4. Can former residents return to Hong Kong and renew their status as Hong Kong permanent residents?
If such persons are Chinese citizens who are Hong Kong permanent residents but have lived elsewhere, then they are entitled to return to live in Hong Kong regardless of how long they have been away. The situation may be different if they have lost Chinese nationality (in which case they may also lose their permanent resident status).
Foreigners (non-Chinese citizens) who have acquired the right to live in Hong Kong may also be entitled to return to live in Hong Kong after a period of absence, but it depends on the circumstances. For example, British citizens who acquired the right of residence during Hong Kong's colonial era may, depending on the circumstances, have the right to return and live in Hong Kong free of conditions of stay. However, this is a very complex area of the law, and legal advice should be sought from an expert.
Alternatively, you can ascertain the Immigration Department's view as to whether or not you have lost your Hong Kong permanent resident status by applying for verification of eligibility for permanent identity card with the Right of Abode Section of the Immigration Department . The Right of Abode Section will assess whether or not you have lost permanent resident status. To contact the Right of Abode Section, please click here. If your application is rejected by the Right of Abode Section, you should seek legal advice from an expert. It is because the Immigration Department's approach tends to be restrictive and on closer analysis some persons who are rejected by the Department are later recognised as being entitled to live and work in Hong Kong.
Another point to note is that under section 2AAA of the Immigration Ordinance, persons who were Hong Kong permanent residents but have lost that status are entitled to unconditional stay when they return. This means they are still entitled to live and work in Hong Kong, but are no longer eligible to hold high government office, participate in elections or enjoy certain social benefits.