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A Complete Guide to UK Mortgages for BNO Visa Holders

By Pete Mugleston

Published: 19th February 2021 Last updated: 19th February 2021
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In January 2021, the UK Government introduced new imigration measures for British National Overseas (BNO) visa holders in Hong Kong, offering a new path to UK citizenship for many people in the Asian country. Those with BNO status can now apply for a 30-month or five-year visa that gives them the opportunity to live, work and study in the UK.

Holders of the new BNO visa can apply for residency after five years in the UK and citizenship one year later, and their introduction has led to renewed interest in the British property market among Hong Kong nationals. Not only has there been a rise in UK buy-to-let applications from Hong Kong-based investors, there has also been an influx of residential mortgage enquiries from BNO visa holders who are hoping to relocate.

If you’re a Hong Kong national with a BNO visa (or planning to apply for one) who’s looking to apply for a UK mortgage, this article is for you. We’ve covered all you need to know about getting a UK mortgage with a BNO visa, from lending criteria to the application process.

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Can you get a UK mortgage with a British National Overseas visa?

Yes. If you’re a Hong Kong national hoping to come to the UK on a BNO visa, there could well be mortgage options available to you. There are mortgage providers who are more than happy to lend to foreign nationals, though one problem you might encounter is that many of these lenders prefer customers who’ve been living in the UK for at least 12 months.

This is likely to be problematic for many British National Overseas visa holders who want a home to live in as soon as possible. Luckily, there are specialist mortgage lenders who can consider residential mortgage applications from Hong Kong nationals with a BNO visa as soon as they arrive in the UK. These mortgage providers don’t base their lending on your credit history, so having a track record of residency in Britain is not necessary.

”What might stop me from getting approved?”

The biggest obstacle many Hong Kongese borrowers might encounter here is around employment. The mortgage providers who lend under these circumstances like to see a water-tight contract of full-time employment, otherwise you will need to wait at least three months and provide wage slips to evidence your income over that period.

Another issue to overcome is how difficult it can be to find a specialist lender who’s willing to offer a mortgage to a BNO visa holder who has no UK credit history. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution: apply through an expert mortgage broker who helps foreign nationals get a mortgage in the UK every day. They can help you find the right lender first time, make sure you get the best deal available, and offer expert guidance every step of the way.

Lending criteria

Hong Kongese people with a British National Overseas visa will need to meet the following criteria to qualify for a residential mortgage in the UK…

  • Full-time employment: Being in full-time employment in the UK and being able to evidence this with a letter from your employer or three months’ wage slips will improve your chances of getting a mortgage and increase the number of approachable lenders. Although a minority of specialist providers will consider a mortgage based on foreign or overseas income, your chances of mortgage approval will be much higher if you can provide proof of a permanent job in the UK.
  • Time remaining on your visa: Most lenders will need you to have 1-2 years remaining on your visa or they won’t approve your application. BNO visa holders on a 30-month or a five-year visa should meet this criteria when they arrive in the UK.
  • Mortgage deposit: Deposit requirements are higher for foreign nationals compared to UK natives. See the next section for full information about this.
  • Other factors: Other factors that can make it more difficult to get a mortgage as a British National Overseas visa holder include being self-employed, being over 75 years old, buying a non-standard property (anything besides a typical house/flat/apartment made from bricks and mortar) and having bad credit (although some specialist lenders won’t even look at your credit history as a foreign national).

Deposit requirements

To get a UK mortgage as a BNO visa holder from Hong Kong, you will need to put down at least 25% of the property’s value as a mortgage deposit. This is the minimum amount foreign nationals usually need to be approved by most mortgage lenders in Britain. If you’re in a position to put down more than 25%, this would usually be in your interest, as mortgage providers tend to reserve their best rates for customers with higher deposits.

There are also scenarios where the lender might insist that you put down more than the minimum. This would usually be when there are risk factors present, such as uncertainty around your employment, bad credit or if you’re buying a non-standard property.

How to apply

Here are three simple steps you should take before you apply for a UK mortgage if you’re a British National Overseas visa holder from Hong Kong…

  • Open a UK bank account: There’s a good chance you will have done this already, especially if you’ve already started full-time work in the UK. But if you don’t have a UK bank account, you’ll need to open one before you apply for your mortgage.
  • Get your documents together: You will need documentary evidence to prove your identity, your deposit funds and your income, as well as your visa paperwork.
  • Speak to a mortgage broker: This is the best way to kickstart your application. Speaking to a mortgage broker who specialises in foreign national customers can ensure that you’re matched with the right lender first time, and this could mean saving time, money and marks on your credit report in the long run.

After your broker has carried out a fact find to clarify what your goals are and what kind of residential mortgage you could qualify for, they will search the entire market to find the perfect product for you and the lender who is best positioned to provide it. They will help you with your paperwork and guide you through the rest of the process from here.

Buy-to-let mortgages for BNO visa holders

There are mortgage lenders who are willing to offer buy-to-let mortgages to foreign nationals who want to invest in the UK property market, and brokers are reporting a sharp increase in these enquiries from Hong Kong since the new BNO visa measures came in.

To get a mortgage on a rental property in the UK, you will need at least 25% deposit and the lender will need to be convinced that the investment is viable; i.e. that the rental income it generates will cover the mortgage payments with profit left over.

It’s more difficult to secure a buy-to-let mortgage under these circumstances without a full-time job. Most lenders will want you to have income to fall back on in the event of non-paying tenants, or any other situation which might impact your rental income.

If you manage to secure a BNO visa before your buy-to-let mortgage application, this will help your cause, as this is preferable to lenders. Most would rather work with a borrower who has the right to a multi-year stay in the UK, although it is possible to secure a UK investment mortgage from over in Hong Kong, under the right circumstances.

Expect the lender’s identity, anti-money laundering and funding source checks to be extra stringent since investments from foriegn nationals can be higher risk than domestic deals.

Many Hong Kongese who are planning to come to the UK to live are viewing buy to let as a potential foothold in the country, serving as an investment in the short term, while potentially giving them the option to switch to a residential deal in the future. The advisors we work with can help you figure out whether this is a viable option for you.

Speak to an expert

Getting a UK mortgage if you’re planning to move here from Hong Kong on a BNO visa can be complicated. The market is vast and approaching the wrong mortgage lender could mean ending up with a needlessly high interest rate or a rejection on your credit file.

Either of these things can be costly, but there’s a way you can boost your chances of landing the best interest rates and being approved first time, with virtually no hassle at all.

There are mortgage brokers who specialise in securing UK mortgages for Hong Kongese people with British National Overseas visas, and with their guidance and expertise, you can rest assured that you’ll find the right lender and the best deals you qualify for.

We offer a free broker-matching service that will take your needs and circumstances into account and pair you up with a mortgage advisor who knows exactly how to secure finance for a Hong Kongese applicant with a British National Overseas visa. An initial consultation with them won’t cost you a penny but could save you time and money in the long run.

Call 0808 189 2301 or make an enquiry and we’ll set up a free, no-obligation chat between you and the ideal mortgage broker for you today.

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