Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

Must carry out policy fairly

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 February, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 February, 1996, 12:00am

I REFER to the letters headlined, 'Job change applications take so long' and 'Huge gap in human rights' (South China Morning Post, January 18 and 20 respectively).

Under the existing policy, foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) are admitted into Hong Kong to work for a specific employer under a two-year employment contract.

They are subject to a condition of stay, inter alia, that if their contracts are prematurely terminated, they will be allowed to remain in Hong Kong for two weeks after the termination of their contracts or the remainder of their limit of stay, whichever is the shorter.

Change of employer in Hong Kong after premature termination of contract is not normally allowed, save in exceptional circumstances such as where the employers are unable to continue with the contract because of emigration, external transfer, financial difficulties or death.

Special consideration may also be given if there is evidence to show that individual helpers have been abused by their employers, for example, cases involving sexual or physical abuse.

In order to ensure that the above policy is fairly administered, immigration officers have to look into each and every application for premature change of employer fully and carefully.

The number of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong has grown from a few thousand in the 1980s to the present 150,000.

Applications for early change of employment received from these helpers are also on the rise.

It follows that a longer time is required in the processing of such applications.

Plans are in hand to streamline the procedures and to shorten the processing time.

For cases where the reason of termination does not fall within the said criteria, the helper should return to his/her place of domicile and apply for an entry visa for employment again if he/she so wishes.

While this department is always concerned in providing a courteous and efficient service to the public, a correct balance must also be maintained between facilitation and post-entry control.

The above arrangements are made in close observation of human rights.

ANNA S.C. CHAN for Director of Immigration