Immigration Department Annual Report 2012

Personal Documentation Branch

Organisation Chart of the Personal Documentation Branch Organisation Chart of the Personal
Documentation Branch

Commanded by an Assistant Director, the Personal Documentation Branch comprises the Documents Division and the Registration of Persons Division. Each division is headed by a Principal Immigration Officer.

The Documents Division deals with applications for HKSAR passports and other HKSAR travel documents, matters relating to the implementation of the Chinese Nationality Law in Hong Kong, as well as registration of births, deaths and marriages. The Registration of Persons Division deals with applications relating to claims to right of abode under the Basic Law, issuance of identity cards to Hong Kong residents, maintenance of registration of persons records, negotiations on visa-free travel arrangements for HKSAR residents and provision of assistance to Hong Kong residents in distress outside Hong Kong. The Registration of Persons and HKSAR Passports Appeal Section under the Registration of Persons Division is responsible for handling appeals relating to permanent identity card and HKSAR passport applications.

Registration of Persons

Photo-taking for a smart identity card applicant at the Registration of Persons office. Photo-taking for a smart identity card applicant
at the Registration of Persons office.

Since the Immigration Department took over from the previous Registration of Persons Department all duties relating to the registration of persons in Hong Kong in April 1977, the Department has been responsible for registering and issuing identity cards as well as providing related services to all residents of Hong Kong. Performing this additional role, the Director of Immigration is appointed the Commissioner of Registration. Immigration officers and clerical staff posted to the Registration of Persons Offices are appointed registration officers. At present, registration of persons services are provided in five offices: one on Hong Kong Island, two in Kowloon and two in the New Territories.

Hong Kong Identity Cards

Different generations of Hong Kong identity cardsDifferent generations of
Hong Kong identity cards

Since 1949, all Hong Kong residents were required to register for identity cards and the first kind was of paper type. These paper type identity cards were subsequently replaced by laminated ones upon implementation of the Registration of Persons Ordinance in 1960. For better maintenance of records, a territory-wide Identity Card Re-issue Exercise was launched in 1983 to introduce more secure identity cards. It was followed by the second Identity Card Re-issue Exercise starting on July 1, 1987 when Hong Kong permanent identity cards containing a statement that the holder had the right of abode in Hong Kong were issued to permanent residents, and Hong Kong identity cards without such statement were issued to non-permanent residents. Since August 1, 2011, ‘M’ prefix identity cards have been issued to new identity card registrants. The Department ceased to issue ‘R’ prefix identity card numbers, which had been used since December 2000, to new registrants after July 30, 2011.

Smart Identity Card

The smart identity card employs state-of-the-art technologies to make it more secure and fraud-resistant.The smart identity card employs
state-of-the-art technologies to make
it more secure and fraud-resistant.

The Department commenced the issue of smart identity cards to Hong Kong residents on June 23, 2003. The card employs state-of-the-art technologies to make it more secure and fraud-resistant. The card holder’s personal particulars are engraved by laser on the card surface, and the templates of his two thumbprints as well as his facial image are stored in a chip and protected by sophisticated cryptographic techniques.


Hong Kong permanent residents aged 11 or above holding smart identity cards have been able to enjoy the e-Channel services at control points.Hong Kong permanent residents aged
11 or above holding smart identity cards
have been able to enjoy the e-Channel
services at control points.

The smart identity card enables the Department to use the fingerprint identification technology to quickly authenticate the card holder’s identity. Since the end of 2004, Hong Kong permanent residents aged 11 or above holding smart identity cards have been able to enjoy the convenience of the Automated Passenger Clearance System (e-Channel) at control points.

Since April 2005, cross-boundary drivers who are Hong Kong permanent residents holding smart identity cards are able to enjoy the facilitation of the Automated Vehicle Clearance System (vehicular e-Channel) at vehicular control points.

Since January 2006, the e-Channel service has been further extended to holders of Document of Identity for Visa Purposes with smart identity cards. Starting from September 12, 2006, persons holding smart identity cards who have the right to land or are on unconditional stay in Hong Kong, or who are non-permanent residents issued with a notification label can also use the e-Channel service.

