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60 Second Snapshot'

How Does Hong Kong Right of Abode Downgrade to the Right to Land Materialize and What Are the Immigration Implications of This?

January 17th, 2013

Posted by / in 60 Second Snapshot, Long Stay & PR / 18 responses


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 this status 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.

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.

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.

  • 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!

    • The Visa Geeza

      16 May 2018 am31 8:58am

      Date of departure.

  • 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.

  • 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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