’s relationship with the UK had been “seriously poisoned” over the offer.
Mr Liu said at a press conference the UK was at a “critical historical juncture” with China, and urged Britain to “resist pressure” from the US to further sanction Beijing.