Germany’s chaotic bureaucracy throws Hong Kong’s BNO holders into disarray

Published (HKT): 2021.04.15 14:16

From applications for student visas to working holidays, Apple Daily found several instances where Germany did not recognize British National (Overseas) passports from Hong Kong.

They occurred before the Hong Kong government requested foreign governments to stop recognizing the special British passports as valid travel documents in March.

In one case, a Hongkonger who obtained a working holiday visa with her BNO passport in 2019 applied for a student visa in February this year for her studies in Germany. But the temporary permit listed the details of her Hong Kong passport instead of the BNO passport.

“The officials insisted that BNO is not a nationality and is only a travel document. As Hong Kong is part of China, I need a Chinese passport in order to stay in Germany,” she recalled. She was also told that staff members at the German Consulate in Hong Kong had “made a mistake” by approving her working holiday visa in the first place.

In her residence permit, her nationality was also listed as China. Given the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the national security law, the incident came across as a form of white terror, she added.

Another Hongkonger, Calvin, obtained a language course visa with his BNO passport and arrived in Germany in 2016. When he swapped to a student visa in 2019, the Marburg government listed his nationality as Chinese on his residence permit. When he informed the authorities of the mistake, he was issued another residence permit, which listed his nationality as Indian Ocean Territories.

Ron, who arrived in Germany with a student visa this year, faced the same problem. The government staff refused to change his nationality to Hong Kong, insisting that Hong Kong is part of China.

Another BNO passport holder named Li arrived in Germany in 2019 with an E.U. Blue Card, a special employment visa. While his nationality was listed as Great British, his wife was listed as Chinese and his children, who hold Hong Kong SAR passports, Hong Kong. He feared that when his wife seeks employment in the future, it would be difficult for her to provide an official Chinese document to prove she has no criminal record.

A spokesperson from the Germany Federal Office for Migration and Refugees said “a BNO is a passport only and Hongkongers are Chinese citizens. However, in our registers and statistics, we differentiate between Chinese and Chinese (Hongkong). It cannot be excluded that in some cases Foreigners offices did enter China instead of China (Hongkong).” In the case of British Nationals holding BNO passports, “this may have led to the impression that they are British citizens with the country code GBR,” he added.

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