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How Does Hong Kong Right Of Abode Downgrade To The Right To Land Materialize And What Are The Immigration Implications Of This?

January 22nd, 2024

Posted by / in 60 Second Snapshot, Long Stay & PR / 78 responses


How Does Hong Kong Right Of Abode Downgrade To The Right To Land Materialize And What Are The Immigration Implications Of This?

First Published January 17, 2013

If you are a foreign national permanent resident of Hong Kong you will hold a permanent identity card and, as a result, will possess the Rolls Royce immigration status of what is called the right of abode.

The right of abode provides you with, effectively,  defacto citizenship of the HKSAR, although you are not entitled to apply for a HKSAR passport as you would have to go one step further by renouncing your current nationality and complete the process of naturalizing as a Chinese citizen first.

The right of abode is exactly that.

With the status of right of abode owner you get the following rights:

(1) to land;
(2) to be free from any condition of stay (including a limit of stay)
(3) not to be deported from Hong Kong, and
(4) not to be removed from Hong Kong.

However, the Hong Kong Right of Abode can be downgraded to the Right to Land and therefore have a series of implications that we will detail above.

In immigration circles, there is raging debate about the true quality of the right of abode granted to long stay foreign nationals in Hong Kong because, in actual fact, it can be lost.

In order to maintain the right of abode, foreign nationals have to satisfy one ongoing condition – that he maintain his connections to Hong Kong by showing that he has been present in the HKSAR on at least one occasion in any given 3 year period.

This can easily be achieved, by making a single entry through immigration and landing in Hong Kong. Conceptually, you could then turn right around and leave Hong Kong immediately, and your right of abode would be maintained for another 3 years.

However, if you fail to satisfy the 3 year rule you will, by operation of law, lose your right of abode and be downgraded to the mere right to land – which effectively means that you can now be deported from Hong Kong after all.

In a practical sense, this doesn’t really have any major impact on the affected person.

You can still live in Hong Kong, work, establish or join in a business, study, sponsor parents for dependant visas and enjoy all of the other day-to-day privileges which accompany life in Hong Kong, although you won’t be able to vote in elections, access public financial assistance or participate in the various government programmes such as the recent Scheme 6000 or benefit from the stamp duty benefits in relation to the purchase of property.

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More Stuff to Help You Along

Does My Child Have The right Of Abode If She Wasn’t Born In Hong Kong But I Have The Right To Land Here?

What Can Be Said To Be Ordinary Residence For The Purposes Of  A Hong Kong Right Of Abode Application?

Can You Get The Right Of Abode If You Were A Hong Kong Belonger Many Years Ago?

Losing Your Right Of Abode In Hong Kong Then Using eChannels

10 Must Have Resources For A Successful Hong Kong Permanent Residency Application


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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.

  • RT

    5 Jan 2024 pm31 8:35pm

    My parents, grandmother and son are all Hong Kong Permanent Residents with a HK Passport. I am over 21 and was born in the US. I was denied the right to abode through the HK Permanent ID eligibility process. Do I have a shot if I appeal for the right to land? My mom already got a US Greencard at the time of my birth.

    • The Visa Geeza

      9 Jan 2024 am31 9:12am

      No. If ImmD wanted to give right to land to you at the time of your right of abode refuSal they would have done so automatically (sorry to say).

  • Alex

    15 Nov 2023 pm30 11:32pm

    I know I have lost my right of abode as I haven’t been in Hong Kong for over 3 years. (Got it through 7 years as a non Chinese national)

    Do I need to do anything to before I travel to Hong Kong to provide this status or just apply for a new ID card once I arrive?

    • Alex

      15 Nov 2023 pm30 11:33pm

      Sorry I realised this maybe unclear. I mean to ask do I need to do anything to prove right to land before travelling to Hong Kong?

