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Hadley Says

What to Do if You Find Yourself in the Hong Kong Visa ‘Twilight Zone’

January 31st, 2013

Posted in Employment Visas, Family Visas, Hadley Says…, Investment Visas, Special Programmes, The Hong Kong Visa Geeza /


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Sometimes, Hong Kong residents find themselves changing employers or swapping from a sponsored employment visa to a business investment visa, when their current limit of stay expires and they find themselves ‘without a visa’ whilst the Hong Kong ID are working on their applications.

In this instance, so long as you have an ‘active application’ ongoing, the Immigration Department will allow you to slip into a kind of twilight zone where you do not have a valid period of stay manifested in your passport.

This can last from just a few days or even a few weeks – just as long as it takes for ImmD to finalise your application.

However, without a valid period of stay endorsed in your passport, you will not be able to leave Hong Kong as the officers at the border cannot clear you for departure as they have no means of determining that you are not in fact an overstayer.

Consequently, where you find yourself in the twilight zone like this you need to contact the case officer at Immigration Tower having responsibility for your application well in advance of your planned departure and ask them to prepare a Departure Memo for you to present with your passport as you exit Hong Kong.

Upon your return, you will be granted a visitor visa upon arrival as this is the only status that will be available to you until the Department have finalized your substantive application.

Once your new visa is available, however you will be able to, exit Hong Kong relinquishing your visitor visa as you leave, place your new visa label on a clean page in your passport prior to reentering and, when you have come back into Hong Kong, your new residence visa will be activated accordingly.

Unless you’ve been ‘extended’, in which case there will be no need to depart and return in this way.

And don’t worry, whether you’re in the twilight zone or leave via a Departure Memo, this experience will not break your continuity of residence for the purposes of any right of abode application you may decide to make after you have lived in Hong Kong continuously for 7 years.

More Stuff You May Find Useful

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I hate my boss and want to leave my job – what about my employment visa for Hong Kong?

The Shenzhen Shuttle – a good way to extend your Hong Kong visitor visa?

Do I need to work for the same employer to get the right of abode in Hong Kong?


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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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