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Can I Extend The 3 Years Needed To Keep My Right of Abode in Hong Kong?

August 8th, 2022

Posted by / in COVID CHRONICLES, Long Stay & PR, VG Front Page / 27 responses


First Published January 12, 2022

Can I Extend The 3 Years Needed To Keep My Right of Abode in Hong Kong?

Probably three or four times a week, I’m getting the same email these days. It’s August 8th, today. I’m still getting lots of lots of the same email.

Those emails are coming from permanent residents of Hong Kong who have been absent or are coming up for being absent from Hong Kong  continuously for three years because of COVID.

And the question always is:

Can the Immigration Department make an exception for those foreign nationals who originally secured permanent residency after seven years continuous ordinary residence, but for one reason or another, find themselves away from Hong Kong during COVID times for this extended period of three years?

Namely, any chance of them being able to get some sort of waiver or other dispensation due to the challenges that COVID is bringing to everyone’s ability to get back to Hong Kong quarantine free?

Unfortunately, the Director of Immigration doesn’t have the power to waive the one-in-3-year-rule as the Right of Abode is an instrument of the Basic Law.

This means that unless and until as a permanent resident in Hong Kong, the foreign national permanent resident of Hong Kong you have been physically present in Hong Kong on at least one occasion any three year given period, you will be by operation of law automatically downgraded to the Right to Land in the event that you are unable to get back here for the one in three year criteria.

So what does that mean in real terms?

Well, actually, the Right to Land downgrade that occurs, while sits, you know, disappointing in order to say something positive about that bottom line is that the rights that accompany the right time, that’s the right to work, the right to respond to family members who are dependent loses the right to sponsor, elderly parents who depend on these as some of the other rights that accrue with the Right of Abode are not lost. You do not have the right not to be deported, but you can’t be removed from Hong Kong.

Functionally, the Right to Land is the same as the Right of Abode, albeit you can be deported.

The difference for the most part practically falls to whether or not as a permanent resident holding the Right of Abode you can qualify for things like the scheme HKD6000 and other free money giveaways that the government occasionally avails to Hong Kong to permanent residents.

It’s those types of things but in a very pure practical sense, if you are downgraded to the right to essentially it means you can come back to Hong Kong at any point in the process and pick up your life from wherever you left it off. You don’t need any permission of the Hong Kong Immigration Department to do that.

And seven years of continuous on residence later, you can then subsequently apply for Right of Abode once again.

More Stuff to Help You Along

The perils of contriving a job offer in order to make an employment visa application in Hong Kong

Is there such an animal as a ‘flexible working visa’ for Hong Kong?

How to get a Hong Kong working visa automatically with no questions asked!

Can I study then get married all whilst holding an employment visa for a company I no longer work for?

Is it ever OK to work in Hong Kong on a visitor visa?


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The Hong Kong Visa Geeza (a.k.a Stephen Barnes) is a co-founder of the Hong Kong Visa Centre and author of the Hong Kong Visa Handbook. A law graduate of the London School of Economics, Stephen has been practicing Hong Kong immigration since 1993 and is widely acknowledged as the leading authority on business immigration matters here for the last 24 years.

  • CC

    2 Nov 2022 am30 1:56am

    Am planning to come back to HK in December after > 3 years away. I am supposed to be upgrading my existing ID card to a Smart ID card within 30 days of my return as I missed the period I was supposed to do this in as it was in 2021 for my birth year, but I am not sure how this works if in fact I need a different ID card due to potentially losing my Right of Abode. I am also thinking of reapplying for verification of my Right of Abode while I am there to see if I can get it back, so I am not sure what order to do everything in. I am obliged to get a new SmartID card but how does this interact with me losing my Right of Abode and then reapplying for verification?

    • The Visa Geeza

      5 Nov 2022 am30 10:39am

      Reverify first as this will then determine wther ImmD issue you with an A or R code ID.

  • Hina

    31 Oct 2022 am31 8:46am

    Hi I have been away from HK for more than 3 years and i am non chinese. However I recently returned to HK and I was able to enter using my permanent id and not passport, does that mean I still have my right of abode?

    • The Visa Geeza

      5 Nov 2022 am30 10:41am

      No. It just means the residual Right to Land in your A code ID allows you to enter and exit HK in any event. You should apply to reverify your eligibility for Right of Abode, get the result from ImmD and then reissue your ID card on a R code basis.

  • KW

    6 Oct 2022 am31 10:50am

    I’ve been out of HK for more than 3 years due to covid and if i lose my pr and need to apply for a new card will my HKID number change?

    • The Visa Geeza

      13 Oct 2022 am31 8:06am


  • Paul

    27 Sep 2022 pm30 3:14pm

    Like many who have written here, I’m a permanent resident but have been out of Hong Kong for just over three years due to Covid. When I return, can I still use the Residents’ line at the airport’s Immigration and use my ID to enter HK, or will I need my passport, or a combination (for instance, the Residents line with ID and Passport); or must I clear Immigration via the tourists’ line?

    Thanks for your valuable advice.

    • The Visa Geeza

      2 Oct 2022 pm31 12:23pm

      Your ID card will see you admitted. Present it and Q up at the PR counter. The officer will likely tell you to apply to change the card to R code now that you’ve lost the Right of Abode.

      • Paul

        3 Oct 2022 pm31 2:02pm

        Thanks! Exactly the information I needed.

