The government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region announced [press release] Tuesday that it will grant visas to eligible individuals filing as dependent spouses/partners who seek to immigrate to the city. According to the Immigration Department, the new policy applies to individuals who entered same-sex civil partnerships, same-sex civil unions and same-sex marriages as well as opposite-sex civil partnerships or opposite-sex civil unions outside Hong Kong.
Immigrants must still pass standard immigration eligibility as well as the following original specific eligibility criteria: (1) reasonable proof of a genuine relationship between the applicant and the sponsor; (2) no known record to the detriment of the applicant; and (3) the spouse/partner sponsor is able to support the dependent’s living at a standard well above the local subsistence level. The policy took effect Wednesday.
The Immigration Department enacted this new policy in the wake of a decision [text] by the Court of Final Appeal of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region [official website] in July. In that decision, the court considered the constitutionality of discrimination based on sexual orientation. It ruled that the Immigration Department lacked justification in refusing to grant dependent visa’s to individuals whose same-sex unions have been recognized abroad.
In its announcement, a spokesman for the Immigration Department stressed that the modified immigration policy does not change Hong Kong’s current marriage laws [text]. Specifically, the policy and the court ruling did not change the definition of “spouse.” As a result, this does not mean Hong Kong will recognize same-sex unions.