News | March 28, 2023

Squaring the Circle: the BN(O) Visa Scheme and Non-UK Domicile Status

British National (Overseas) (“BN(O)”) immigration status was introduced on 31 January 2021 as a direct consequence of the political unrest in Hong Kong (“HK”). The BN(O) visa enables British nationals living permanently in HK or the children of British nationals living overseas and their family members to come to live, work and study in the UK and eventually acquire British citizenship.

As a firm we have advised a number of BN(O) applicants in relation to their residence and domicile position before moving to the UK, including whether they can claim the remittance basis of taxation whilst living here if their domicile remains outside the UK.

The concept of domicile under English law is a nebulous one (ignoring for now the concept of deemed domicile for UK tax purposes, which is determined within clearer, statutory parameters), and the starting point will often (but not always) be that the BN(O) individual has a domicile of origin in HK. A person’s domicile of origin can be displaced by them subsequently acquiring a domicile of choice in the UK (more specifically: England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland), determined through a combination of residence and intention. An individual may reside in the UK but ultimately wish to return to their country of origin, in which case they will retain their domicile of origin abroad. 

Given the rationale for the introduction of the BN(O) visa, it is less likely that a BN(O) individual will want to return to HK but this does not, necessarily and in itself, amount to their having acquired a domicile of choice in the UK. Each individual’s circumstances need to be considered in the round and it may not be certain, at least in the short term, that a BN(O) individual intends to permanently or indefinitely reside in the UK upon arrival. This is particularly so if they have never lived in the UK before, nor experienced the British weather! 

With professional advice it can be possible to “square the circle” and conclude that a person coming to the UK on the BN(O) visa remains domiciled outside the UK, whilst they are UK resident.