Around 300,000 people are expected to leave Hong Kong for Britain using a new visa route which opens on Sunday.
Boris Johnson said the move – which was announced in the wake of Beijing’s national security law being imposed on Hong Kong last year – honours the “profound ties of history and friendship” between the UK and its former colony.
Hongkongers with British National (Overseas) status and their dependents are eligible for the visas.
After five years they will be able to apply for settlement, followed by British citizenship after a further 12 months.
Although there are 2.9 million BN(O) citizens eligible to move to the UK, with a further estimated 2.3 million dependants, the Government expects take-up of the offer to be far smaller.
Between 123,000 and 153,700 BN(O) status holders and their dependents are expected to use the route to the UK in the first year, rising to between 258,000 and 322,400 over five years.
The Prime Minister said: “I am immensely proud that we have brought in this new route for Hong Kong BN(O)s to live, work and make their home in our country.
“In doing so we have honoured our profound ties of history and friendship with the people of Hong Kong, and we have stood up for freedom and autonomy – values both the UK and Hong Kong hold dear.”
The visa fee to stay for five years will be £250 per person – or £180 for a 30-month stay – and people coming to the UK will also have to pay the immigration health surcharge of up to £624 a year.
The BN(O) status was created before the UK handed responsibility for Hong Kong back to China in 1997.
We have been clear we won’t look the other way when it comes to Hong Kong. We will live up to our historic responsibility to its peopleForeign Secretary Dominic Raab
From Sunday, those eligible for a visa can apply online and will need to book an appointment to attend a visa application centre to provide their fingerprints.
Then, from February 23, BN(O) status holders who have an eligible biometric passport will be able to use an app to complete their application from home – the first time non-European Economic Area citizens have been able to do so.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “We have been clear we won’t look the other way when it comes to Hong Kong. We will live up to our historic responsibility to its people.
“China’s imposition of the national security law in Hong Kong constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration contrary to international law.”