De facto Citizenship in Hong Kong
In fact, the concept of “Hong Kong citizenship” does not exist since People’s Republic of China (PRC, a.k.a Mainland China) empowers its sovereignty over Hong Kong (although Hong Kong retains its high degree of autonomy and independent legal and monetary system).
Instead, Mainland China and its residents are Chinese citizens with a “right of domicile” in Hong Kong. However, oversea entrepreneurs does not have to become a Chinese citizen to enjoy the rights of domicile in Hong Kong, it is because China does not accept dual citizenship in any circumstance, renouncement of native citizenship is a must and the application of Chinese citizen is long, detailed, complicated, and expensive comparing to the simple process to be a Hong Kong permanent resident and maintaining the original citizenship of other countries.
Statue of HK Permanent Residency
The legal status of Hong Kong permanent resident of Hong Kong may be obtained by anyone, no matter whether the persons have Chinese nationality or not. The Hong Kong Basic Law (the de facto constitution of Hong Kong) stated that the following persons are the Hong Kong permanent residents of Hong Kong:
- Chinese nationals who were born in Hong Kong.
- Chinese nationals who were born outside Hong Kong but who are lawfully permitted to live in Hong Kong and have done so for 7 years.
- Chinese nationals who were born outside Hong Kong to a parent (father or mother) who, at the time of birth, was already a Hong Kong permanent resident.
- Foreigners (persons not of Chinese nationality) who have lived in Hong Kong lawfully for 7 years and have taken Hong Kong as their permanent place of residence.
- Foreigners under the age of 21 who were born in Hong Kong to a parent who is a permanent resident as defined in point #4. On reaching the age of 21, these persons must establish their own permanent resident status under one of the above categories, otherwise they will cease to be permanent residents of Hong Kong.
- Persons who had no right of abode anywhere other than Hong Kong before the establishment of the Hong Kong SAR (July 1st, 1997).
The point #4 is the practical route for oversea entrepreneur to relocate their base to Hong Kong. However, they have to show that all taxes levied on them have been paid before they submit their application.
In general, the foreigners who have been living in Hong Kong for 7 consecutive years are able to apply for permanent residency (i.e. the “right of abode in Hong Kong”) after approval by the Immigration Department. Being a Hong Kong permanent resident includes benefits such as access to government programs and the right to vote. However, the foreigners lose the statue of permanent residency when they do not stay in Hong Kong for more than 3 years, and curtain occupational categories are excluded such as foreign domestic helpers from acquiring Hong Kong permanent resident status.
Hong Kong Identity Cards (HKID)
We can found only 2 type of Hong Kong Identity Card:
- Hong Kong permanent identity cards:
the holders must be entitled to the status of Hong Kong permanent resident and are approved by Immigration Department.
- Hong Kong identity cards:
the holders must not fulfill the status of hong Kong permanent resident but are admitted to Hong Kong for a limited period of more than 180 days, and have permit to enter and stay in Hong Kong with Employment VISA, Student VISA, and Dependant VISA.
In addition, the identity cards for children of age between 11 to 17 years old differ from adults’ one if the children are entitled to circumstance as stated above.
7 years of ordinarily residence
To acquire the statue of Hong Kong permanent residency, foreigners are required to lawfully to accumulate the period of stay in Hong Kong for at least 7 years. This is not necessary to be present in Hong Kong for the whole 7 years, laws define the 7 years of stay as “ordinarily residence of 7 years in Hong Kong” – no black-and-write definition of this is referred. Therefore, the oversea entrepreneur who are staying in Hong Kong and targeting to obtain the Hong Kong permanent identity cards are able to leave Hong Kong without breaking ordinarily residence under the situation as follows:
- Hong Kong is the primary place of living
- Leaving Hong Kong for a holiday, for business, or to study aboard
Not every single day of stay in Hong Kong are counted for accumulation of ordinarily residence of 7-year. First of all, the entrepreneur must be admitted to stay in Hong Kong with resident VISA. Secondly, these period of stay must be continuous.
As a result, Visit VISA holders cannot claim to stay Hong Kong on ordinarily residence basis.
Moreover, the period of ordinarily residence will be broken by a period of temporary residence. For example the oversea entrepreneur has left Hong Kong due to expiry of his original 3-years Employment VISA, he are admitted to Hong Kong as Visit VISA afterwards, his accumulated period of ordinarily residence on his stay of Employment VISA were broken.
Benefits as HK Permanent Residents
For entrepreneur, holding the Hong Kong permanent identity cards means enjoying “the rights of abode in Hong Kong”:
- to come and go from Hong Kong
- to take up employment in Hong Kong
- to study in any institution
- to establish any business
- to entitle to social benefits
Change to HK Permanent Residency
The status of a Hong Kong permanent resident can be lost (despite its name consisting of a word”permanent”) when the foreigner (i.e. non-Chinese citizen) are absent from Hong Kong for any continuous period of 3 years or more.
Foreigners (non-Chinese citizens) who have acquired Kong Kong Permanent Residency be entitled to renew the statue after a period of absence, but it depends on the circumstances. Seek help from legal advice are highly recommended.
Foreigners’ children born in Hong Kong
Although Hong Kong preserved its common-law system from colonial British legal system after reunification to Mainland China on July 1st 1997, automatic right of abode by birth has been abolished till now.
In general, no rights of abode and thus Hong Kong permanent residency are granted to anyone by being born in Hong Kong, except both of their parents have Chinese nationality.
For foreigner’s parents (non-Chinese nationality) who have their children are born in Hong Kong fall into 2 situations:
- Either one of (or both of) parents has Hong Kong permanent residency
Their Hong Kong born children can automatically granted Hong Kong permanent residency until their age of 21.
- None of the parents has Hong Kong permanent residency
None of the legal rights are grants to their Hong Kong born children.
Non-Chinese ethnic group persons vs locally born Chinese persons
Persons who are not of Chinese race may qualify for permanent residence in Hong Kong and can also apply to be naturalized as Chinese citizens, regardless of their race. If they are successful, they will acquire the same legal rights in Hong Kong as locally born Chinese persons.