HONG KONG – Immigration Authority Allows Dependent Visa Applications for Same-Sex Spouses
Effective 19 September 2018, the Hong Kong government has revised its immigration policy to allow a same-sex spouse or civil partner, or an opposite-sex civil partner, in a foreign legally-recognized relationship with an eligible sponsor, to apply for a dependent visa.
Under the revised policy, the Director of Immigration will consider a dependent residence application from a same-sex spouse or civil partner, or opposite-sex civil partner, if the person meets the normal immigration requirements and the following original specific eligibility criteria of the Policy:
• there is reasonable proof of a genuine relationship between the applicant and the sponsor;
• there is no known record to the detriment of the applicant; and
• the sponsor is able to support the dependent’s living at a standard well above the subsistence level and provide him/her with suitable accommodation in Hong Kong.
The Immigration Department (ImmD) will process pending applications and any new application received according to the revised policy.
Permission to remain in Hong Kong under the interim arrangement, put in place by ImmD pending the completion of the review of the policy, will remain valid. Before the expiry of the permitted limit of stay, they may apply to the ImmD for extension of stay to remain in Hong Kong as dependents. The ImmD will process the applications according to the revised policy.
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 previous 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 recognized as valid in Hong Kong law.
Employment visa holders, their same-sex spouses or civil partners, or opposite-sex civil partners, and their employers who may be affected by this judgement are advised to contact an immigration advisor at McCown & Evans LLP for the latest information on the Immigration Department’s new policy.