Immigration Department year-end briefing 2010

13 January 2011

Following is a summary of the Immigration Department's major activities covered by the Director of Immigration, Mr Peh Yun-lu, Simon, at the department's year-end briefing 2010 today (January 13):

The Immigration Department won the Grand Award for Public Organisations at the Ombudsman's Awards 2010. It was the 7th time the Department has been listed at the Ombudsman Awards for Public Organisations since the award was introduced in 1997, and the Department has won the Grand Award three times - in 1999, 2008 and 2010. Two members of the Department also received Ombudsman's Awards 2010 for Officers of Public Organisations, the 12th consecutive year that our officers were selected as recipients of the Awards since the creation of this category in 1999. These two awards were given in recognition of the Department's long-lasting tradition of holding a professional and proactive attitude towards handling complaints, as well as our staff's concerted efforts in providing quality services to the public. In addition, four members of the Department were commended in the Civil Service's Commendation Award in recognition of their consistently meritorious performance. It was the 6th consecutive year that our officers were commended since the introduction of the Award Scheme in 2004. All the above achievements were built on the concerted efforts and diligence of all members of the Department. The year 2011 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Immigration Department. Our determination and loyalty in serving the pubic is succinctly captured in our thematic slogan, "Devoted We Serve; Together We Excel". As we share the joys of the Golden Jubilee which belongs to each and every member of the Department, we shall continue to strive with professionalism, serve the public with excellence and devotion, and forge ahead with our vision to be the foremost immigration service in the world in effectiveness and efficiency.

Traffic at Control Points

The Control Branch experienced another busy year of passenger traffic in 2010. Some 240 million passengers passed through our control points, representing an increase of 8% as compared with 2009. The total number of visitor arrivals reached 36.1 million, representing a 21.8% increase, among which 10.21 million passengers travelled through the Airport Control Point, while 21.86 million and 3.98 million passengers passed through land boundary control points and sea control points respectively.

With the continual development of economic and community connections between the Mainland and Hong Kong, the channels for Mainland residents to visit Hong Kong, such as the "Individual Visit Scheme", have been further relaxed. The passenger traffic at the control points, particularly concerning Mainland visitors, has kept on increasing over the years. In 2010, the daily average for Mainland visitors was 61 551, which is 27% higher than that in 2009 (48 467). Taking Shenzhen Bay and Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Points as examples, the daily figure of arriving Mainland visitors has increased more than 50% as compared with 2009. Mainland visitors entering Hong Kong through Lo Wu, airport and ferry terminals control points also recorded 20% to 40% increases as compared with 2009.

The "Individual Visit Scheme" has been expanded to cover 49 Mainland cities since its introduction in July 2003. Starting from April 2009, individual visit exit endorsements valid for one year and good for multiple visits have been issued to eligible Shenzhen residents visiting Hong Kong. Over the past years, the number of Mainland visitors travelling on this type of exit endorsement increased drastically. From April to December 2009, the daily average of this type of Mainland visitor was 5 400, while in 2010, the daily average increased by more than 100 per cent to 11 100.

Operation of Control Points

Diversion of Traffic at Boundary Control Points

The Shenzhen Bay Control Point (SBCP) is the first boundary control point providing co-location of boundary crossing facilities for both passenger and vehicular traffic between the Mainland and Hong Kong. In 2010, 21.38 million passengers and 3.21 million vehicles travelled through the SBCP, representing an increase of 26.9% and 18.5% respectively when compared with 2009. Peak daily traffic of 100 022 passengers was recorded on April 4, 2010.

Passenger traffic at the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Point (LMCSCP) has been growing steadily since its commissioning. The daily average passenger figure rose from about 75 000 in early 2010 to over 87 000 at the end of 2010, representing an increase of 16%. In 2010, more than 28.8 million passengers travelled through LMCSCP and a peak daily traffic of 117 539 passengers was recorded on December 25, 2010.

