Can I Extend My Hong Kong Visa Outside of Hong Kong Due To The Pandemic?
So the question is whether or not you can get an extension to your residence visa considered while you’re offshore? Historically, you’ve needed to be back in Hong Kong in order to progress an extension of stay application, if you’re an existing resident.
The idea is that if you’re a resident of Hong Kong, you need to be in Hong Kong on the day that you apply for your extension of stay.
There has always been a mechanism for you to be offshore, and then come back to Hong Kong as a visitor after the date of your residence visa expiring, and then apply for what’s known as a reinstatement of your residence status for some good reason that’s kept you away from Hong Kong, on the date that your residence visa was expiring. That reinstatement process is still there and has always been available.
But a few months ago, the Immigration Department enabled a process where you can be offshore and apply for an extension of stay. The way it works is that you follow the normal procedures for extension of stay albeit you not being physically present in Hong Kong. You write a supporting letter, in addition to the normal documents that are needed for your extension of stay application and the process takes a bit longer. It’s a c. 6 week process, all told, and then you can make that application at the moment at least under the temporary epidemic measures in force at this moment in time.
Meanwhile, anytime within 12 months of the expiry of your current residence visa the Immigration Department will give you a new visa label that will enable you to return to Hong Kong anytime within six months of the date of the grant of the approved offshore extension.
That will then conceptually, if you think about it, give you a potential of up to about 18 months to return back to Hong Kong and have your residence visa be deemed as a back to back residencies throughout all the time that you’ve held it even if you applied offshore, and you spent some time offshore in the wake of your approval offshore before you return back to Hong Kong to activate it.
The key thing about that is that the visa label specifically denotes that it’s for all practical purposes, the back to back extension, and that has an impact on your ability to have it positively considered at the time that you apply for permanent residency after seven years if indeed that’s what you’re going to do.
But it doesn’t automatically follow that just because you’ve been able to get an offshore extension sometime activatable in those 18 months you will be able to qualify for permanent residency during that time. As a result of that mechanism being used in your circumstances, you still have to go and explain that was nothing in the pattern of your behavior that meant that you’re doing anything that was leading you to abandon your intention to remain permanently settled in Hong Kong throughout the time that you’re away as a result of the pandemic.
It does mean, however, that you can get yourself a back to back residence visa situation in play, which is half of the battle at least when you’re applying for permanent residency subsequently, but you do have to return back to Hong Kong within the timeframe that the Immigration Department have indicated which is, as I say, six months from the date of the visa grant offshore activate your approved offshore application.