What is the change? Hong Kong will continue issuing visas to foreign same-sex spouses and civil partners as it completes a review of a landmark Court of Final Appeal ruling. The ruling, issued July 4, cleared the way for Hong Kong to recognize foreign same-sex marriages or civil partnerships for immigration purposes.

What does the change mean? Same-sex spouses or civil partners will be eligible for visas provided that (1) there is proof of a genuine relationship between the sponsor and applicant; (2) there is “no known record to the detriment” of the applicant and (3) the sponsor is able to support the applicant financially and provide suitable accommodation in Hong Kong. Visas will be issued for 12 months or for the period remaining on the sponsor’s visa, whichever is shorter. Visa holders will be permitted to work, study or start a business during this time.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Visas for partners in a foreign same-sex marriage or civil partnership.
  • Who is affected: Foreign nationals in a same-sex marriage or civil partnership who live in or are relocating to Hong Kong.
  • Business impact: The ruling and the continued issuance of visas could help make Hong Kong an attractive option for foreign employees in same-sex relationships who are relocating to Asia.

Background: Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal issued a landmark ruling this month, saying that authorities were wrong to deny a visa to a British national identified as QT, who sought dependent status on the basis of a legally authenticated same-sex partnership. Even before the ruling, however, Hong Kong had begun issuing visas to same-sex dependent spouses and civil partners on the basis of a lower court ruling in QT’s favor. The Immigration Department said last week that the interim measures will remain in place until the department settles on a long-term solution in line with the ruling. The agency said in a statement that it would  “strive to complete the policy review within reasonable time.”

BAL Analysis: 
BAL will continue to follow developments in Hong Kong and will provide an update once the Immigration Department settles on a long-term solution. In the meantime, qualifying same-sex partners may apply for visas in the manner described above.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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