Immigration in Hong Kong
Immigration in Hong KongUpdated on Saturday 31st July 2021
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Hong Kong is an attractive business destination and some individuals may also decide to enter the Special Administrative Region for residence purposes, alongside their main interest for seeking up employment or starting a business.
Immigration in Hong Kong is possible under certain conditions that concern the motive of the prolonged stay as well as the ones applicable to visa requirements, for foreign nationals of countries that always require an entry visa.
In this article, our team of lawyers in Hong Kong highlights the main issues related to immigration, the admission schemes that are in place for certain categories of individuals as well as other entry arrangements.
If you are seeking personalized information, and this guideline does not answer all of your questions, we invite you to reach out to our lawyers who specialize in immigration in Hong Kong.
General conditions for entry in Hong Kong
Individuals generally require a visa or an entry permit for a particular purpose in order to enter Hong Kong (unless they have the right of abode). Visas are not required for all foreign nationals and in many cases foreigners may remain in the Special Administrative Region visa-free for a limited time (90 days for France and 180 days for British citizens, for example).
Persons who are interested in immigration in Hong Kong need to apply for a visa or an entry permit (for purposes other than visits) before traveling to the Special Administrative Region. Separate conditions apply for residences of Mainland China and for Chinese residents in Taiwan.
Our attorneys in Hong Kong can provide you with detailed information according to nationality and the conditions for obtaining a visa solely for transit purposes.
Entry permits for immigration in Hong Kong can be awarded for the following purposes:
- Employment: individuals may enter the Special Administrative region for employment purposes when the employment offer is one that complies with the general labor conditions and when the applicant has a background that recommends him/her for the position;
- Quality Migrant: for applicants who wish to come to Hong Kong under a special admission scheme that is based on an achievement points test with a minimum passing mark;
- Investment: for entrepreneurs who have the ability to make a substantial contribution to the economy in terms of investment value, number of jobs created and the introduction of new technology;
- Study: individuals who are interested in immigration in Hong Kong can enter based on a study permit once they have been admitted to a school, post-secondary programme, local programme, full-time course, etc.;
- Dependants: the spouse of the unmarried dependent children under the age of 18 of an individual (sponsor) who has been admitted into Hong Kong for employment purposes can apply for a dependants permit.
Please keep in mind that the special employment or investment categories are in place (for example, for training purposes as well as according to the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme). The immigration experts at our law firm in Hong Kong can provide more details.
The conditions for the admittance of dependants, as well as those for the right of abode and all other immigration issues are set forth by the Hong Kong Immigration Department.
Information on the Hong Kong identity card
The Hong Kong smart identity card had several security features and old identity cards have been replaced in Hong Kong in several stages since the end of 2018.
All individuals who are allowed to stay in Hong Kong for more than 180 days are required to register for an identity card. The conditions that apply for this are the following:
- Age: under law, all individuals who reside in Hong Kong and are aged 11 or over are required to apply for an identity card;
- Verification: before commencing the registration procedure for a permanent identity card, the applicant is required to check the eligibility criteria;
- Date of registration: an individual who has been allowed to stay for more than 180 days is required to apply for a Hong Kong identity card within 30 days of arrival;
- Processing time: the usual period is 7 working days.
The verification of eligibility for permanent identity card is mandatory and the applicant needs to fill in a special form as well as provide supporting documents such as the travel document that states the current condition to stay in Hong Kong and the copies of the documentary proof required for acquiring the status of permanent resident.
The application is submitted to the Right of Abode Section, the Immigration Department. This can be done by post, in person drop-in or online. Individuals are not required to apply for the verification of the permanent identity card eligibility when they are qualified to apply for a Certificate of Entitlement, as per section 2AB of the Immigration Ordinance (even if the applicant has not yet been issued the certificate and he is currently residing in Mainland China). You can read more about the Certificate of Entitlement below in this article.
Children under the age of 11 who have a Hong Kong permanent status (which is indicated on their Hong Kong-issued birth certificate) are not generally required to apply for the verification of eligibility for a permanent identity card. They can apply for the permanent identity card when they reach the age of 11.
Our team of agents who specialize in immigration in Hong Kong can provide more details about each method and its particularities.
The application for eligibility verification as well as the first issuance of the permanent identity card is free of charge.
Right of abode in Hong Kong
The right of above allows a person to land in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, to be free of any condition of stay, not to be deported and removed. The Immigration Ordinance provides information on who may enjoy the right of abode and there are six general categories listed below by our team of lawyers who specialize in immigration in Hong Kong:
for Chinese citizens:
- a) a Chinese citizen both in Hong Kong before or after the establishment of the Special Administrative Region;
- b) a Chinese citizen who was a Hong Kong resident for a continuous period of at least 7 years before or after the establishment of the Special Administrative Region;
- c) a Chinese national born outside of Hong Kong before of after the establishment of the HKSAR to a parent who was a Chinese citizen included in the two aforementioned categories.
Chinese nationals who comply with the eligibility criteria under category c) can apply for a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode. Only this category of individuals may apply for this certificate, and, in most cases, the usual processing time is three months from the receipt of the documents. The estimated processing time only applies in those situations in which the applicant can clearly show the situation of the parents. The processing period will be longer if the Hong Kong authorities believe that the parent/child relationship is subject to a doubtful claim or when other data submitted in the application is doubtful. The processing time will also depend on the number of applications that are being processed at the time.
for non-Chinese citizens:
- d) an individual who has entered Hong Kong by means of a valid travel document, and has been a continuous resident for no less than 7 years and has his/her place of permanent residence here;
- e) a person under 21 years born in Hong Kong to a parent who is a permanent resident; after the age of 21 this person is required to apply for the status of permanent resident under category 4;
- f) an individual falling under the previously mentioned categories who, before the HKSAR was established had the right of abode in Hong Kong only.
