Interview with a family of 4 that arrived with LOTR ⦁ 一家四口用LOTR入境

Family of four watching sunset

Kane Chiang and his wife and two young kids decided that they would emigrate to the UK on 22 July 2020 when details of the BNO Visa came out. One month later, they landed in the UK using Leave Outside the Rules (LOTR). 

What were the most difficult parts of your move? ⦁ 移民最難嘅係乜嘢

Leaving my parents, my wife’s parents and a dog behind in Hong Kong has been hard for me. I do miss my dog, but with Covid-19 there are too many travel restrictions and it is too expensive to bring Toffee here at this point. We will do something once we have settled.

Applying for LOTR was risky, especially with my kids being 5 and 7, because I wouldn’t know the results until I was physically in the UK. In my head the worst-case scenario was we would try to enter the UK as tourists with our BNO and Hong Kong passports if we were not granted LOTR. I thought we would then just use this period to do our research and find out where we want to live. 

I have been here on holiday so I know that the UK is not as convenient as Hong Kong, and I would not be living the old life I had in Hong Kong, like having impromptu meetings with friends late in the night. I will have to get used to this. 

How much money did you bring with you? How are you moving funds from HK to the UK? ⦁ 你哋帶咗幾多錢過英國,同埋點樣匯錢過嚟

We brought around £22,000 cash with us, and we did not have any bank accounts in the UK before we moved. The day when we landed, my wife applied for a bank account with Monzo that was approved soon after. She received a debit card the next day. Now we use Transferwise to move money from our Hong Kong bank accounts to my wife’s UK account. We like Transferwise so far because the handling charge is low and the exchange rate is better than what banks in Hong Kong offer.  

Are you renting or buying in the UK? ⦁ 係英國會租樓定買樓

We lived in public housing when in Hong Kong, so luckily, we did not have to sell before the move which made everything easier. We are in an Airbnb now in New Malden, and are looking to rent in Epsom via estate agents. We found a place that we would like to rent and made an offer yesterday, but the landlord wanted a full year’s rent in advance which would eat up most of the cash we have now. I understand his concerns though, after all we have no credit record in the UK. 

We will only consider buying once we know where our kids’ secondary schools will be. They are our priorities. 

I must remind Hong Kongers, having a proof of address is a very important part of building your new life in the UK. So make this a priority.

Was getting the LOTR easy at the border? ⦁ 申請LOTR 嘅過程

Yes, it was no more than 15 minutes. We arrived the UK early morning on 26 August, and when I handed our passports (one BNO and three Hong Kong passports) I told the border officer that we wanted to apply for LOTR. He’s clearly had experience in dealing with this situation. He asked me how much cash we have, what I do for a living (not if I had a job in the UK already), and for our boarding passes and the public health passenger locator forms.

Even though I was holding my Hong Kong passport, I mentioned to him that my BNO is being renewed but I did not receive it when we left Hong Kong. He asked me to give him the reference number of my renewal. 

Then we sat in the waiting area for around 10-15 minutes, before the officer brought us our stamped passports back. He reminded us that we are allowed to study or work in the UK, but have no recourse to public funds. He also wanted us to get in touch with an updated long-term rental address once we have it, because an Airbnb rental is not good enough.

What advice do you have for Hong Kong families planning to come on LOTR? ⦁ 有冇建議比預備用LOTR過嚟嘅家庭

We have to be financially prepared. I have to say, the economy in the UK is worse than I expected. The unemployment rate here is very high, for example our Airbnb hosts are quite well off, but the husband got laid off recently and they are struggling slightly. I tell myself we need to have enough money to live for a few years, in case my wife and I can’t find a job. 

Also, be mentally prepared for a fresh start. It is a difficult time to move also because of COVID-19. But I think if you are mentally ready for a big change you will be ok. 

Image: Jude Beck on Unsplash

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