    • The Visa Geeza

      16 Nov 2023 am30 10:56am

      No. Your ID card will work to clear immigration in the normal way. After arrival you should complete ROP145 and ROP146 and taken them to the 25/F of Immigration Tower to reverify your eligibility for RoA. The process will take about 6 weeks. You’ll then get a letter saying you now have RTL. Then you need to apply for a new “R” code ID card to replace your “A” code ID card.

  • David

    7 Sep 2023 pm30 4:55pm

    Hi, I’m a non-chinese HK PR and understand that I will need to return back to HK every 3 years to retain my HK PR status.

    Would like to check when I return back to HK within the 3 years window, is there any min number of day / night I need to be HK or can I fly into HK during the morning and fly out subsequently during the same day will be considered I fulfilled the 3 years requirement? Thanks.

    • The Visa Geeza

      8 Sep 2023 pm30 1:28pm

      In / Out Ok as long as you clear immigration. Transit airside doesn’t count.

  • Helen

    13 Jun 2023 am30 2:58am

    Hi, I’ve replaced my HKID Card last week in HK.

    I had originally gained PR through my mother who is a Hong Konger.

    Due to COVID-19, I have not been able to go to HK to maintain the 3-year rule.

    On my Acknowledgment of Application for a Permanent Identity Card letter, it states ‘Your eligibility for Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card is under assessment. You will be notified by letter the result of your application.’

    Does this mean that I have kept my PR?

    • The Visa Geeza

      16 Jun 2023 pm30 7:04pm

      No. It means they are checking to see if you’re eligible for right of abode or right to land. They’ll let you know. It’s still PR one way or the other.

      • Helen

        15 Aug 2023 am31 1:11am

        Many thanks, I’ve finally got a written email confirmation from Immigration that I’ve kept my PR.
        Please keep up the good advice as it has been very useful!

  • MC

    8 Mar 2023 pm31 9:14pm

    Good day! few questions I get downgraded to right-to-land.

    – Can I still freely work in HK without any sponsor?
    – Can I still enter HK without time/stay limits?
    – Can I still enter using the machine in the immigration? or do i need to enter via immigration counter?

    Thank you very much!

    • The Visa Geeza

      8 Mar 2023 pm31 10:23pm

      YES to all.

      • MC

        9 Mar 2023 pm31 2:14pm

        Thank you very much! The Visa Geeza!

  • LKQ

    5 Jul 2022 pm31 5:59pm

    Hi i just apply the right to adobe,and the immigration send me a letter to go to right to adobe it my application already approved?

    • The Visa Geeza

      12 Jul 2022 am31 10:12am

      Sounds like it but without seeing the document I can’t be sure 100%

  • CA

    23 May 2022 pm31 12:09pm


    I didn’t lose my Right To Abode because of the 36 months. But it’s because I was out of HK when I turned 21. So I got downgraded to Right To Land. My parents whom were staying here in HK received the notice in the mail. I’m aware of what the difference is between both Rights. However, I’m still confused on what to do now exactly. I’m already back in Hong Kong. I arrived just a few weeks ago, on May 5th.

    Do I have to go to the Immigration to change my I.D and status? Do I fill up a form?

    Also to inform you, I have the Smart I.D.

    I hope you can help me out.

    • The Visa Geeza

      1 Jun 2022 pm30 2:25pm

      Reapply to have your right of abode re-verified and see if they’ll let you keep it. If not, then you’ll be downgraded to the RTL

      • CA

        24 Jun 2022 pm30 5:50pm

        I actually emailed them back when I was in the Philippines, and I have been downgraded to Right To Land. They also told me that my Permanent Identity Card has been ceased to be valid. However, instead of going through the Immigration Counter at the airport, I was still able to go through the machines.

        I tried calling and emailing them a few times but it’s all the same 7 years stuffs. And I still get confused. Also tried going to one of the offices to enquire but the lady says if they didn’t tell you to change then no need, I can still use my “Permanent” ID card..

        But we still think it’s not enough. I want to know if I have to change it to a non-Permanent with the “R”..

        I really hope you can help out. Cause me and my family are really all confused about this since not much has experienced it.