In 2010, the SBCP and LMCSCP shared 11.76% and 14.2% of the overall land boundary passenger traffic respectively, and the SBCP took up 20.4% of the overall vehicular traffic. The two control points (SBCP & LMCSCP) helped alleviate the pressure on the existing boundary control points, and simultaneously improve our service standard at other land boundary control points.

Facilitation of People Movement

Facilitation of Cross-boundary Students

Starting from the 2010-11 school year, a rising number of cross-boundary students is passing through boundary control points and the average daily number of cross-boundary students (under 11 years of age) was around 10 800. Designated counters were reserved during peak hours to expedite the clearance of these students. Six designated e-Channels for cross-boundary students have also been put into operation at Lo Wu Control Point.

To further facilitate cross-boundary students to travel between the Mainland and Hong Kong, the Administration approved special quotas daily for coach operators to run door-to-door cross-boundary coaches for students using the Lok Ma Chau, Man Kam To, Sha Tau Kok and Shenzhen Bay Control Points. Following the implementation of the "On-board clearance" trial scheme for cross-boundary students since March 2008 for coaches passing through Man Kam To Control Point, Sha Tau Kok Control Point has also put the "On-board clearance" on trial since August 2009 with a view to providing speedy and safe clearance for cross-boundary students.

Facilitation to Macao Residents

The HKSAR and Macao SAR Governments have reached an agreement to extend the automated passenger clearance service (e-Channels) to permanent residents of both Hong Kong and Macao, and exempt their residents from furnishing arrival/departure cards with effect from 10 December 2009. As at December 31, 2010, around 470 000 HK residents and 136 000 Macao residents had successfully enrolled for the e-Channel service. A daily average of about 1 600 Macao residents using e-channels in Hong Kong was recorded, representing around 47% of the total Macao resident traffic. To further enhance the service to Macao residents, four additional Macao e-Channels have been installed at the Macau Ferry Terminal since July 2010, making a total of eight Macao e-Channels at this control point. At the China Ferry Terminal, four Macao e-Channels are installed to facilitate the visits by Macao residents.

Admission of Talent and Investors

Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP)

The ASMTP has attracted a wide variety of qualified talents and professionals from the Mainland to come to work in Hong Kong since its implementation on July 15, 2003. Up to the end of 2010, a total of 47 471 entry applications for employment have been received. The main sectors of employment were academic research and education, commerce and trade, and arts/culture. In 2010, 7,445 applications were approved, representing an increase of 14.3% when compared with 6 514 applications in 2009.

Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS)

Under the QMAS launched in June 2006, talented people from around the world can apply to settle in Hong Kong without first securing an offer of local employment. Up to the end of 2010, 5 045 applications were received. Seventeen selection exercises were conducted and 1 808 applicants were allotted places, 1 672 under the General Points Test (GPT) and 136 under the Achievement-based Points Test (APT). Successful applicants under the GPT were mainly from Financial and Accounting Services, Information Technology and Telecommunications, and Commerce and Trade. Under the APT, successful applicants mainly came from the Sports, Arts and Culture sector.

Changes have been made to the scheme since January 2008 to attract more aspiring young talent as well as professionals with significant accomplishments and proven ability. These changes include lifting the upper age limit and adjusting the marking scheme under the GPT. From February 2008 to December 2010, the average monthly applications intake was 105, a substantial increase when compared with the average monthly intake of 67 before the relaxation. It indicates that the changes have been effective in attracting more quality migrants.

Capital Investment Entrant Scheme (CIES)

CIES was launched in October 2003 with the objective of facilitating the entry for residence of capital investment entrants, i.e. persons who wish to make capital investment in Hong Kong but would not be engaged in the running of any business here.

Starting from March 16, 2009, applicants under the CIES may at their own cost engage a Certified Public Accountant (Practising) [CPA (Practising)], who is a member of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, to issue a report to demonstrate that they meet the asset requirement under paragraph 2.1(b) of the Scheme Rules. The arrangement is optional and will not affect the result of their application. At the end of 2010, 5 309 applicants had submitted applications with the CPA report, amounting to around 50% of the new applications received, and 2 391 of them were granted Approval-in-principle or Formal Approval.

