1. Who is entitled to sponsor family members to come to live in Hong Kong? If I am a lawful resident of Hong Kong, can my family members in the Mainland (or elsewhere) apply to immigrate to Hong Kong?

The information that is set out here is intended as a general guide only. You should not make an important decision about immigration rights without consulting a lawyer who is knowledgeable in this area.

Briefly, the different groups of people who may be entitled to settle in Hong Kong with their relatives are as follows.

A) Family members from Mainland China

At present, a daily quota of 150 immigrants from Mainland China are granted a "one-way permit" to leave the Mainland to settle in Hong Kong . According to the rules and procedures of the Mainland (which are not governed by the Hong Kong SAR government authorities and courts), the following persons are eligible to apply for a one-way permit:

  1. The children of Hong Kong permanent residents of Chinese nationality who have the right of abode in Hong Kong according to section 24(2)(3) of the Basic Law and paragraph 2(c) of schedule 1 to the Immigration Ordinance ( *note ).
  2. The spouses of Hong Kong permanent residents.
  3. Dependent children (who are not being cared for in the Mainland) who are coming to Hong Kong to join their relatives.
  4. Dependent elderly people (who are not being cared for in the Mainland) who are coming to Hong Kong to join their relatives.
  5. Persons who are coming to Hong Kong to take care of their dependent parents.
  6. Persons who are coming to Hong Kong to inherit property from Hong Kong relatives.

( *Note : In the judgment of Chan Kam Nga v Director of Immigration in January 1999, the Court of Final Appeal held that children acquire the right of abode in Hong Kong under article 24(2)(3) of the Basic Law if, at or after the time of their birth one or both of their parents was a Hong Kong permanent resident. The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) issued an interpretation of the relevant part of the Basic Law later that year which clarified that for such children to exercise their right of abode in Hong Kong, their parent(s) must have already been a Hong Kong permanent resident at the time of the children's birth).

Residents of Mainland China who wish to reside in Hong Kong must first obtain a "one-way permit" from the Mainland authorities. When persons who hold such permits arrive in Hong Kong, they are usually (but not always) granted permission by the Hong Kong Immigration Department to enter for the purpose of residence. Note that the one-way permit granted to persons in the foregoing category (i) must be affixed with a “certificate of entitlement” (see the following section).

The issue of such permits is the responsibility of the relevant Mainland authorities (article 22(4) of the Basic Law), although the Hong Kong SAR Government is consulted on questions such as quotas. The Mainland authorities are said to operate a points system for the allocation of one-way permits to close relatives of Hong Kong residents who reside in Mainland China.

If the dependants from Mainland China (who are applying for a one-way permit) are the children of Hong Kong permanent residents , they must also obtain a "certificate of entitlement" from the Hong Kong Immigration Department before they can enter Hong Kong to exercise their right of abode. The main purpose of this certificate is to provide prior verification as to whether such persons have the right of abode in Hong Kong according to article 24(2)(3) of the Basic Law and paragraph 2(c) of schedule 1 to the Immigration Ordinance. This certificate must be affixed to the one-way permit of the relevant immigrant before he or she enter Hong Kong. More information about how to obtain this certificate is given in the guidance notes (in bilingual format) that are issued by the Immigration Department.

B) Family members from Macau

You may be entitled to sponsor the following dependants from Macau to reside in Hong Kong with you:

  1. Your spouse.
  2. Any unmarried dependent children who are under the age of 18.
  3. Your parents if they are aged 60 or above.

Although article 22(4) of the Basic Law technically applies to immigration from Macau, just as it does to immigration from Mainland China, in practice the Mainland authorities do not play any role, and the Hong Kong Immigration Department treats Macau residents in the same way as it treats persons from countries outside of China.

More details about the application requirements and the relevant application form can be found on the website of the Immigration Department.

C) Non-Chinese family members

You may also sponsor a non-Chinese dependent spouse or child to enter Hong Kong to live with you. However, you must be able to show that you have sufficient financial resources to support and accommodate the new arrival. Dependent children must be under 18 years of age.

Entry is granted to non-Chinese dependants at the general discretion of the Director of Immigration under section 11 of the Immigration Ordinance to admit any persons and to impose any conditions of stay. The Director operates the scheme under internal policy guidelines that may be amended from time to time without the need for legislation. It is important to note that the guidelines are guidelines only, and may be ignored in exceptional cases. The law requires the Director of Immigration to exercise the discretion on a case by case basis. If the Director refuses your application because it does not come within the guidelines and you consider the refusal to be unreasonable, you should seek legal advice from an expert.

D) Family members of non-permanent Hong Kong residents

The most common types of persons who fall within this category are the children and spouses of non-Chinese Hong Kong residents who work in Hong Kong with employment visas. These children and spouses are required to apply for a dependant visa from the Immigration Department. If they are granted the visa, they will usually be permitted to reside in Hong Kong as long as their sponsor's employment visa lasts.

Again, these dependant visas are granted at the general discretion of the Director of Immigration. Sponsors must show that they have sufficient financial resources to support and accommodate their dependants in Hong Kong.

Other important notes

As a general policy, only traditional lawful marriages are normally recognised – cohabitants or same-sex partners are excluded, although the legal power to admit spouses and children is discretionary and there is room for the Immigration Department to make exceptions.

Certain categories of person, including foreign domestic helpers, are not permitted to sponsor dependants to reside in Hong Kong. However, domestic helpers who have children while living in Hong Kong may be able to gain permission for them to remain.

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