First Published January 17, 2013
If you are a foreign national permanent resident of Hong Kong you will hold a permanent identity card and, as a result, will possess the Rolls Royce immigration status of what is called the right of abode.
The right of abode provides you with, effectively, defacto citizenship of the HKSAR, although you are not entitled to apply for a HKSAR passport as you would have to go one step further by renouncing your current nationality and complete the process of naturalizing as a Chinese citizen first.
The right of abode is exactly that.
With this status you get the following rights:
(1) to land;
(2) to be free from any condition of stay (including a limit of stay)
(3) not to be deported from Hong Kong, and
(4) not to be removed from Hong Kong.
In immigration circles, there is raging debate about the true quality of the right of abode granted to long stay foreign nationals in Hong Kong because, in actual fact, it can be lost.
In order to maintain the right of abode, foreign nationals have to satisfy one ongoing condition – that he maintain his connections to Hong Kong by showing that he has been present in the HKSAR on at least one occasion in any given 3 year period.
This can easily be achieved, by making a single entry through immigration and landing in Hong Kong. Conceptually, you could then turn right around and leave Hong Kong immediately, and your right of abode would be maintained for another 3 years.
However, if you fail to satisfy the 3 year rule you will, by operation of law, lose your right of abode and be downgraded to the mere right to land – which effectively means that you can now be deported from Hong Kong after all.
In a practical sense, this doesn’t really have any major impact on the affected person.
You can still live in Hong Kong, work, establish or join in a business, study, sponsor parents for dependant visas and enjoy all of the other day-to-day privileges which accompany life in Hong Kong, although you won’t be able to vote in elections, access public financial assistance or participate in the various government programmes such as the recent Scheme 6000 or benefit from the stamp duty benefits in relation to the purchase of property.