  • jenny

    4 May 2022 am31 2:32am

    if my daughter was born in hkg, with *az and has not been back to hkg since 2020, will she loose her permanent residency if she comeback after 3 years?

    • The Visa Geeza

      1 Jun 2022 pm30 2:35pm


  • Tiffany

    1 Apr 2022 am30 4:19am

    Hi, I have a Hk Id and the last time I was in HK was April 2019. Due to Covid I wasn’t able to go back. If I’m planning on going back this summer June 2022, would that be too late and lose my right of abode? If I do, what do I need to obtain it again?

    • The Visa Geeza

      8 Apr 2022 am30 9:04am

      I’m sorry Tiffany – there is simply not enough information here for me to make sense of your situation or advise you one way or the other. No visa type, current expiry dates, what you lefy behind in HK to return back to etc…

  • AB

    16 Feb 2022 pm28 12:27pm

    My son who is holding HK Permanent ID Card could not travel since 17 March 2019, due to covid-19 & flight at origin or in HK. However, he has re-booked his flight from the USA to land HK on 6th March 2022, my question is if the flight ban is extended, and is there any method to get some extension or apply online or renew his ID?

  • Derek

    2 Sep 2021 am30 11:13am

    Hello- I have not used my HKID since 2016; my card is R0 type. If I were to go to HK now during pandemic, can I still use the card to get through customs since 3 years had passed?

    I was thinking they would only downgrade me to “right to land”? In a previous scenario I didn’t go to HK from 2012-2016 but it still worked. Not sure if this is still the same

    • The Visa Geeza

      5 Sep 2021 pm30 2:23pm

      Your PHKID carries the right to land and should still work as you enter and exit HK. But you have lost the right of abode by operation of law and you should not apply for a new RTL ID card.

  • Rich

    23 Jul 2021 pm31 11:35pm

    Hello, My daughter left Hong Kong on 25th Jan 2019.
    Does it mean that she needs to return to hong kong before the 24th Jan 2022 in order to retain her ROA or 3 year rule??

    • The Visa Geeza

      3 Aug 2021 pm31 4:22pm

      Assuming she is not a Chinese citizen, yes.

  • KK

    3 Feb 2021 pm28 7:38pm

    I have a HK ID card with right to land. I Do I need to visit every 3 years in order to maintain the status? If I do not travel to HK within 3 years, do I lose any other privileges or have to fulfill any other formalities in my next visit? Or are there any other requirements to fulfill?

    • The Visa Geeza

      9 Feb 2021 am28 10:33am

      No – you cannot lose the right to land under any circumstances.

      • OR

        16 Oct 2021 pm31 12:27pm

        Even if someone were to be deported? Does it stay with you for the rest of your life?

        • The Visa Geeza

          20 Oct 2021 pm31 5:17pm

          It depends on the condition of the deportation or removal order

          • OR

            28 Jul 2023 pm31 12:17pm

            What are the conditions that someone could lose their right to land status if under a deportation or removal order?

          • The Visa Geeza

            28 Jul 2023 pm31 1:43pm

            You can be deported but not removed. You still have the right to land which cannot be taken away.

  • Justin

    2 Feb 2021 am28 11:10am

    Hi I have CX no stars on my ID and I have a non HK passport. Can the HKID expire? Or be refused entry and need a visa?

    • The Visa Geeza

      9 Feb 2021 am28 10:37am

      X means you were born on the Mainland of China and C means your immigration status was conditional at the time your ID card was issued to you. Unless you have a valid visa to reside in Hong Kong, this ID card gives no privileges’ afforded to a resident of Hong Kong. It merely serves as proof of identity in Hong Kong and is not a record of immigration status in the HKSAR not does it grant you automatic entry to Hong Kong as a visitor.

  • JS

    10 Nov 2020 pm30 6:24pm

    Hello I have AZ on my Hong Kong ID. I was last there in July 2017 and due to COVID19 I was unable to fly.
    What happens now? What happens to my residency and I? Are they making any exceptions due to coronavirus?

