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Can I Extend The 3 Years Needed To Keep My Right of Abode in Hong Kong?

August 8th, 2022

Posted in Long Stay & PR, The Hong Kong Visa Geeza /


First Published January 12, 2022

Can I Extend The 3 Years Needed To Keep My Right of Abode in Hong Kong?

Probably three or four times a week, I’m getting the same email these days. It’s August 8th, today. I’m still getting lots of lots of the same email.

Those emails are coming from permanent residents of Hong Kong who have been absent or are coming up for being absent from Hong Kong  continuously for three years because of COVID.

And the question always is:

Can the Immigration Department make an exception for those foreign nationals who originally secured permanent residency after seven years continuous ordinary residence, but for one reason or another, find themselves away from Hong Kong during COVID times for this extended period of three years?

Namely, any chance of them being able to get some sort of waiver or other dispensation due to the challenges that COVID is bringing to everyone’s ability to get back to Hong Kong quarantine free?

Unfortunately, the Director of Immigration doesn’t have the power to waive the one-in-3-year-rule as the Right of Abode is an instrument of the Basic Law.

This means that unless and until as a permanent resident in Hong Kong, the foreign national permanent resident of Hong Kong you have been physically present in Hong Kong on at least one occasion any three year given period, you will be by operation of law automatically downgraded to the Right to Land in the event that you are unable to get back here for the one in three year criteria.

So what does that mean in real terms?

Well, actually, the Right to Land downgrade that occurs, while sits, you know, disappointing in order to say something positive about that bottom line is that the rights that accompany the right time, that’s the right to work, the right to respond to family members who are dependent loses the right to sponsor, elderly parents who depend on these as some of the other rights that accrue with the Right of Abode are not lost. You do not have the right not to be deported, but you can’t be removed from Hong Kong.

Functionally, the Right to Land is the same as the Right of Abode, albeit you can be deported.

The difference for the most part practically falls to whether or not as a permanent resident holding the Right of Abode you can qualify for things like the scheme HKD6000 and other free money giveaways that the government occasionally avails to Hong Kong to permanent residents.

It’s those types of things but in a very pure practical sense, if you are downgraded to the right to essentially it means you can come back to Hong Kong at any point in the process and pick up your life from wherever you left it off. You don’t need any permission of the Hong Kong Immigration Department to do that.

And seven years of continuous on residence later, you can then subsequently apply for Right of Abode once again.

More Stuff to Help You Along

The perils of contriving a job offer in order to make an employment visa application in Hong Kong

Is there such an animal as a ‘flexible working visa’ for Hong Kong?

How to get a Hong Kong working visa automatically with no questions asked!

Can I study then get married all whilst holding an employment visa for a company I no longer work for?

Is it ever OK to work in Hong Kong on a visitor visa?


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The Hong Kong Visa Geeza (a.k.a Stephen Barnes) is a co-founder of the Hong Kong Visa Centre and author of the Hong Kong Visa Handbook. A law graduate of the London School of Economics, Stephen has been practicing Hong Kong immigration since 1993 and is widely acknowledged as the leading authority on business immigration matters here for the last 24 years.

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