Moreover, since December 10, 2009, Hong Kong permanent residents who are aged 11 or above may travel to Macao on the strength of their smart identity cards and enjoy the enhanced immigration facilitation through the Macao Automated Passenger Clearance System after successful enrolment.

The smart identity card also has the capacity to support other value-added non-immigration applications, such as public library services, storage of e-Certificate, etc. It enables the card holder to enjoy the convenience of one card with multiple uses.

Registration for Identity Cards

Under the Registration of Persons Ordinance, Hong Kong residents of or over the age of 11 are required to register for an identity card unless they are specifically exempted or excluded from such provision, for example, the aged, the blind, the infirm and the Vietnamese refugees. Any person who is not the holder of an identity card and is required by law to be registered must apply for one within 30 days of his arrival in Hong Kong or of the date when he is so required to apply. In 2012, 408 528 and 193 754 identity cards were issued to permanent residents and non-permanent residents respectively.

The Registration of Persons Tribunal was established in 1987 under Section 3C of the Registration of Persons Ordinance, Cap. 177, to deal with appeals arising from the decision of not to issue a permanent identity card or to declare a permanent identity card invalid. In 2012, the Tribunal received 155 appeals.

Replacement for Identity Cards

Replacement identity cards are issued to persons whose previous identity cards have been lost, damaged or defaced, or whose identity cards require amendment because of changes in personal particulars such as name or date of birth. In 2012, 170 416 replacement identity cards were issued.

One-stop-shop Service for the One-way Permit Entrants

Effective from April 24, 2006, One-way Permit entrants aged 11 or above may simultaneously submit applications for Hong Kong Document of Identity for Visa Purposes when applying for first registration of Hong Kong identity card at the Registration of Persons – Kowloon Office. Effective from the same date, the processing time for applications for Hong Kong Document of Identity for Visa Purposes has been shortened from 15 to 10 working days.

Channelling of Applicants

To further improve the standard of service at the Registration of Persons Offices, a channelling service has been provided since June 1998. When the quota of a Registration of Persons Office is full, arrangement will be made for the applicants to attend another office which has spare quota or be offered an appointment in the same office on another day. The arrangement significantly reduces the number of applicants who otherwise have to be turned away. The measures are well received by members of the public.

Round-the-clock Appointment Booking System

The 24-hour Telephone Appointment Booking System and the appointment booking through the Internet for identity card under the Electronic Service Delivery (ESD) Scheme were introduced on December 1, 1994 and December 9, 2000 respectively to offer convenient booking for registration of persons services. With effect from June 21, 2010, the appointment booking period for application of identity card has been extended from 12 to 24 working days. Subsequent changes or cancellation of the appointment can also be made one working day prior to the scheduled appointment date.

The 24-hour Telephone Appointment Booking System and the online appointment booking service through GovHK website for Hong Kong smart identity card are well received by members of the public. The 24-hour Telephone Appointment Booking System and the online appointment booking service through GovHK website for Hong Kong smart identity card are well received by members of the public.The 24-hour Telephone Appointment Booking System
and the online appointment booking service through
GovHK website for Hong Kong smart identity card are
well received by members of the public.

With effect from January 2, 2008, appointment booking through the Government Portal, GovHK, has been introduced to replace the ESD Scheme. With effect from the same date, an applicant may also choose to receive a free appointment reminder two days before the scheduled appointment date.

Certificate of Registered Particulars

Certificates of Registered Particulars are issued to provide records of the particulars furnished or reported to a registration officer, including particulars which are not shown on the identity cards. They are used for a number of purposes. One of them is to support applications for emigration. In 2012, 26 332 certificates were issued.