  • May

    13 Jun 2020 am30 7:25am

    Hello i have 3stars AO do i need to go back within 3 years? I left aug 2017 but due to covid-19 im high risk many thanks

    • The Visa Geeza

      15 Jun 2020 pm30 12:20pm

      I assume you secured your right of abode by way of Chinese nationality. If so then the 3 year rule doesn’t apply to you.

  • NN

    27 May 2020 pm31 7:53pm

    Hi Please tell me the possibility that I could negotiate
    with the Department.
    The last time I visited HK was 30 Sep.2017.
    Originally booked air & hotel in 2 May 2020
    for the maintenance of permanent resident
    Due to Corona I missed the chance. It seems
    difficult to trip to HK before 30 Sep.2020
    Is there any room to negotiate with the Immigration
    dept. to postpone the deadline?

    • The Visa Geeza

      3 Jun 2020 pm30 2:00pm

      No. We have been told by ImmD that there is no room for discretion for the Director of Immigration in this matter. It comes down to the ‘time away’ law pure and simple. Much remains to be seen b/c you’re not the only person worrying about it.

  • David

    18 Aug 2019 am31 5:05am

    Hi. Great site. How do I know whether I still have right to abode or downgraded to right to land. Is there any discretion with the 36months. I try to go back every three years but it will be a variation of a month or two on the 36.

    • The Visa Geeza

      19 Aug 2019 pm31 2:41pm

      You lose it automatically by operation of law. Your ID card should stop working via the gates which will serve a prompt to change it to a non-permanent one showing the R code no longer the A code.

      • Lusia

        24 May 2022 am31 11:34am

        Hi. I wasn’t sure if I was still have ROA or not, the code in my HKID is AON, but I have no issue/warning when I pass through the automated gates. So based on what you say, I can safely conclude that I still have ROA?

        • The Visa Geeza

          1 Jun 2022 pm30 2:24pm

          No. If you have been absent for more than 3 years you lose the RoA no matter what happens technically to your ID card.

  • Robert Delgado

    23 Mar 2019 am31 9:52am

    Is losing the right of abode in Hong Kong has also lost his right to renew his BNO passport?

    • The Visa Geeza

      23 Mar 2019 am31 11:36am

      No idea. You need to check with the UK about this.

  • Tom

    6 Dec 2018 pm31 6:01pm

    Hi there,

    I was born in HK before the handover but I’m a UK national. My father (also a UK national) was also born in HK and as far as I was aware we both held right of abode indefinitely. However I’ve read that it could be the case that we’ve now lost this status? Could you please help me out and confirm if this is the case (neither of us have been back in the past 3 years)?



    • The Visa Geeza

      7 Dec 2018 am31 8:52am

      What year did you leave HK ‘for good’. Also your father?

  • Marg

    7 Aug 2018 pm31 10:52pm

    i wondered if you could advise me, I was a permanent resident of HK but my three years was up October 2017 and due to family illnesses I will unable to make a trip to Hk in time. Is there any way I can appeal and resume my ROA status?
    thank you for your help

  • RJ

    14 May 2018 am31 5:30am

    Would you happen to know if this 3 year rule is from the date of departure from Hong Kong or date of entry? I’ve searched so many sources but can’t seem to find the answer, i’m almost coming to an end of my 3 years…

    Thanks so much!

  • Benglur Badass

    19 Mar 2018 am31 3:58am

    A superb piece of advice on Right of Abode issues in HK. Been reading your posts and it makes for excellent reading. I have been away from HK for over four years now and I miss the city.

    I am happy with “Right to Land” as I have lost the “Right of Abode”.
    It feels wonderful to be back in HK attending race meetings at Happy Valley and Shatin.
    Thank you.

    • The Visa Geeza

      20 Mar 2018 pm31 5:58pm

      Thank you!

