HONG KONG: Immigration Authority Allows Dependent Visa Applications for Same-Sex Spouses

On 10 July, the Hong Kong Immigration Authority confirmed that it has implemented an “interim arrangement” allowing dependent residence status for same-sex spouses with eligible sponsors, pending a review of its dependent immigration policy.

Under the interim arrangement, subject to the meeting of normal immigration requirements, the Director will grant a party in a foreign legally-recognised same-sex relationship with an eligible sponsor permission to remain in Hong Kong for 12 months or in line with their sponsors' limit of stay (if applicable), whichever is shorter.

During this period, the same-sex spouse may take up employment, establish or join in business or study in Hong Kong without the need for prior permission from the Director.

Background

As we reported here, on 4 July 2018, Hong Kong’s highest court, the Court of Final Appeal, upheld a previous decision by a lower court to allow same-sex spouses to hold dependent visas, denying an appeal by the Director of Immigration.

Under current immigration regulations, a same-sex spouse cannot obtain a dependent visa and can only stay in Hong Kong for short periods as a tourist. This means that, unlike a heterosexual spouse, they cannot work in Hong Kong without obtaining an employment visa in their own right.

The case in question was first brought by the British same-sex spouse of a dual British and South African national holding a Hong Kong employment visa, whose application for a dependent visa was rejected by the Immigration Department in 2014.

Same-sex marriages are not recognised as valid in Hong Kong law.

Our Advice

Employment visa holders, their same-sex spouses and their employers who may be affected by this judgement are advised to contact their Newland Chase immigration specialist for the latest information on the Immigration Department’s response to this judgement.

Related content: Read our latest blog post, LGBT Expatriate Rights on the Rise: 7 APAC Destinations Examined, by Newland Chase's Global Legal Analyst, Kent O'Neil. 

For general advice and information on immigration and business travel to Hong Kong, please email us at enquiries@newlandchase.com.