Registration of Persons Records

One of the main tasks of the Department is to maintain registration of persons records of a population of some seven million. To facilitate storage, retrieval and maintenance, all these records were converted to digital images in 2003-2004. The Image Management System which has replaced the old microfilm technology facilitates round-the-clock identity card record checks for other law enforcement departments and helps combat illegal immigration effectively. It also provides a database of eligible Hong Kong permanent residents who have the right to vote and the right to stand for election.

Territory-wide Smart Identity Card Replacement Exercise

The territory-wide Smart Identity Card Replacement Exercise launched on August 18, 2003 had been successfully completed on March 31, 2007.

All old identity cards issued before June 23, 2003 were declared invalid by batches in accordance with the ‘first apply, first invalidated’ principle through the issue of four different Registration of Persons (Invalidation of Identity Cards) Orders between May 2006 and May 2008. With effect from November 30, 2008, all old identity cards had ceased to be valid.

Right of Abode in HKSAR

Background

Under the law, all Hong Kong permanent residents have the right of abode in Hong Kong which includes the right to land in Hong Kong, the right to be free from any condition of stay in Hong Kong, and the right not to be deported or removed from Hong Kong.

Article 24 of the Basic Law sets out six categories of persons who are permanent residents of the HKSAR. On July 1, 1997, the Immigration Ordinance was amended to align the right of abode provisions with those in the Basic Law. As a result, the conditions for acquiring the right of abode in Hong Kong were clearly defined.

Promulgation of the 'Right of Abode' Issue

The Right of Abode booklet provides concise information on right of abode in Hong Kong.The Right of Abode booklet
provides concise information
on right of abode in Hong Kong.

There are transitional provisions in the Schedule to the Immigration Ordinance for overseas Hong Kong residents to retain their right of abode. One of the provisions is for those persons not of Chinese nationality who had the right of abode in Hong Kong before July 1, 1997 but did not return to settle in Hong Kong immediately before that date to retain such right by returning to settle in Hong Kong on or before December 31, 1998. Persons of this category who only return to settle in Hong Kong after December 31, 1998 and had been absent from Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less than 36 months, will lose the right of abode but automatically acquire the right to land. Furthermore, Hong Kong permanent residents not of Chinese nationality who have been absent from Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less than 36 months after they ceased to have ordinarily resided in Hong Kong will also lose the right of abode but automatically acquire the right to land. Persons with the right to land will still be able to enter Hong Kong freely to live, study and work without any restriction.

Verification of Eligibility for Permanent Identity Card (VEPIC)

After the Reunification, the Department started to process the right of abode applications in accordance with the Basic Law and the Immigration Ordinance. Successful applicants aged 11 or over will be arranged to register for a permanent identity card under the provisions of the Registration of Persons Ordinance. Successful applicants aged under 11 will be issued with a letter confirming their eligibility. If they hold valid travel documents, they may apply for an endorsement to be made on their travel documents confirming that their eligibility for a permanent identity card was verified. In 2012, the Department received a total of 82 099 VEPIC applications. In the same year, a total of 83 288 applications were finalised.

e-Services for VEPIC applications

To provide more facilitation to the applicants, a new e-Service has been introduced on the submission of VEPIC applications effective from February 27, 2009. Through the website of GovHK, applicants may complete and print the application forms online. After signing and scanning the completed forms together with the supporting documents, the applicants may submit their VEPIC applications through the Internet. Applicants can also make use of the e-Service to submit further supporting documents if they are required to do so; and to enquire or change their scheduled appointments for verification of documents. Moreover, with effect from November 30, 2009, applicants who have submitted VEPIC applications can also enquire about the application status through the Internet or the 24-hour Telephone Enquiry System.

Visa-free Lobbying for HKSAR Passport Holders

The Department spares no effort in lobbying for visa-free treatment for HKSAR passport holders. The Department spares no effort in lobbying for visa-free treatment for HKSAR passport holders.The Department spares no effort in lobbying for
visa-free treatment for HKSAR passport holders.

The Department continued its efforts in actively lobbying for visa-free treatment for HKSAR passport holders. In 2012, the Republic of Albania, the Republic of Montenegro, the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands agreed to grant visa-free access to holders of HKSAR passport. As at the end of 2012, a total of 147 countries / territories have agreed to grant visa-free access or visa-on-arrival to HKSAR passport holders.

