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Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal rules in favour of allowing same sex married couples to submit dependant visa applications

04 July 2018

Following the unanimous decision of the Court of Appeal on 25 September 2017, Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal today ruled in favour of QT the lesbian civil partner of a British expat who challenged the Director of Immigration’s decision not to grant dependant visas to same sex married couples.

The landmark ruling paves the way for changes to the Immigration Ordinance and policy in terms of how applications from same-sex married couples should be handled. The decision ends a long fought battle by the couple and shows that the territory is ready to move towards better protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Hong Kong’s top court ruled that it was ‘counterproductive’ to limit dependant work rights to straight couples. It is hoped that the ruling will also pave the way for recognition of same sex marriages in Hong Kong which currently does not recognise gay marriage or same –sex civil unions.

What does this mean in practice? There is no clear guidance as to when the legislature will make changes to the Immigration Ordinance to reflect the Court’s decision. However the Immigration Department has exceptionally started to issue what are being referred to as ‘time limitation only’ visas to same sex couples who can evidence their civil union. These are generally issued outside the current policy guidelines for a period of 12 months in cases where:

  1. There is reasonable proof of a genuine relationship between the dependant and the sponsor
  2. There is no known record to the detriment of the dependant; and
  3. The sponsor is able to support the dependant’s living at a standard well above the subsistence level and provide him/her with suitable accommodation in Hong Kong
  4. And the individual is able to meet all other normal immigration requirements.

Each application will be considered on its own merits.

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