In 2010, Government reviewed and amended the rules of the CIES in order to ensure that the Scheme is up-to-date and continues to serve the best overall interests of Hong Kong. The following amendments have been introduced to the CIES with effect from October 14, 2010:

  1. (i) the threshold of investment (and Net assets/Net equity requirement) for admission to Hong Kong under the CIES is raised from HK$6.5 million to HK$ 10 million;
  2. (ii) real estate is suspended temporarily as a class of Permissible Investment Assets (PIA) under the CIES; and
  3. (iii) an insurer authorised to carry on Class C business as specified in Part 2 of the First Schedule to the Insurance Companies Ordinance is permitted to act as a financial intermediary for the purpose of the CIES.

The investment threshold (and Net assets/Net equity requirement) will be reviewed once every three years. The arrangement of temporarily suspending real estate as a class of PIA will also be assessed at the next regular review, or earlier as necessary.

At the end of 2010, 16 600 applications had been received. 8 924 applicants had made the requisite investments and were given formal approval to reside in Hong Kong. They invested a total of $63.31 billion in permissible investment assets, representing an average of $7.09 million per entrant. 1 268 applicants were given approval-in-principle to enter Hong Kong to make the requisite investments.

Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates (IANG)

The Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates (IANG) was launched on May 19, 2008, to complement the policy initiative "Developing Hong Kong as a Regional Education Hub". The objective of the IANG is to attract non-local graduates to stay/return and work in Hong Kong to strengthen Hong Kong's human resources and competitiveness and enhance Hong Kong's attractiveness to non-local students.

The Arrangements have been well received since they were launched. As at the end of 2010, 10 101 non-local graduates were approved to stay/return and work in Hong Kong.

Facilitation and Enhancement Measures

Extension of Working Holiday Scheme to Japan, Canada and the Republic of Korea

The Working Holiday Scheme was introduced in April 2001. It aims to facilitate cultural and educational exchange and to strengthen bilateral relations between Hong Kong and the participating countries. Hong Kong established bilateral Working Holiday Schemes with New Zealand and Australia in 2001, Ireland in 2005 and Germany in 2009. Participants in the Scheme are allowed to stay up to 12 months in the host country/territory for holiday and to take up short-term employment during their stay.

The bilateral Working Holiday Scheme was extended to Japan, Canada and the Republic of Korea on January 1, 2010, March 1, 2010 and January 1, 2011 respectively.

Visa-free Access for Nationals of Grenada and Ukraine Visiting Hong Kong

With effect from September 20, 2010, HKSAR passport holders can visit Grenada visa-free for a stay of up to 90 days. Reciprocally, Grenadian nationals also enjoy 90 days' visa-free access to Hong Kong.

To provide greater travel convenience and to promote trade, business and tourism links between Hong Kong and Ukraine, an agreement on mutual abolition of visa requirements was signed between the HKSAR Government and the Ukrainian Government in 2010. With effect from November 3, 2010, HKSAR passport holders can visit Ukraine visa-free for a stay of up to 14 days. Reciprocally, Ukrainian nationals also enjoy 14 days' visa-free access to Hong Kong.

Individual Visit Endorsements for Shenzhen Residents

With effect from December 15, 2009, the Mainland "Individual Visit Scheme" was extended to non-Guangdong residents in Shenzhen. Eligible applicants may apply to the Exit and Entry Administration Office of the Public Security Bureau of Shenzhen for an Individual Visit endorsement for a single journey that is valid for three months or one year. Holders of Exit-entry Permits for Travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macao bearing the endorsement may remain in Hong Kong for a period of not more than seven days.

With effect from December 15, 2010, the range of non-Guangdong residents in Shenzhen who are eligible for Individual Visit endorsement was further extended to cover employees of municipal government, state-run and private enterprises, joint ventures, foreign enterprises and individual commercial businesses. The number of non-Guangdong residents that could benefit from the relaxation was estimated to be 4 million.

