It happens a lot. You stay and work in Hong Kong for 3, 4, 5 years and get over the hump en route to the magic 7 years needed for a Permanent Identity Card. Then you find yourself having to spend time away from Hong Kong to further your career, education or due to special circumstances. The issue is, however, will all this time spent in Hong Kong be lost and will you have to reset the clock once more when you eventually return after your temporary sojourn abroad?
“I will be leaving Hong Kong to study in Australia for the next two years. I have lived in HK for the last 5 years and would like to return after I have completed my studies.
I am wondering if it is possible to maintain my residency in Hong Kong if I returned every 4 months. I have a work visa here that is valid until next September but will be leaving for school in July. I am hoping to get my Permanent Residency here and would like to have the five years that I have lived here count towards that instead of having to start all over when I return.
Is this possible? Thanks.”
The test for permanent residency in Hong Kong is that you need to be able to show that you have been continuously and ordinarily resident here for period of not less than seven years and then the absence outside of Hong Kong in that time has been merely temporary as evidenced by what you leave behind to return back to after your time abroad. Moroever as you are leaving Hong Kong for two years, after living here for five even though in your own mind your absence is just temporary the real issue for you is that your residency, the part of the test that’s important as well as time spent away from Hong Kong needs to be addressed.
You see, you need to have held the residence visa all throughout the seven years and from the circumstances that you describe there you no longer have a residence visa while you’re away. Consequently, when you make your application after seven years it will likely fail because you haven’t been resident.
Even returning every four months won’t help you because as when you return you’ll be here only as a visitor and whilst holding the visitor visa during the seven years residency for the purposes of a right of abode application doesn’t automatically disqualify you for permanent residency.
Anytime, which you spend as a visitor needs to result from kind of administrative flux between residency visa approvals, which tend to be sort of a few weeks at most. Therefore, you are effectively abandoning your residence visa status after five years or so and then trying to pick it up again two years later.
That won’t be deemed due to administrative flux, it will be likely that the Immigration Department will see you as having abandoned your residency so that you can spend this time in Australia but the time that you come back to Hong Kong really is just as a visitor and that, and when you make your application subsequently for you right of abode I’m afraid the Immigration Department will more than likely conclude that you did abandon your continuity of residency at the time that you set off to Australia to commence your studies.
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I have lived in Hong Kong for 5 years – can I extend my work visa for 2 years, quit my job, study full time then apply for the right of abode?