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Hong Kong: Government Revises Immigration Policy to Grant Same-Sex Partners Dependent Visa

(Nov. 26, 2018) On September 18, 2018, the government of Hong Kong announced that its immigration policy on applications of nonlocal dependents to enter Hong Kong has been revised. As of September 19, 2018, “a person who has entered into a same-sex civil partnership, same-sex civil union, ‘same-sex marriage’, opposite-sex civil partnership or opposite-sex civil union outside Hong Kong with an eligible sponsor” is eligible to apply for a dependent visa to enter Hong Kong. (Press Release, The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), Immigration Policy on Entry of Dependants Revised (Sept. 18, 2018), HKSAR website.)

To be eligible for the dependent visa, an applicant must have entered into the relationship with the sponsor in accordance with laws outside Hong Kong, and the relationship must be legally and officially recognized in the place of celebration. (Id.)

Hong Kong does not recognize same-sex marriage. The revision concerns only applications for entry of nonlocal dependents, which does not change the meaning of “spouse” under Hong Kong’s immigration policy. (Id.)

As a result, according to the recently revised immigration guidelines for entry to the HKSAR, for a sponsor who has been admitted into the HKSAR to take up employment or studies, the following dependents may apply to join him or her for residence in the HKSAR, subject to some exceptions:

  • his/her spouse or the other party to a same-sex civil partnership, same-sex civil union, “same-sex marriage”,  opposite-sex civil partnership or opposite-sex civil union entered into by him/her in accordance with the local law in force at the place of celebration and with such status being legally and officially recognised by the local authorities of the place of celebration; and
  • his/her unmarried dependent children under the age of 18.

(Immigration Department, The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Immigration Guidelines for Entry to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, “Residence as Dependant” para. 62 (citations omitted) (last revised Oct. 3, 2018), Immigration Department website.) In addition to the above-listed dependents, parents aged 60 or above of a Hong Kong permanent resident sponsor may also apply for residence in the HKSAR, subject to some exceptions. (Id.)

The revision of the immigration policy follows the decision Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal handed down in QT v. Director of Immigration on July 4, 2018. (Id.) In the QT case, a British national, QT, challenged the Director of Immigration’s refusal to grant her a dependent visa on the grounds that the existing policy was to admit only a spouse of an opposite-sex monogamous marriage as a dependent. QT had entered into a same-sex civil partnership with her partner in England under the UK’s Civil Partnership Act 2004, and her partner was granted an employment visa in Hong Kong. The court found the existing policy ran counter to the aim of encouraging talent to join the Hong Kong workforce “since a person who had the talent or skills deemed needed or desirable could be straight or gay,” and ruled in favor of QT. (Laney Zhang, Hong Kong: Court of Final Appeal Grants Same-Sex Partner Right to Dependent Visa, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (July 30, 2018).)