New Arrangements for Applications from Foreign Domestic Helpers for Extension of Stay

With effect from July 12, 2010, a series of facilitating measures for applications from foreign domestic helpers for extension of stay sponsored by the same employer were launched. Such applications can now be submitted within eight weeks, instead of four weeks, before expiry of the domestic helper's limit of stay. Other than in-person submission, the applications can also be made by post, drop-in or through the Internet. Under these new arrangements, applicants will normally be notified by letter within 10 working days upon receipt of all necessary documents for collection of the extension label. Moreover, fewer supporting documents are required for such applications. The facilitating measures demonstrate the on-going efforts of the Immigration Department to enhance its services to the public.

Electronic Services

Appointment Booking Service for Extension Section, Foreign Domestic Helpers Section and Quality Migrants and Mainland Residents Section

Since November 30, 2009, the appointment booking service for extension of stay applications has been extended to the Extension Section (except visitors), Foreign Domestic Helpers Section and Quality Migrants and Mainland Residents Section (except persons admitted into Hong Kong for training or under the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme) at the Immigration Headquarters. Applicants may make an appointment through the website or the 24-hour appointment booking hotline at (852) 2598 0888. After making the appointment, an applicant may change or cancel the appointment at any time up to one day before the appointment date. The new service aims to shorten applicants' waiting time at the offices.

Moreover, applicants who have submitted applications for visas/entry permits may enquire about the application status through the website or the 24-hour telephone enquiry system at (852) 3160 8663.

Online Submission Extension of Stay Application

With effect from May 26, 2010, persons admitted under General Employment Policy, Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP) and Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates (IANG), or their dependants; persons admitted under Supplementary Labour Scheme; persons on student status or their dependants; dependants of Hong Kong permanent residents or residents who are not subject to a limit of stay can submit their extension-of-stay applications online. Moreover, with effect from July 12, 2010, applications from foreign domestic helpers for extension of stay sponsored by the same employer can also be submitted online. All applicants who have submitted their applications online may also furnish supplementary documentation online.

Appointment Booking Service

Birth registration

Since November 3, 2008, the Department has,extended its 24-hour free appointment booking service to birth registration. Parents of newborn babies can book appointments for birth registration through the Internet or the Telephone Appointment Booking System. With effect from March 9, 2010, all parents applying for birth registration for newborn babies have to make a prior appointment booking. The new arrangement allows parents to choose their most preferred time-slots for the registration service and be served timely, hence shortening their waiting time.

Appointment Booking Services for registration of identity card

The appointment booking services through the Internet and Telephone Appointment Booking System were well received by the public. In 2010, 53% of identity card applicants made use of the Internet appointment booking services whilst 12% of identity card applicants used the 24-hour Telephone Booking System. The remaining 35% were walk-in applicants. To cater for the needs of the public, the walk-in quota will be suitably adjusted according to the daily appointment situation at each Registration of Persons office.

The appointment services for HKSAR travel document and Hong Kong identity card applications through the Internet and by phone have also been well received by the public. To further enhance the system, with effect from June 21, 2010, more daily quota are available for appointment booking and the bookable period for application for HKSAR travel documents and Hong Kong identity cards was extended from 12 to 24 days. Further promotion of the service, including radio broadcasts, has been arranged. Moreover, installation of computer equipment at the Registration of Persons Offices and Immigration Branch Offices is in active progress so that applicants who are unable to obtain walk-in quota may make an on-line appointment on the spot. To provide better appointments booking services and to save the applicant's time, we will continue to enhance our system.

Online submission of applications for verification of eligibility for permanent identity card

To enhance our service, the online submission of applications for verification of eligibility for permanent identity card was introduced on February 27, 2009, whereby an applicant may submit an application through the Internet other than by post or drop-in methods. In 2010, 1 274 online applications (2% of the total 64 469 applications) were received. Furthermore, applicants who have submitted applications for verification of eligibility for permanent identity card can submit supplementary documents online if they are required to do so upon notification. Applicants can also enquire about or change their scheduled appointments for verification of original documents either online or through the 24-hour Telephone Booking System.