Assistance Provided to Hong Kong Residents in Distress Outside Hong Kong

The Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit provides assistance to Hong Kong residents in distress outside Hong Kong.
The Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit provides assistance to Hong Kong residents in distress outside Hong KongThe Assistance to Hong Kong
Residents Unit provides assistance
to Hong Kong residents in distress
outside Hong Kong.
The Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit (AHU) of the Department works closely with the Security Bureau, the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China in the HKSAR, Chinese diplomatic and consular missions in overseas countries, the Office of the Government of the HKSAR in Beijing (Beijing Office) and the Economic and Trade Office in Guangdong (GDETO), the Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Office (Taiwan) and other government departments in providing assistance to Hong Kong residents in distress outside Hong Kong. Hong Kong residents requiring emergency assistance in any country / territory can call the AHU 24-hour Hotline at (852) 1868.

In 2012, several major incidents involving a number of Hong Kong residents occurred outside Hong Kong, namely the grounding of a cruise ship in Italy (January), the sinking of a Hong Kong yacht in international waters (June) and the Diaoyu Islands incident (August). Following these incidents, 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 overseas, the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (HKETO) in Tokyo and other government departments to provide all feasible assistance to the affected Hong Kong residents and their family members. In 2012, the unit handled 199 377 enquires and 1 791 requests for assistance from Hong Kong residents.

Registration of Outbound Travel Information (ROTI)

Following the implementation of the ROTI service in late 2010, the Department continues to work with the Security Bureau and the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer to enhance the ROTI service. With effect from mid-February 2012, the registrants may choose to enter their overseas mobile phone number and receive SMS via their registered overseas mobile phone. This enhanced function provides a convenient and cost-effective service to those Hong Kong residents who are studying or working overseas without using the roaming services of their Hong Kong mobile phones. Moreover, starting from July 23, 2012, upon creation and change of itinerary, the registrants would be informed of the Outbound Travel Alerts in force in the countries they are going.

Immigration Branch Offices

Immigration Branch OfficeImmigration Branch Office

Apart from the Immigration Headquarters in Wan Chai, the Department provides services to members of the public through its six Immigration Branch Offices at convenient locations. Of these branch offices, one is on Hong Kong Island, two in Kowloon and three in the New Territories.

Hong Kong Travel Documents

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Passports Ordinance provides for the issue of HKSAR passports and other related matters while the authority for the issue of other HKSAR travel documents is enshrined in the Immigration Ordinance and the Immigration Regulations.

HKSAR Passport

When the application for HKSAR passport is successfully submitted through the self-service kiosk, the applicant can immediately get a collection notice from the kiosk.When the application for HKSAR passport is successfully
submitted through the self-service kiosk, the applicant
can immediately get a collection notice from the kiosk.

The Immigration Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is the sole authority to issue HKSAR passports. Under the law, HKSAR passports are issued only to Chinese citizens who have the right of abode in Hong Kong and who hold valid Hong Kong permanent identity cards. Applications for HKSAR passports can be submitted by the applicants to the Department either by post, through drop-in boxes, in person or via the Internet (for eligible applicants aged 11 or above). Eligible applicants aged 18 or above may also submit their applications via the self-service kiosk. With effect from December 29, 2011, eligible applicants born in Hong Kong and aged 11 to 17 can also submit their HKSAR passport applications through the self-service kiosks at the Immigration Headquarters.

Persons staying overseas can submit their applications through the Chinese diplomatic and consular missions. The processing of applications and the personalisation of HKSAR passports are centrally handled by the Department.

The HKSAR passport has made use of the most advanced technologies in the design of anti-forgery features and in the personalisation of passports.
The HKSAR passport has made use of the most advanced technologies in the design of anti-forgery features and in the personalisation of passports.The HKSAR passport has made use of
the most advanced technologies
in the design of anti-forgery features and
in the personalisation of passports.

