British consulate urges BNO renewals
The passports can be updated even if expired, but they don't come cheap
Many British National (Overseas) passport holders are unaware they can renew their expired travel documents, according to a new campaign by the British consulate.
But the consulate denies its campaign is in response to any drop in the number of people renewing their BNO passports, which are more than double the cost of special administrative region passports, although it is unwilling to reveal exactly how many passports are renewed annually.
The consulate hopes to reassure Hong Kong's potential 3.44 million BNO passport holders that even if their passports expired several years ago, there is no impediment to renewing them now.
'Basically it's a bit of an education campaign, because our BNO passport section was getting contacted all the time by people who wanted to know if they could renew their BNO passport which was either about to expire or already had expired,' said a spokeswoman for the consulate.
'We realised we had to get a message out saying this is a nationality status which lasts a lifetime, it doesn't just expire with the validity of your travel document. Hence our advertising slogan 'BNO: Yours for Life'.'
Each year, between 70,000 and 200,000 BNO passports are renewed, the spokeswoman said, adding that the consulate would not release more precise figures.
Renewal figures for SAR passports are not yet available, according to the Immigration Department, because they were first issued in 1997 and last for 10 years.
The BNO passport gives its holders visa-free access to 100 countries, compared with 134 countries to which SAR passport holders have visa-free access.
At $970, a 32-page 10-year BNO passport costs the same as a British passport. A larger 48-page BNO passport costs $1,150. A 32-page five-year child's passport costs $630. The passports are run on a full cost-recovery basis, according to the British consulate.
An SAR passport costs $320.
The Security Bureau has recommended to the Legislative Council that the price be increased 15 per cent to $370. There are 3.1 million SAR passports in circulation, an Immigration Department spokeswoman said.
While the exact number of BNO passports in use is not known, in 1997, 3.44 million Hong Kong residents were entitled to them. The largest number of residents to renew their passports was in 2001 when just under 200,000 applications were received - many from children who had received the five-year BNO passports in the run-up to the handover in 1997.
Since the introduction of new regulations in November 2003 that require visitors to Britain to acquire a permit to stay beyond six months, about 6,000 BNO passport holders have been given free extensions to their visas. Other nationalities are required to pay for the permits.