With effect from November 30, 2009, applicants who have submitted applications for verification of eligibility for permanent identity card can also enquire about the application status through the Internet or the 24-hour Telephone Enquiry System. In 2010, 49 734 enquiries were made.

Law Enforcement

Enforcement Actions against Illegal Employment

In 2010, 11 203 operations against illegal employment were conducted, with 6 518 suspected illegal workers and 967 employers being arrested.

After the commencement of the Immigration (Amendment) Ordinance 2009 on November 14, 2009, the Department continued to strengthen law enforcement action in combating illegal employment to act as a deterrent for those who may intend to seek illegal entry into Hong Kong to seek illegal employment. Between November 14, 2009 and December 31, 2010, 208 illegal workers were arrested for breaching the amended ordinance. In October 2010, the Court of Appeal handed down the sentencing guideline in respect of section 38AA that 15 months' imprisonment should be imposed for a person convicted of an offence under the section.

To promote general awareness of the new amended ordinance and emphasise the serious legal consequences of employing illegal workers, a series of publicity measures were conducted, such as the distribution of leaflets about the new legislation in different languages and issue of press releases. In addition, the Department launched two new Announcements in the Public Interest on radio on March 1, 2010 and November 25, 2010 respectively, to remind the public of the consequences of employing illegal workers who hold immigration recognisance forms and the importance of inspecting non-permanent resident job seekers' travel documents.

Deterrent to Global Illegal Migration Activities

The Department has for years combined hands with international and local law enforcement agencies to combat global illegal migration and document fraud. The Anti-Illegal Migration Agency was set up to investigate cases involving Hong Kong SAR passports.

The latest intelligence reveals that syndicates continue to smuggle illegal migrants into overseas countries by circuitous routes. In the past, illegal migrants travelled to their countries of choice as directly as possible. Currently, to circumvent the strict immigration control in Hong Kong, smuggling-ring members arrange for illegal migrants to detour to a number of transit ports, so that they may seek illegal entry into their destination country through these transit ports using forged passports procured overseas.

The Department has adopted a proactive approach against such transnational crime by conducting joint operations with international and local law enforcement agencies. In October 2010, acting on intelligence provided by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a joint operation was conducted by the Department and the Hong Kong Police Force to prevent document fraud and boarding pass swap activities. In November 2010, the Department conducted a special operation at Hong Kong International Airport, with the participation of local consulate representatives of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, as advisers or observers. These two operations were successful, leading to the apprehension of nine immigration offenders, including forgery users, escort, boarding pass swapper and HKSAR passport sellers, as well as the seizure of four problematic passports and one problematic visa.

Combating Forged Travel Documents and Forged Smart HK Identity Cards

The Department spared no effort in combating travel document forgery. The number of operations against forgery activities increased from 23,687 in 2009 to 25,038 in 2010. As a result of enhanced operations and full vigilance maintained by frontline staff at control points against doubtful visitors seeking entry to Hong Kong, there was a rise in the number of forged travel documents detected at control points, with the number of forged travel documents intercepted increasing by 7.6 % from 1 207 in 2009 to 1 299 in 2010. The Department is committed to getting to the root of the problem by smashing syndicates. To this end, we will conduct thorough investigations on users in order to trace the source.

Since June 2003, 9.43 million Smart identity cards have been issued, but only 2 539 forged Smart HK identity cards have been detected. In 2010, 372 forged Smart HK identity cards were detected, down 12.1% when compared to 423 in 2009. The majority of forged identity cards detected were used by illegal workers and were of poor quality, and could be easily distinguished from genuine cards. In September 2010, the Department mounted a large-scale joint operation, codenamed "Forestrike", with the Mainland authorities and successfully eliminated an active cross-boundary forged Hong Kong identity card syndicate. In this operation, the Mainland authorities arrested 11 core syndicate members and smashed 11 forgery workshops, resulting in the seizure of large quantities of forged documents and forgery equipment. In Hong Kong, a total of 42 suspects were apprehended and 18 forged Hong Kong identity cards were seized.

