Due to increase in the number of foreign nationals seeking economic asylum in Hong Kong, Immigration Department’s Assistant Director, Ma Chi-Ming introduced an online registration platform for all Indian nationals planning to travel to Hong Kong from January 23, 2017. This online platform will require all Indian passport holders to obtain a prior approval from the Immigration Department before applying for their visas. The main objective of this scheme is to curb Indian nationals from seeking refugee status in Hong Kong.
At this point, India has been opted as the first country to this experiment as it is one of the major source countries for refugees. There is a current backlog of 10,355 refugee applications in the city, 80% of which are claimants from India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Indonesia. Considering out of the listed countries only India and Indonesia nationals are allowed to enter Hong Kong without an entry permit, Indonesia may be the next target country towards this scheme. Most asylum seekers, a majority of domestic helpers has abused the visa-free travel scheme and overstayed in Hong Kong.
For Indian nationals to enjoy their 14-day visa free travel, they must show an approval slip to the concerned transport authorities before boarding a flight or ship to come to Hong Kong. Also, the online registration form will request for the applicant’s personal information, travel history and local itinerary, basis which the system will assess the risk and issues instantly.
Considering the automated system may not fully screen out problematic applicants, all successful registrants would need to pass through the border control upon arrival in Hong Kong. Any fraudulent information provided by the applicant will have serious consequences and any fake documents submitted can land the applicant in prison for 14 years.
The Assistant Director has not ruled out the possibility of extending this scheme to other countries in the future. However, each country will be reviewed separately by the Immigration department.
Manizeh Mistry, Deputy Head – Global Immigration