The Process Pitfalls of an Expired Hong Kong Employment Visa
Hong Kong visa and immigration processes can be profoundly easy or incredibly complex. It all depends on the unique combination of circumstances you find yourself in. In a pure linear world of job offer-visa application-approval-then take-up the job, it can be relatively straightforward to align your working visa permissions to your job as well as the time spent working for that one approved employer.
But what happens, say, if you get made redundant six weeks before your employment visa is due to expire - and you have no new job offer in hand by the time your current period of stay under the employment visa endorsed in your passport comes to an end? Do you have to leave the HKSAR? Will you be given an extension to your employment visa even though it is no longer sponsored by an employer you have now ceased working for? Do you go into a kind of visa-limbo land? Do you leave HK for a day or 2 and come back as a visitor? If you do that, does it mean you lose your continuity of residence for the purposes of an eventual application for a Permanent Hong Kong Identity Card, securing right of abode in the process?
These are all-important questions faced frequently enough by foreign national residents of HK to warrant answers to. So here we go:
1. Without a job offer you cannot apply to extend your employment visa permissions.
2. Consequently, when your current period of stay runs out, you will have to go to Immigration Tower in Wanchai and get yourself a visitor visa on the pre-text that you need to remain in the HKSAR to continue to find an alternate employment.
3. The HKID should accommodate such requests for several weeks/a few short months, especially as the longer you've lived in the HKSAR, the more amenable they are to empowering you to remain in situ to help you get yourself back on a sound employment footing once again.
4. Once you have a job offer in hand, you must re-apply for an employment visa via the 24/F of Immigration Tower once more using the forms ID990A and ID990B (even though these forms are designed for applicants who are presently living outside of Hong Kong). Using the form ID91 (extension of stay for a visitor seeking to change status back to employment whilst in HK via the 5/F is no longer the process adopted by the HKID). Note that if you intend to start your own business a separate process applies that goes beyond the scope of this discussion.
5. Under this mechanism, once your new visa application is approved, you will be issued with a new visa label which you have to activate by exiting HK (usually via Macau or Shenzhen for the day) and re-entering with the new visa label placed in your passport for activation when you recross the border back into the HKSAR.
6. Any accompanying family members with expired dependent visas simply follow in the stead of your employment visa applications so you can address the situation for each of you in exactly the same manner.
None of this process advice, by the way, means you'll automatically pass the approvability test for your new employment or (possibly) investment visa application, but does shed necessarily light on the twilight world for expats who find themselves temporarily visa-less after having made Hong Kong their home.
One final point. Typically, any time spent in such visa-limbo-land will not compromise your continuity of residence in Hong Kong for the purposes of your eventual right of abode application. But don't let too much time pass. Get on with regularising your employment visa situation as soon as you can.
It'll save you a world of grief.
A graduate of the London School of Economics, Stephen Barnes started his first dedicated Hong Kong immigration practice, LL.B Consultancy, in Kowloon in 1993 straight out of law school. In 1996, Stephen wrote, then published, the first edition of the Hong Kong Visa Handbook ( http://www.hongkongvisahandbook.com ) on the internet - which has gone to be the leading D-I-Y guide to the Hong Kong visa and immigration process.
Stephen is an acknowledged expert in all matters relating to Hong Kong immigration and for many years has delivered CPD programmes to the legal and accounting community of the HKSAR. Frequently invited to speak on the topic of Hong Kong visas, Stephen is widely sought after for commentary from the Hong Kong press, to deliver talks to business and HR organisations and appears regularly on Government owned RTHK Radio 3 answering visa and immigration questions live on air.
You can reach Stephen via http://www.hongkongvisacentre.com