To prevent the use of forged identity cards for illicit purposes, the Department will continue to deliver talks on the security features of Smart HK identity cards and advise security personnel in the private and government sectors who are required to handle identity cards in their work.

Bogus Marriages Uncovered

The Department has been very concerned about non-Hong Kong residents obtaining stay in Hong Kong by means of bogus marriage. A special task force has been set up to gather intelligence through various avenues and thorough investigation will be conducted once evidence comes to light. If there is sufficient evidence, those involved will be prosecuted. In February 2010, the special task force was further expanded with the addition 10 members of two operation teams to strengthen enforcement actions against bogus marriage cases.

In 2010, 63 Mainland residents and 122 Hong Kong residents were convicted of offences relating to bogus marriages. The 185 people convicted were sentenced to jail terms ranging from six to 21 months.

CAT Screening

The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) has been extended to Hong Kong. In 2010, a total of 1 809 torture claim cases (involving 1 809 people) were received - down 44.9% compared with 3 286 cases (involving 3 286 people) in 2009. The majority of the claimants came from South Asian countries.

During the year, some legally-aided torture claimants launched various legal challenges against enforcement actions and policies of the Administration. There were judicial review applications challenging, inter alia, the Administration's policy of not granting extension of stay to torture claimants and not allowing the screened-in torture claimants to work in Hong Kong. The ruling of the court upholds the Government's policy not to allow screened-in torture claimants and refugees to take up employment generally. As regards the screening of torture claims, an enhanced mechanism has been re-launched since December 24, 2009. It entails the provision of publicly-funded legal assistance to needy torture claimants. Besides, the Immigration (Amendment) Ordinance 2009 came into effect on November 14, 2009. Between November 14, 2009 and December 31, 2010, 1 536 torture claims were withdrawn and the subjects voluntarily requested repatriation to their place of origin.

Takeover of Management and Operation of Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre (CIC)

The Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre (CIC) is an immigration detention facility for immigration offenders (18 years old or above) awaiting repatriation/removal/deportation in accordance with the Immigration Ordinance. The CIC commenced operations in 2005. Owing to the then manpower situation, the Department and the Correctional Services Department (CSD) had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) under which the CSD would manage the CIC for a period of five years. Pursuant to the MOU, the management and operation of CIC was taken over by the Department from CSD on April 15, 2010. The operation of the CIC has been running smoothly since the takeover. As at December 31, 2010, there were 263 detainees held in CIC.

Travel documents

During the year, 539 887 HKSAR passport applications were received and 530 485 passports were issued. (An increase of 14.4% compared to the total of 463 631 passports issued in year 2009.)

Visa-free Access for HKSAR Passport Holders

At present, 143 countries/territories have granted visa-free access or visa on arrival to holders of HKSAR passports. In 2010, Myanmar, Brunei Darrussalum, Grenada and Ukraine were added to the list. The Department will continue to lobby for visa-free access for HKSAR passport holders to visit more countries/territories.

Assistance to Hong Kong Residents in Distress Outside Hong Kong

The Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit (AHU) works closely with the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, our diplomatic and consular missions overseas, the Office of the HKSAR Government in Beijing (Beijing Office), the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Guangdong (GDETO) as well as other government departments to provide assistance to Hong Kong residents in distress outside Hong Kong. In 2010, 2 194 requests were handled.

Major incidents outside Hong Kong

In 2010, several major incidents occurred involving a number of Hong Kong residents outside Hong Kong, namely the political unrest in Thailand (March to April), disruption to air traffic across Europe caused by the volcanic eruption in Iceland (April), the hostage-taking incident in Manila (August), and disruption of air traffic caused by the snowstorm in Europe stranding students at Heathrow Airport, London (December). Following these accidents, the AHU worked closely with the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong, the relevant Chinese Diplomatic and Consular Missions, the Beijing Office, the HKETO in London and other government departments to provide all feasible assistance to the affected Hong Kong residents and their family members.