  • Josephine

    6 Sep 2022 pm30 11:13pm

    Hi there
    I’m a permanent resident but have been out of Hong Kong for almost three years due to restrictions
    I’m planning a trip so I can keep my residency but I’d like to know if it’s possible to exit through immigration and then turn around and go back or I need to stay in hk a minimum time for this residency to be valid ?
    Or can I do the three day quarantine and then leave ? Do you have any information on this ?
    Let me know, Thankyou so much .

    • The Visa Geeza

      14 Sep 2022 am30 11:17am

      Your question relates to continuing eligibility for the right of abode if you have been absent from Hong Kong for a period of more than 3 years continuously. In such a case you will automatically be downgraded to the right to land.

      There is no special dispensation due to Covid I’m afraid. The right of abode is an instrument of the Basic Law and the Director of Immigration doesn’t have the discretion to waive the arrangement.

      Please refer the following:

      To acquire the RoA again, you need to be continuously and ordinarily resident in the HKSAR again for another 7 years. Please see the link above which sets out the difference between ROA and RTL.

      Functionally there’s no difference.

      It all happens by operation of law as soon as you pass the 3 year mark with no entry into HK so there’s no form to fill as such.

      You will just need to apply for a new ID card which will be denoted as R rather than A and no longer state on the back that you have the right of abode in HK.

      There is no possibility of landing, entering HK, then doubling back immediately to leave I’m afraid. When you board an aircraft for HK you agree that you will be subject to a mandatory quarantine order as a condition of boarding and need to show your confirmed and paid for designated quarantine hotel voucher. Moreover, you will need to stay in HK at least another 6 days after you leave quarantine in order to complete the compulsory post quarantine PCR tests /medical surveillance before you are allowed to depart.

      • Wolfgang

        21 Sep 2022 pm30 11:11pm

        hi is there a minimum stay required in the 3 years period or is a tourist trip of 2 weeks every three year enough?

        • The Visa Geeza

          23 Sep 2022 am30 9:10am

          No minimum stay needed. Just pass thorugh immigration and legally land in Hong Kong. *transit airside only* = not sufficient.

  • Wong H F

    30 Jul 2022 pm31 11:07pm

    Great website and information. 3* AX born in Mainland China but moved to HK whilst very young and lived in HK most of my life , naturalised UK citizen since the 80s. Does rule apply to me? Feels like it shouldn’t!

    • The Visa Geeza

      31 Jul 2022 pm31 3:29pm

      Things will change if ImmD discover you are a dual Chinese/Uk national

  • Kiki

    16 Jul 2022 pm31 11:28pm

    Does this also apply if you were born in Hong Kong? Or only to permanent residents born outside of Hong Kong?

    • The Visa Geeza

      17 Jul 2022 pm31 2:26pm

      It all depends on wheteher you were registered as a Chinese national at the time your PHKID card was issued to you. It’s not as simple ‘born in HK’ or not.

  • Chick21

    14 Jul 2022 am31 12:44am

    I have a 3* AO HKID permanent residency card (issued 1994) and a China Home Return Permit (HRP) card valid from 2014-2024 renewed once already. As the AO stipulates I was born abroad (UK – 1983) and hold a British passport (never registered for a HKSAR passport) both parents were born in HK.
    Based on the above I assume I am considered a Chinese national and except from the 3 year rule?

    • The Visa Geeza

      17 Jul 2022 pm31 2:28pm


      • H C

        30 Jul 2022 pm31 11:24pm

        I’m pretty much the same apart from I never applied for a home return permit. Am I considered a Chinese national?

        • The Visa Geeza

          31 Jul 2022 pm31 3:28pm

          Yes on the face of it.

  • jeannie smith

    19 Jun 2022 pm30 4:48pm

    Thanks for the post very useful. You didn’t mention property. I am a permanent HK ID card holder and part own a flat in HK. I haven’t been to HK for nearly 3 years. If I lose my permanent ID card status because of not landing for 3 years, as this cant be extended as you in the article as the law would need to be changed (and I cant see that happening) , does this affect my right to own property in HK or not?

    • The Visa Geeza

      21 Jun 2022 am30 10:00am

      It has no bearing on your property rights.

  • Margaret

    7 Apr 2022 pm30 9:15pm

    Now that the HK government is showing leniency for non-permanent residents to have their status extended due to covid by the immigration waiving the rule. Do you know if they will extend the same to 3 year rule for permanent residents?

  • SCC

    4 Apr 2022 pm30 9:06pm

    Good Evening,
    My wife is my dependant and is currently out of Hong Kong.
    I have just recently found out that the SAR government is extending quarantine and restrictions until September 30th 2022.
    My wife departed Hong Kong on 27th March so that means on 27th on September she will already have been out of Hong Kong six months.
    She does not want to quarantine and wants to come back as soon as quarantine restrictions are lifted.
    My question is will her dependant visa be affected after 26th September and what could we do to stop immigration from cancelling her visa and not renewing it next year to get her last three years before she is eligible for right of abode?
    Thank you , I look forward to your reply.

    • The Visa Geeza

      8 Apr 2022 am30 9:02am

      Not sure where you heard about extension of restrictions until September? That she is away from HK for more than 6 months due to covid will not in any event impact her eligibility for PR after 7 years if your family home has been maintained in HK all throughout the time she has been absent from HK. But she must maintian her dependant visa whilst she is away from HK and all through the 7 years claimed as being ordinarily resdient in the HKSAR.


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