Risk is theoretical

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 December, 1999, 12:00am

I refer to the report headlined, 'Visa fears see expats rethink trips' (Sunday Morning Post, December 5), about a recent court ruling that the permission of stay of non-permanent residents will expire after their departure from Hong Kong.

Let me first point out that the court judgment does not amount to a change in policy in respect of non-permanent residents.

It only reaffirms the effect of the provisions in the Immigration Ordinance which have been in force for many years and have never attracted complaints.

Section 11(10) of the Immigration Ordinance reads: 'Any permission given to land or remain in Hong Kong shall, if in force on the day that person departs from Hong Kong, expire immediately after his departure.' Expatriates may be assured that the risk that non-permanent residents will not be allowed to resume residence in Hong Kong after travelling abroad is theoretical, not practical.

Under the existing arrangement, if a person is permitted to take up residence in Hong Kong for a particular purpose (for example, employment, education or training) and the immigration officer is satisfied after examination that the relevant policy and requirements are met, he will be granted permission to enter after each period of travel outside Hong Kong upon the terms prevailing immediately before departure, unless he returns after the current limit of stay, or unless new factors arise which fundamentally change the basis under which the original permission was granted.

'New factors' would normally mean that the circumstances under which the original permission was granted have already changed.

It could be that the employment contract of a person holding an employment visa has been terminated; that the original permission to stay was granted on the basis of false information, or that evidence had emerged that the person had committed an offence earlier.

Even when new factors arise, the persons concerned will be given ample opportunity to explain their case and, if appropriate, granted permission for a brief stay to pursue the matter further. Only in highly exceptional cases will the permission to stay be refused.

The case to which the court's judgment relates is an individual case.

Permission to land was refused taking into account the exceptional circumstances.

The judgment of the court has not in any way affected the travel convenience of non-permanent residents. Nor has it resulted in the expatriate community facing unintended risks that could never have been intended by the legislature.

I hope this information clarifies the situation.

P. Y. CHENG for Director of Immigration