Registration of Outbound Travel Alert Information (ROTI)

On December 6, 2010, ROTI service was launched to enable Hong Kong residents to register their contact details and itinerary outside Hong Kong before setting out on their trips. The information provided will help the 'Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit' of the Immigration Department to contact and help Hong Kong residents in the event of an emergency outside Hong Kong. ROTI registrants will receive updates on Outbound Travel Alerts (OTA) and related public information via MyGovHK, and depending on the situation, via SMS on mobile phone.

New 1868 Telephone System

In December 2010, the 1868 telephone hotline was enhanced by the doubling its capacity from 23 to 46 lines, adding an automatic call distribution function and enhancing case management functions for more effective assistance to callers. In addition, the Immigration Department has set up an emergency reinforcement team (with appropriate training provided) so that more staff can be deployed to answer emergency calls and public enquiries, or be sent to the countries or places in question to provide prompt assistance to Hong Kong residents in distress.

Civil Celebrants of Marriages Scheme

The Civil Celebrants of Marriages Scheme was launched in March 2006. At the end of 2010, a total of 1 687 lawyers/notary publics had been appointed as civil celebrants. The scheme has been well received, as it provides more choice, greater flexibility and greater convenience in the arrangements for weddings. At the end of 2010, 90 511 marriage notices had been given through civil celebrants, representing 36.2% of total applications. A total of 89 964 marriages were solemnised by civil celebrants, representing 38.2% of total marriage registrations.

The Department will continue to monitor the services provided by civil celebrants and review the running of the scheme to ensure that people are able to enjoy flexible, diversified and satisfactory marriage solemnisation services. With the decrease in demand for marriage celebration at marriage registries, the performance level of the registries is also under active review.

Information Systems

Participation in International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Public Key Directory (PKD)

Hong Kong became a participant in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Public Key Directory (PKD) in October 2010. This international organisation aims to exchange Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) certificates among participants on a common platform to facilitate the speedy validation of biometric passports issued by different authorities. Our participation in ICAO PKD will enable holders of HKSAR passports to enjoy greater travel convenience abroad.

Privacy Compliance Assessment (PCA)

Since the introduction of the Smart Identity Card System (SMARTICS) in 2003, the Department has endeavoured to put in place measures to ensure protection of personal data. To further ensure that the operation workflow and processes of the SMARTICS can fully safeguard the protection of personal data, the Department invited the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) to conduct a PCA assessment in an independent and professional manner. The assessment was conducted from July to November 2009, and the PCA Report was presented by PCPD on 30 July 2010. Overall, PCPD is satisfied that the department has appropriate policies, practices and guidance in place for handling and processing personal data.

Recruitment of Service Staff

In 2010, a total of 153 Immigration Officers (IO) and 24 Immigration Assistants (IA) were appointed. The first batch of intakes, including 21 IOs and 24 IAs, have already joined the workforce after induction training. The remaining 132 newly recruited IOs also commenced induction training in November and December 2010 respectively. They will commence public service by June 2011, following their training. In order to ensure the sustainable development of the Department, we will continue to recruit new blood in 2011.

Green Management

Environmental Policy

We are committed to ensuring that all services delivered and our internal operations are conducted in a manner that conforms to environmental protection principles and practices in accordance with requirements under the relevant green legislation, codes of practices and Clean Air Charter as appropriate.

Energy Conservation

We have taken various effective house-keeping measures to conserve energy. For example, we have replaced the conventional "EXIT" signs with LED-type signs at the Immigration Headquarters and Man Kam To Control Point. In addition, energy-efficient T5 fluorescent tubes have been widely adopted in Immigration premises. Automatic control of fresh air supply rate for the air handling units was also installed in Lo Wu Control Point. In order to further reduce power consumption, we have put forward a number of energy saving retrofit projects on the basis of the recommendations of the energy audits. With the concerted efforts of staff, energy consumption in 2010 has decreased by 0.4% compared with 2009 despite the increase in operational activities, such as the extension of daily operating hours at Sha Tau Kok Control Point by two hours since July 2009.

