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Can I Study Online For A UK Tertiary Qualification While Staying In Hong Kong With A Visitor Visa?

March 6th, 2024

Posted in The Hong Kong Visa Geeza, Visitor Visas, Your Question Answered /


Visitor Visa

This question gets to the heart of permitted activity as a Visitor and the ability to remain here on an indefinite basis on that status.


Hi, I am a New Zealander currently staying in Hong Kong with my partner who is a permanent HKID card holder.

I do not have a HKID card, just a tourist visa, and I wish to study a university degree via correspondence (online study) from a UK university.

Do I need a Hong Kong student visa or a visa of any kind to do this?


The final analysis, whatever is deemed to be permitted activity as a visitor visa holder is actually driven by the determination of the Immigration Department to prosecute for breach of conditions of stay. And so, in my experience, if you’ve made the decision that you want to remain physically in Hong Kong and undertake a course of study with a foreign education institute, doing it online remotely, I believe you’d be very unlucky or unfortunate for the Immigration Department to want to prosecute you for breach of conditions of stay.

So, I’d certainly hazard a very positive guess that you’d be perfectly okay to undertake that course of study while you’re in Hong Kong as a visitor. But that’s not the real issue here. The real issue is the fact that you’re obviously intending to remain here on an indefinite long stay basis, and the visitor visa category isn’t really designed for people to stay in Hong Kong on an indefinite long stay basis; therefore, you need to have a formal rationale for being in Hong Kong on a long stay indefinite basis. However, considering the current circumstances that you find yourself in, unfortunately you’re in a round peg square hole situation – you’re here with your partner who’s a permanent identity card holder, but you’re not married to him and therefore the rationale of dependency and family reunion doesn’t strictly apply. Thus, you can’t get yourself a legal dependence visa. If you have had a history of prior cohabitation with your partner, particularly overseas, prior to arriving in Hong Kong, it becomes possible to conceive of you procuring a prolonged visitor visa on the strength of your pre-existing relationship and that in a know would couch you as de facto spouses.

However, if it’s a boyfriend- girlfriend-type situation and the relationship is relatively new (and relatively new for these purposes is sort of two years or less) you may struggle to persuade the Immigration Department to grant you a prolonged visitor visa for you to remain in Hong Kong under his charge, as it were.

Apart from that, what you’re then left with, is running the gauntlets of the Shenzhen shuttle or frequently coming and going across the boundaries in other ways, flying possibly back to New Zealand every now and again when your 90-day period of stay as a visitor comes up for renewal.

So unfortunately, what you have at the moment is quite an unsustainable situation that is going to, at some stage or other, catch up with you.

I’ve included in this post a number of resources that deal with the question of being a long stay visitor in Hong Kong, and how the Immigration Department view these arrangements.

So, as I say, love will conquer all. I’m certain that you’ll be able to come to some sort of arrangement that will allow you to solve your problem, but it’s certainly not going to be plain sailing from here on in, and there’s certainly no visa category degree that addresses the rationale of remaining in Hong Kong in order to undertake a course of study with a remote foreign university.

I hope this helps!

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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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