Civil partner and same-sex spouse now eligible for dependant visa

Revised policy

On 18 September 2018, the Hong Kong government announced a revision to the immigration policy for entry of non-local dependants (Policy). Under the revised Policy, which took effect on 19 September 2018, a person who has entered into a same-sex civil partnership, same sex civil union, “same-sex marriage”, opposite-sex civil partnership or opposite-sex civil union outside Hong Kong with an eligible sponsor in accordance with the local law in force of the place of celebration and with such status legally and officially recognised by the local authorities of the place of celebration, will be eligible to apply for a dependant visa/entry permit for entry into Hong Kong. This revision came after the government’s decision to review the Policy, in light of the well-publicised case of QT v Director of Immigration [2018] HKCFA 28, where the Court of Final Appeal held that the Immigration Department’s previous policy was discriminatory on sexual orientation grounds and that the same-sex partner of a person with employment visa is entitled to enter Hong Kong via a dependant visa.

Other eligibility criteria unchanged 

Despite the revision, the original eligibility criteria of the Policy remain unchanged. The following requirements still have to be met for the Director of Immigration to favourably consider an application for entry for residence as a dependant:

(i) there is reasonable proof of a genuine relationship between the applicant and the sponsor;

(ii) there is no known record to the detriment of the applicant; and

(iii) the sponsor is able to support the dependant's living at a standard well above the subsistence level and provide him/her with suitable accommodation in Hong Kong.

Implications

It is important to note that while the revised Policy recognizes overseas same-sex partnership when considering an applicant’s eligibility to apply for a dependant visa/entry permit, the revision has by no means altered the meaning of “spouse” under the Policy. The government spokesman maintained that “a valid marriage under Hong Kong law is heterosexual and monogamous and is not a status open to couples of the same sex.” Nonetheless, the revised Policy ensures that Hong Kong will remain an attractive destination for talents to work and stay in.