3 or 4 times a week I receive a call from people who have exactly the same problem.It happens so often now, that I can tell what the problem is within the first 5 seconds of our conversation kicking off.
And 9 times out of 10 these calls all follow a similar story line.
“ I have been here as a visitor for several months, coming and going to extend my visa. I’ve been checking out my options and I’m just about ready to make an application but I still need a couple of months more.
The problem is that when I came in last time Immigration gave me only one week and stamped SCL in my passport. I need more time, can you help me? “
And in almost every case, the answer is no.
Effectively once you have a Short Conditional Landing endorsed in your passport, your time in Hong Kong as a visitor is effectively coming to an end.
The only way to relieve this negative status is to leave Hong Kong for a minimum of 12 months or subsequently go on to secure a residence visa. But you will have to wait outside of Hong Kong until that residence visa application has been finalized.
So either way, it’s time to start packing your bags.
The conversations that I have with these unfortunate people all tend to end in the same way.
You see, whilst the Immigration Department do have a very flexible, friendly and liberal approach to visitors to Hong Kong, it is important to remember that visitor mean visitor.
It doesn’t mean quasi-resident or long stay comer and goer.
The Department are well aware that opportunities in Hong Kong for visitors present themselves all the time and are more than happy to allow a foreign national sufficient time to get his ducks lined up in a row whilst the conditions for a resident visa application manifest themselves.
But the generous 90 or 180 day limit of stay afforded to most western nationalities is, with one or 2 trips in and out, mostly enough time to get everything ready for the main application and any longer than this puts the Department on notice that something may be amiss, for example, that the visitor may be working illegally or has established a business without their approval.
So, when they suspect this may be the case, they simply come down hard.
Bang, here’s your short conditional landing and then off you go. Almost without exception.
With only limited resources, it’s the only way the Immigration Department can police the millions of visitors who come to Hong Kong each year.
When they act, they do so decisively and appeals for further extensions of time typically just fall on deaf ears.
Everyone seems to know someone who just keeps coming and going but eventually they go, and never come back.