Although the application for the registration of the identity card or its renewal is free of charge, the Immigration Department imposes certain fees in other situations, namely:
- $370 for the replacement of a lost, destroyed or defaced identity card;
- $425 for the certificate of registered particulars;
- $575 for the renunciation of Chinese nationality;
- $145 for the declaration of change of nationality in case of Chinese citizens;
- $ 1,150 for the restoration of Chinese nationality.
For the applications submitted in case of Chinese nationals (such as the declaration to change nationality) the fee is non-refundable.
Please keep in mind that these fees can change. Our team presented the fees that were in force at the time this article was updated, however, we do recommend reaching out to our immigration experts for more information on the fees and regulations set forth by the Department.
Additional information on these categories can be provided upon request by our team of lawyers in Hong Kong. We can also assist Chinese and non-Chinese citizens with related issues such as the situation in which a non-Chinese citizen was a British National or British Overseas citizen immediately before 1 July 1997 or the situation in which a Chinese citizen does not have a foreign passport.
The loss of permanent resident status
In some cases, non-Chinese individuals will lose the status of permanent resident. Knowing these conditions is important for those who are interested in immigration in Hong Kong and we present some of these cases below:
- - an individual who has resident for a period of at least 7 years in Hong Kong and has taken HKSAR as his/her place of permanent residence can lose the status of permanent resident when he/she has been absent from the city for a continuous period of at least 36 months since he/she cased to have ordinarily resided here;
- - a person under 21 years born in Hong Kong to a parent who is a permanent resident can cease to be a permanent resident if, upon attaining 21 years of age, he or she fails to qualify for the requirements to obtain permanent residence.
An individual who loses the status of permanent resident automatically acquires the right to land in Hong Kong. This means that he or she is able to enter HKSAR to live, work or study without restriction. One can verify is the permanent resident status was lost by applying for the eligibility verification with the Right of Abode Section. More information on the right to land and the right of abode can be provided by our lawyers.
Questions on the right of abode in Hong Kong
Below, our team of lawyers in Hong Kong answers a few questions on particular situations in which the applicant may be interested in knowing more about his or her right of abode in the Special Administrative Region. For detailed information, or for personalized answers to a particular family situation, please feel free to reach out to our immigration experts.
1. Born in Hong Kong and emigrated, holds a foreign passport – when the individual was born in Hong Kong before the establishment of the Special Administrative Region, he is still regarded as a Chinese citizen, unless he has made a declaration of change of nationality. The Hong Kong permanent resident status is not lost in this case even if the individual was absent from HKSAR for a very long period.
2. The fiancé of a Hong Kong permanent resident – in this situation, the fiancé is a foreign national without right of abode and the marriage in Hong Kong has yet to take place; in general, marriage with a Hong Kong permanent resident does not guarantee the right of abode, unless the spouse is eligible for permanent residence status as defined in the Immigration Ordinance (namely, has lawfully lived in Hong Kong for the minimum indicated period).
3. Former Hong Kong resident living overseas who holds the old identity card type – these foreign nationals can choose to return to Hong Kong and can be eligible for permanent resident status if they are a Chinese citizen born in Hong Kong who resided here for a minimum period of 7 years. The individual can apply for the verification of the permanent identity card on the next visit to HKSAR and upon the completion of the verification he can register to obtain a new permanent identity card (the registration and the processing of the application along with the issuance of the new card is performed by the Registration of Persons Office).
Non-Chinese national who came in Hong Kong in 1998 and had been living in the country since then – according to law, an individual who has entered Hong Kong with a valid travel document and has been residing here for at least 7 years is a permanent resident. The applicant must be able to show that Hong Kong is his or her permanent place of residence.
Our team can answer more questions, such as the situation in which the applicant was born in Hong Kong to migrant parents and then emigrated with the family.
Statistics and additional information on Immigration in Hong Kong
Permanent residence in Hong Kong is possible for foreign nationals who have stayed in the country continuously for at least seven years. Moreover, the applicant must submit a special declaration stipulating that he or she has established the main place of permanent residence in Hong Kong. The permanent resident status is granted only after the approval of the application. Different conditions apply for Chinese citizens who are interested in immigration in Hong Kong.
The following statistics from the Immigration Department, presented by our lawyers in Hong Kong, provide insight into the number of applications for immigration according to the purpose of stay:
- 7,717: the number of applications for entry permits for employment or investment in Hong Kong between January and June 2020;
- 8,068: the number of applications received by the Department during the same period in 2020 for dependants;
- 1,289: the total number of applications in the first half of 2020 for study purposes;
- 41,289: the total number of employment and investment visas issued in 2019 by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
As far as Chinese nationals are concerned, there have been 1,638 applications for naturalization as a Chinese national in 2018 and 207 applications for renunciation of Chinese nationality.
Contact us for detailed guidelines and assistance on immigration in Hong Kong. Our team of lawyers can provide ongoing support and assistance for application as well as for handling the post-arrival requirements.