The HKSAR passport has made use of the most advanced technologies in the design of anti-forgery features and the personalisation of passports. The passport issuing procedures are monitored and controlled by a unique computer system while the production sites at the Immigration Headquarters are guarded by stringent measures and security installations. The HKSAR passport has won international recognition and has been regarded as one of the most secure passports in the world. Many foreign government officials have expressed their interests in the Department’s passport issuing system.

To be in line with the global development championed by the International Civil Aviation Organization to enhance the security standards of travel documents, the Department started issuing the HKSAR electronic passports on February 5, 2007. The electronic passport contains a contactless integrated circuit chip that stores the facial image and personal information of the holder.

In 2012, the Department received 654 029 HKSAR passport applications. As at the end of 2012, the Department has received a total of 7 763 795 HKSAR passport applications and issued 7 255 146 passports.

The HKSAR Passports Appeal Board was established on September 7, 1998 under the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Passports (Appeal Board) Regulation to provide a channel of appeal to unsuccessful applicants of HKSAR passports. In 2012, the board received 15 appeals. The total number of appeals is 447 as at the end of 2012.

Document of Identity for Visa Purposes

Document of Identity for Visa PurposesDocument of Identity for Visa Purposes

Documents of Identity for Visa Purposes are valid for seven years. They are issued to Hong Kong residents who are unable to obtain a national passport or travel document of any other countries or territories. The vast majority of the applicants are legal immigrants from the Mainland who have not yet resided in Hong Kong continuously for seven years. The Department started issuing the electronic Documents of Identity for Visa Purposes on February 5, 2007. Bearing similar security features adopted in electronic HKSAR passports, the electronic Document of Identity for Visa Purposes also contains a contactless integrated circuit chip. In 2012, 59 828 Documents of Identity for Visa Purposes were issued.

Seaman's Identity Book

Seaman’s Identity Books are valid for 10 years. They are issued to seafarers who are Hong Kong residents having the right of abode or having been granted unconditional stay in the HKSAR, including non-Chinese citizens who are unable to obtain a national passport or travel document of any other countries or territories. In 2012, 10 Seaman’s Identity Books were issued.

Re-entry Permit

Re-entry Permits are valid for a maximum period of five years. They are good for travel to and from the Mainland and Macao. The permits are issued mainly to Hong Kong residents who are Chinese citizens and who have the right of abode in Hong Kong or have been granted unconditional stay. After the rollout of e-Channel, most Hong Kong residents use their identity cards to travel to the Mainland or Macao. Re-entry Permits are therefore used mostly by children under the age of 11 and residents who have lost their identity cards but need to travel to the Mainland or Macao before they are issued with replacements. In 2012, 118 915 Re-entry Permits were issued.

Chinese Nationality

Authority

The Immigration Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is authorised by the Central People’s Government to deal with nationality applications from Hong Kong residents from July 1, 1997 in accordance with the Nationality Law of the People’s Republic of China and the ‘Explanations’ adopted by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on May 15, 1996. The Chinese Nationality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance was enacted to provide for matters relating to the implementation of the Nationality Law of the People’s Republic of China in the HKSAR.

Declaration of Change of Nationality

Hong Kong residents who are Chinese nationals and holding foreign passports may make a declaration of change of nationality to the Department if they would like to be regarded as foreign nationals. In 2012, 95 Hong Kong residents declared change of nationality. The majority of them were holding passports of the United States of America, Canada and Singapore.

Naturalisation, Renunciation or Restoration of Chinese Nationality

In 2012, the Department received 1 274 applications for naturalisation as Chinese nationals, 119 applications for renunciation of Chinese nationality and 5 applications for restoration of Chinese nationality.

Overseas Hong Kong residents may submit their nationality applications (including declaration of change of nationality, naturalisation as a Chinese national, renunciation and restoration of Chinese nationality) to the Department through the Chinese diplomatic and consular missions. Applications may also be submitted direct to the Department. In 2012, 105 applications for renunciation of Chinese nationality and 43 applications for declaration of change of nationality were received through Chinese diplomatic and consular missions. The Department received five direct applications from overseas, including two for renunciation of Chinese nationality and three for declaration of change of nationality.

