Removing All Conditions of Stay & Becoming a 'Hong Kong Belonger'

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Quick Summary


To be eligible for Unconditional Stay you need to have had “continuous residence in Hong Kong for a period of not less than seven years” all the while holding a qualifying residence visa (this excludes Foreign Domestic Helpers and persons admitted under the Supplementary Labour Scheme).

Approvability Test

Subject to there being no security objection, if you have been continuously resident in Hong Kong for a period not less than seven years you should, a priori, be granted permission to remain in Hong Kong without the need to apply for any sort of visa and without any limitation imposed on your length of stay (thus making your residence ‘unconditional’).

But Subject to One Condition

The term ‘unconditional’ is confusing as there is, in fact, one condition imposed along with Unconditional Stay. Namely, if you have been granted Unconditional Stay you must make yourself physically present in the HKSAR at least once in any given period of twelve months. This ‘one entry’ rule allows for the maintenance of continuing eligibility for Unconditional Stay status after it has been granted. Any failure to be physically present in Hong Kong for a period greater than twelve months will mean that your Unconditional Stay status will be relinquished by operation of law and you will once again have to apply to IMMD for a suitable visa covering your proposed activity in the HKSAR (employment, business investment etc).

UCS is NOT the ROA

No sponsorship is required for Unconditional Stay. The rationale for this immigration status is the idea that after a lengthy period of trouble-free residence you should be allowed to escape the grip of ImmD as regards your reason for remaining in Hong Kong and also the time you ought to be allowed to remain here. This status is merely an administrative convenience and is NOT the same as Permanent Residence (aka the Right of Abode). Unconditional Stay has an important role to play for those long term foreign national residents of Hong Kong who have, for their own reasons, not taken Hong Kong as their place of permanent residence and who can not, in all good faith, make a declaration to that effect as part of the process of acquiring a Permanent Hong Kong Identity Card. Unconditional Stay is also the long term immigration status of choice for holders of Capital Investment Visas who have been resident on and off in Hong Kong all throughout the 7 years they have kept their investments in the HKSAR but who can not show they have been continuously resident in this time. Whilst such people will not be eligible for the Right of Abode, ImmD do afford them Unconditional Stay status without the need for unbroken continuous residence, the rationale being that having your HKD10 million (or HKD6.5 M if you received your visa before October 2010) invested in the HKSAR for not less than 7 years should afford you a long term residence visa without any conditions and thus allow you to liquidate your Hong Kong holdings, the Capital Investment visa programme having served its purposes in your circumstances.

Structuring Your Argument

The key challenge is to be able to argue away any periods of missing residence. Absences from Hong Kong of more than 6 months will require proof that, irrespective of the length of absence, at the time of your departure from the HKSAR, your intention was to depart only temporarily.

How to Apply

Application can be via the Extension of Stay procedures or by Mail. The method chosen is usually a function of whether you now have a need to secure an extension to your current period of stay or not. In both cases, ImmD will receive the application bundle from you and then contact you 6-12 weeks later with either a request for further information or notification of approval and an invitation to attend at Immigration Tower to complete the approval formalities.

Approval Formalities

When you attend at the Immigration Tower, ImmD will issue you will a new visa label which states you now have Unconditional Stays status. At the same time, all limitations to your previous visa will be lifted, including sponsorship obligations and the finite period which you were previously allowed to remain in Hong Kong. You will also be advised to apply for a new Hong Kong Identity Card which will denote that you now have “U” status, now that you are a resident holding Unconditional Stay.

Refusal & Appeal

If your application for Unconditional Stay is refused, you can request a Reconsideration in the first instance and, if that proves unsuccessful, you may make an application under the section 53 Immigration Ordinance ‘Review of a decision of a public officer” process via the Chief Secretary’s office.