As of 31st January 2021, Hong Kong citizens with British National Overseas status (BNO) are now able to apply online for a new British visa scheme. The scheme applies to both the almost three million BNO passport holders in Hong Kong in addition to their immediate dependents, creating a new path to citizenship in the UK. The UK launched the new visa after China imposed a new security law.
Although there are 2.9 million citizens who are eligible to move to the UK, with a further estimated 2.3 million dependents, the government expects about 300,000 people to take up the offer in the first five years.
What could this mean for the property market?
In the past UK property has always benefited from interest from Hong Kong buyers, and during quarter one to quarter three of 2020, Hong Kong buyers were the second largest market of overseas buyers in the UK according to research undertaken by Astons. Hong Kong buyers purchased £305.6m of prime London homes and 6,438 homes amounting to £8.1bn across the UK.
And what’s more, as of 23rd February, applicants for the Hong Kong BNO with specific types of biometric passports will even be able to apply from a smartphone app which will scan their passport.
The new visa opens up the UK property market to even more overseas buyers than before.
Where are Hong Kong buyers purchasing in the UK?
While London has always been an obvious choice for Hong Kong buyers, as a result of both the Covid-19 pandemic and the changing demographic of purchasers, areas such as Liverpool and Manchester are seeing a rapidly growing interest from those relocating from Hong Kong.
Favourable exchange rates, combined with a secure property ownership process makes UK property incredibly attractive to overseas buyers, and has long been considered a safe haven for investment.
Additionally, the quality of UK universities has long attracted thousands of Hong Kong students every year, with parents often choosing to purchase a UK home for their children to live while studying.
Again this is where cities such as Manchester and Liverpool are really providing the best of both worlds. Far more affordable than London, the locations both have a culturally rich atmosphere, and are home to excellent quality universities.
Throw in the level of growth over the past few years, alongside grand regeneration plans, and it’s the Northern cities which come out on top for Hong Kong buyers looking for a property that offers both a great place to live, but also a real opportunity for long term capital growth.
And while the UK property market has seen a huge resilience throughout the pandemic, an influx of new buyers may be just what the market needs to remain strong.