Births, Deaths and Marriage Registration

Since the taking over of civil registration duties from the Registrar General’s Department in July 1979, the Department has been responsible for the registration of births, deaths and marriages, and the provision of related services. For this purpose, the Director of Immigration is appointed the Registrar of Births and Deaths and the Registrar of Marriages while executive officers posted to marriage registries and immigration officers posted to marriage registries or births and deaths registries are appointed deputy registrars. Since April 2006, eligible solicitors or notaries public, if appointed by the Registrar of Marriages as Civil Celebrants of Marriages, may celebrate marriages as stipulated under the Marriage Ordinance. As at the end of 2012, there was a total of 1 819 appointed civil celebrants of marriages.

Births Registration

Parents applying for birth registration of their newborn baby.Parents applying for birth
registration of their newborn baby.

According to the Births and Deaths Ordinance, any birth in Hong Kong must be registered within 42 days from the day of such birth. Presently, there are four birth registries in Hong Kong, providing birth registration services, viz. one on Hong Kong Island, one in Kowloon and two in the New Territories. Under the law, no fee is required for registration of birth. However, a fee will be charged for post-registration of birth beyond the prescribed 42 days. A birth that has not been registered within one year can be registered only with the consent of the Registrar of Births and Deaths. In 2012, 88 417 births were registered and 2 926 births were post-registered.

Deaths Registration

Deaths from natural causes should be registered by relatives within 24 hours. There are three death registries, two on Hong Kong Island and one in Kowloon providing free registration service. Deaths in rural areas may be registered at 15 designated police stations in the New Territories and outlying islands. In 2012, 43 672 deaths were registered.

Marriage Registration

The Civil Celebrants of Marriages Scheme provides more choices, greater flexibility and convenience to marrying parties in arranging weddings. The Civil Celebrants of Marriages Scheme
provides more choices, greater flexibility
and convenience to marrying parties in
arranging weddings.

Marriages in Hong Kong are governed by the Marriage Ordinance and the Marriage Reform Ordinance. When one man and one woman wish to marry, either party shall give at least 15 clear days’ notice of an intended marriage either in person or through a Civil Celebrant of Marriages to the Registrar of Marriages. The notice will be exhibited at the marriage registry where it is given and at the Marriage Registration and Records Office in Admiralty for at least 15 clear days. The marriage must take place within three months if no objection is received. There are no residential requirements on the marrying parties and they may be of any nationality. However, either party to a marriage must not be under the age of 16 (Gregorian reckoning). Marriage may take place at any of the 5 marriage registries or the 268 (by the end of 2012) licensed places of public worship, including churches, Hindu Temple, etc. Moreover, marrying parties may also engage a Civil Celebrant of Marriages to celebrate their marriages at any places other than the marriage registries and licensed places of public worship in Hong Kong. In 2012, 27 863 marriages were celebrated at the marriage registries, 2 899 in licensed places of public worship, and 29 511 by Civil Celebrants.

Certain marriages may be post-registered as valid marriages in Hong Kong. They include Chinese customary marriages and modern marriages which were celebrated in Hong Kong before October 7, 1971, an appointed day for the purposes of the Marriage Reform Ordinance. Customary marriage refers to a marriage celebrated in accordance with Chinese law and custom, whilst modern marriage means a marriage celebrated in Hong Kong before the appointed day by open ceremony as a modern marriage and in the presence of two or more witnesses. In 2012, two such applications for post-registration of marriage were received.

Issuing of Certificates

Certified copies of certificates of birth, death or marriage may be issued on application upon payment of prescribed fees. The Department also issues Certificates of Absence of Marriage Records upon application. In 2012, 301 884 certified copies of certificate of birth, death or marriage and 21 704 Certificates of Absence of Marriage Records were issued.