Minimisation of Paper Consumption

With a view to economising the use of paper, we have made the best use of information technology for communication with staff and the public as far as possible. Emails, Internet, intranet portals and other electronic means have been widely adopted in our daily operations. We have also provided members of the public with e-Services to help reduce the use of paper. In addition, we have joined the pilot programme for e-Procurement, which is less dependent on traditional paper-based modes in procurement procedures.

Support on Clean Air Charter

In support of the Clean Air Charter, we have put great effort into reducing energy consumption and emissions from our vehicle and vessel fleets. For example, we have purchased hybrid type saloon cars which combine a gasoline engine and electric motor power to reduce fuel consumption and minimise the emission of polluting particles. In addition, staff members were encouraged to share pool cars and combine their trips as far as practicable in order to fully utilise the vehicles and reduce mileage.

Promotion of Staff Awareness

To enhance staff awareness of green management, we have organised different kinds of promotional activities, such as a "Used Clothes Collection Campaign" and an environmental visit to "ElectriCity" in Castle Peak Power Station. Energy Wardens have been appointed in each sub-division to encourage staff to participate in the implementation of housekeeping energy conservation practices. We shall continue to cultivate a green culture among staff and identify green initiatives in the Department as appropriate.

Vision for 2011

Enhancement of Port Facilities and Commencement of New Control Points

In regard of port facilities, improvement work will be carried out by stages at the passenger terminal of the Lok Ma Chau control point. The first stage, concerning the entry (southbound) works will be launched in mid-2011 and is expected to be completed in mid-2012. The second stage, concerning the exit (northbound) works will follow. It is expected that the whole project will be completed in the latter half of 2013. The number of self-service immigration exit and entry channels (e-Channels) will be increased from 20 to 46. After the completion of the improvement work, the number of traditional counters and e-Channels for processing exit and entry immigration clearance will be increased to 96 in total.

In addition, improvement works will also be carried out at the passenger terminal of the Man Kam To control point. The number of e-Channel will be doubled, from 9 to 18. The project will be launched in the first quarter of 2011 and is expected to be completed in 2012.

In the coming few years, there will be a number of new control points, including the new cruise terminal, which is expected to commence service in 2013, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and Liangtang/Heung Yuen Wai Cross-boundary Control Points etc. The immigration department will actively work together with the relevant bureaus to provide courteous and efficient immigration services to the travelling public.

Enhancement of ImmD Computer Systems to Process Electronic Exit-entry Permit for Travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macao and Extension of e-channel Service

The Mainland authorities' plan to introduce, by phases from 2012, electronic Exit-entry Permit for Travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macao (e-EEP). An electronic EEP will contain a computer chip which stores the holder's personal information and exit endorsement to Hong Kong. In order to retrieve information from the electronic EEP and record the limit as well as the conditions of stay, in July 2010, the Department has applied to the Legislative Council for funding to modify and upgrade its computer systems and install new facilities at control points and its offices. Moreover, in view of the facilitation measures implemented recently by the Mainland authorities, a continuous growth in the number of Mainland visitors visiting Hong Kong is anticipated. The Immigration Department plans to further enhance its handling capacity, as well as efficiency, by allowing eligible Mainland frequent visitors to use e-Channels after enrolment in 2012.

Greater Convenience for Travel Document Applicants

Currently, eligible applicants aged 18 and above may submit their applications for a HKSAR passport through the self-service kiosks installed at the Headquarters and the Immigration Branch Offices. In order to provide better service to the public, this service will be extended to eligible applicants aged 11 to 17.

Information Systems Strategy Review

In March 2010, the Department commissioned an external consultant to conduct a review of its Information Systems Strategy (ISS) with a view to further improving efficiency and delivering better services to the public through judicious use of information technology (IT). According to the ISS consultant, the Department should embark on a new ISS with a view to replacing existing information systems and IT infrastructure in the coming decade.