  • Kumar

    17 Oct 2017 pm31 2:28pm

    Status Invitation to attend the Right of Abode Section for application formalities has been issued what is this means

    • The Visa Geeza

      17 Oct 2017 pm31 6:44pm

      You’re approved.

      • Cor

        29 Aug 2019 am31 7:54am

        Hi very resourceful website…

        I applied for my eligibility for a permanent identity card and received “Invitation to attend the Right of Abode Section for application formalities has been issued (updated daily at 8 am)”.

        This means I am approved as long as I show up to my appointment?


        • The Visa Geeza

          29 Aug 2019 pm31 1:46pm


          • Cor

            30 Aug 2019 am31 1:10am

            Again, thank you for you prompt response.

            However a letter has been mailed to my HK address saying my claim to have status of PR of HKSAR cannot be established.

            But they are telling me to go in person (I live in Canada currently) to (Right of Abode Office… what is this exactly for if I have already been disqualified for permanent resident and cannot get a HKID? Is this for Right of abode / right of landing?

            In the letter it says a person not of Chinese nationality who loses the right to abode in HK will automatically acquire right to land in Hong Kong according to some Immigration Ordinance. I am Chinese born in 95 before the handover but have lived practically my whole life in Canada before working in HK shortly. Both my parents were born in HK in the 60s.

            Anyways, Does this have any significance or perhaps just some automated message that is populated for all applicants..?

            It’s not very realistic for me to fly thirteen hours, just to be rejected in person.

            Really appreciate your help Mr.Barnes.

          • The Visa Geeza

            4 Sep 2019 pm30 3:24pm

            This is just to officially inform you of your refusal so that you can commence an appeal to the Registrations of Person Tribunal in case you wish to do so. If you have no intention to appeal you can just let the decision sit on file. I can’t comment on your approvability I’m afraid.

  • Adam Cowperthwaite

    23 May 2013 pm31 3:22pm

    The motivation behind the fact is somewhat irrelevant. The fact is that the law as it stands discriminates against me because of my race. The law should be changed to get rid of this discrimination. If any western nation decided to implement a similar law, this would be decried by all as pure racism. Stop being an apologist for an unacceptable practice – because the longer you apologise on the HK government’s behalf, the longer they will continue to think that it’s ok. The handover was a long time ago. Our focus should now simply be on implementing laws and policies that befit an international city.

    • The Visa Geeza

      25 May 2013 pm31 8:22pm

      Adam – far be it from me to seek to contradict your obviously very strongly held view point (which I understand and respect) but frankly with life in Hong Kong being what it is, and having been here for some 27 years now, I have better things to do than march from North Point to Central on a Sunday demanding the change in the law you are seeking. In any event, it is to the Chinese government you should address your ire, not the HKSAR. It’s all about Chinese nationality law. I am not an apologist for anything. I’m a simple guy. I want to help people solve their visa problems here and feed my family at the same time. No more, no less.

  • Adam Cowperthwaite

    22 May 2013 am31 9:24am

    I beg to differ on your comment in a connected article that no racism is involved in the fact that a foreign national cannot apply for a Hong Kong SAR Passport. You seem to be overlooking the fact that any ethnically Chinese (even if only fractionally) person born in Hong Kong can apply for a Hong Kong SAR passport even if they are already a full national of any another country – and no renouncment of that citizenship is required. So the differentiator between that person and me (born in Hong Kong but to British parents) is only that they are ethnically Chinese – which is, by definition, racist.

    • The Visa Geeza

      23 May 2013 am31 11:40am

      The Handover was a very trying time with Hong Kong, China and the UK attempting to juggle myriad confused rights for past residents, then current residents, residents who left to seek another nationality, those born in Hong Kong, those born outside of Hong Kong to those born in Hong Kong. Very complex, messy and emotionally charged. The situation you cite results from that time and those challenges. The underlying rationale is not racism. Suggest you read Hansard for the nature and extent of the debate.
      The Visa Geeza recently posted..The Visa Geeza on RTHK Radio Three – May 2013My Profile


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