What is the situation as regards the Right of Abode & Permanent Residence for foreign children in Hong Kong when they reach 21 years of age? Clearing up the confusion as to HKID cards at 11, 18 and what happens at 21?
The Right of Abode & Permanent Residence For Foreign Children in Hong Kong
There are 2 PR ‘Categories’ to consider where children born or otherwise permanently resident in Hong Kong are not Chinese nationals.
Category D – Is a person not of Chinese nationality who has entered Hong Kong with a valid travel document and has legally and ordinarily resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less than seven years.
* If a child not of Chinese Nationality and born outside of Hong Kong – they need to live legally, ordinarily and continuously in Hong Kong for at least 7 full years to be eligible for a Permanent Hong Kong Identity Card (meaning PR or Right of Abode – it’s all the same thing).
In the case of this Category D child, it means, typically, they hold a dependant visa for 7 years (or sometimes a student visa) and then apply to have their eligibility for a Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card verified after 7 years of continuous ordinary residence in Hong Kong. If they are over 11 at the 7 year mark, they get a Juvenile Permanent HKID Card which needs to be updated at the age of 18. There is no re-verification exercise by the age of 21 for a Category D child (see Category E, below).
Category E – Is a person under 21 years of age not of Chinese nationality who was born in Hong Kong to a parent who is a permanent resident of the HKSAR by virtue of Category D at the time of their birth or at any later time before he/she attains 21 years of age.
* If a non-Chinese child was born in Hong Kong to a Category D parent, the child will automatically obtain the status of a permanent resident at birth or otherwise when one parent subsequently acquires Permanent Residency under Category D. The eligible parent when applying for PR under Category D, can include the child’s application at the same time which will then be approved under Category E. Note that upon attaining 21 years of age, the child ceases to be a permanent resident of the HKSAR under Category E and will then need to apply to the Director of Immigration for the status of a permanent resident of the HKSAR under Category D.
Identity Cards For Children Under Category D or E
Prior to the age of 11 years, children are too young to have ID cards issued to them. During these years their PR status is recorded in a sticker endorsement in their passports. Upon reaching the age of 11, the child can apply for a Juvenile ID card. This ID card will denote the holder having the Right of Abode in Hong Kong. Inherent in this ID card is the Category D or Category E status. At the age of 18, the Juvenile ID card is no longer appropriate and so needs to be updated to an adult ID card.
If the applicant for this adult ID card is Category D, the Right of Abode is maintained with no further ado just so long as he/she is physically present in Hong Kong on at least one occasion in any three year given period.
If the applicant for this adult ID card is Category E, he/she has the option to either (i) seek to change from Category E to Category D PR status by demonstrating continuing ordinary residence in Hong Kong at the time of the adult ID card application, then issue the new adult ID card on this basis OR (ii) defer the application to change from Category E to Category D PR status until they are 21 years old and merely apply for the update to the adult ID card as an administrative exercise [only] in the meantime.
What Happens At 21 For Category E PHKID Card Holders?
The Director of Immigration generally writes to the Category E PHKID Card holder informing them of their need to re-verify their eligibility for the Permanent Identity Card given their impending 21 years as such Category E persons automatically lose their Right of Abode until and unless they reverify their continuing eligibility for the same. The idea is to ensure that anyone who acquires PR in Hong Kong by virtue of their birth in Hong Kong to a non-Chinese PHKID holder under Category D has maintained their connections to Hong Kong.
If they are unable to successfully demonstrate their ongoing connections to Hong Kong they will be downgraded to the Right to Land in the same way a Category D PHKID card holder will be downgraded to the Right to Land if they are absent from Hong Kong for more than 1095 days continuously.
Maintaining Eligibility For The Right of Abode
For Category D PHKID card holders, it is simple. Be physically present in Hong Kong on at least one occasion every 1095 continuous days.
For Category E, PHKID card holders, it is more problematic where connections to Hong Kong have not been maintained.
Generally, if the parents’ family home has been maintained in Hong Kong or otherwise own residential property in Hong Kong, the parents themselves have been ordinarily resident in Hong Kong or otherwise objectively still connected to Hong Kong (say with a very well-established family owned business being operated out of Hong Kong with reasonably frequent parental visits to that business being undertaken) ImmD will conclude that the Category E PHKID holder remains ordinarily resident in Hong Kong even if a lot of time has been spent away from Hong Kong, especially where the Category E >> D applicant has been pursuing an education overseas.
Generally, the problem arises where the whole family has essentially decamped from Hong Kong permanently whilst still retaining their Category D Right of Abode status by making at least one trip back every 3 years. If the Category E>>D applicant can’t demonstrate the requisite continuing connections to Hong Kong, they will fail in their Right of Abode re-verification application and be downgraded to the Right to Land.
A Category E PHKID holder will more than likely fail in his/her application for Category D Right of Abode status if they are back in Hong Kong merely once every 1095 days as this doesn’t really amount to maintaining connections to Hong Kong if the family have otherwise ‘gone home’ or ‘moved on’ from Hong Kong.
However, every such application will be considered entirely on its own merits.
What Is ‘Permanent Residency’ Anyway?
So, you’ve been downgraded to the Right to Land by virtue of absence from Hong Kong as a Category D PHKID holder having been absent from Hong Kong for more than 1095 days continuously.
You could not qualify for continuing Right of Abode under the Category E>>D reverification exercise at the age of 21.
Given that you are now holding the ‘mere’ Right to Land in Hong Kong, are you still a PR of Hong Kong?
You most certainly are!
Moreover, this status cannot be lost under any circumstances. Right to Land is a functional equivalent to the Right of Abode when it comes to working, studying, starting a business, retiring and sponsoring dependant visas for all qualifying family members, including dependant parents over the age of 60.
Essentially, the Director of Immigration cannot impose any condition or limit of stay on you in Hong Kong.
You literally have the right to land and live here.
More On The Right to Land