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LCQ3: Enforcement actions against persons who apply for visas or entry permits to Hong Kong by illegal means
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     Following is a question by the Hon Alvin Yeung and a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council today (June 28):
 
Question:
 
     Under the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP), Mainland residents who possess special skills, knowledge or experience of value to and not readily available in Hong Kong may apply to come to work in Hong Kong. One of the eligibility criteria is that the applicants have to prove that they have already got an offer of employment from a Hong Kong employer. It has been reported that some Mainland immigration consultants have, for the purpose of helping Mainland residents to obtain approval for residing in Hong Kong, allegedly suggested them submit applications under ASMTP and indicated that they could arrange Hong Kong companies to pass off as their potential employers, but the applicants need not work for these companies upon arrival in Hong Kong. Regarding the applications from Mainland residents for coming to work in Hong Kong, will the Government inform this Council:
 
(1) whether the authorities have grasped the situation of Hong Kong and Mainland immigration consultants arranging nominal employers for ASMTP applicants; if so, of the details of the law enforcement actions taken in this regard by the authorities; if not, the reasons for that; and
 
(2) whether the authorities have grasped the latest situation of Mainland residents obtaining approval to come to work in Hong Kong by falsely claiming that they have already got an offer of employment from a Hong Kong employer or by other illegal means; if so, of the details of the law enforcement actions taken in this regard by the authorities, including how such cases will be thoroughly investigated and handled, as well as the measures to eradicate such kind of crimes; if not, the reasons for that?
 
Reply:
 
President,
 
     My consolidated reply to Hon Yeung's question is as follows:
 
     ‚ÄčThe Immigration Department (ImmD) has always assessed applications for visas or entry permits for employment according to the law and established policies. In processing each application, ImmD will examine whether the applicant meets the specific eligibility criteria under the relevant admission scheme or arrangement and normal immigration requirements, and will take into account the individual circumstances of each application, so as to ensure that only applicants who meet the relevant immigration policies will be admitted into Hong Kong for employment. Moreover, ImmD has always been very concerned about criminals obtaining visas or entry permits to Hong Kong by illegal means and has conducted follow-up investigations into and taken enforcement actions on suspicious cases.
 
     Mainland residents may apply for working in Hong Kong under the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP). An application may be favourably considered if: (1) there is no security objection and no known record of serious crime in respect of the applicant; (2) the applicant has a good education background, normally a first degree in the relevant field, but in special circumstances, good technical qualifications, proven professional abilities and/or relevant experience and achievements supported by documentary evidence may also be accepted; (3) there is a genuine job vacancy; (4) the applicant has a confirmed offer of employment and is employed in a job relevant to his academic qualifications or work experience that cannot be readily taken up by the local work force; and (5) the remuneration package including income, accommodation, medical and other fringe benefits is broadly commensurate with the prevailing market level for professionals in Hong Kong. In assessing an application, one of the vital factors that ImmD will take into consideration is whether there is such a genuine job vacancy in the employing company. The employing company also needs to furnish relevant information to prove that such a job vacancy is genuine and the applicant will genuinely work in the company.
 
     ImmD is much concerned about the recent media report on cases in which unscrupulous intermediaries alleged to assist applicants in applying for working in Hong Kong under ASMTP by furnishing false information or making false representations. ImmD has adopted corresponding measures to conduct in-depth examination on whether the applicant meets the relevant application criteria. ImmD conducts spot checks from time to time, including verifying the mode of operation, financial status and information of employees, etc. of the employing company on the spot, so as to determine whether the information declared by the applicant or his employing company in the application for visa or entry permit is true.
 
     For proof of academic qualifications, ImmD will, depending on individual circumstances, request the applicant to apply to relevant authorised institutions for verification of his qualifications, and arrange for the verification results to be sent to ImmD directly for examination. As for the documentary proof of other professional qualifications, ImmD may request the applicant to submit the documentary proof of professional qualifications validated by relevant notaries public, so as to determine the genuineness of the documents.
      
     For example, in 2016, ImmD thoroughly examined nine ASMTP applications submitted through intermediaries suspected to have furnished false information or made false representation. For these nine applications, ImmD rejected two applications and the remaining seven applications were either withdrawn by the applicants or not processed further due to not having sufficient information.
 
     Also, early this month, ImmD took enforcement action against an intermediary suspected to have furnished false information and false instruments in applications for visas or entry permits. Initial investigation revealed that nine applications for visas or entry permits of persons with different nationalities were suspected to be involved in the intermediary concerned, of which five had already been refused or withdrawn by the applicants or not processed further due to not having sufficient information. Of the four approved applications, two applicants had subsequently terminated their employment and departed Hong Kong, while the persons involved in the remaining two applications are still under investigation. So far, ImmD has arrested two agents and two applicants for the above case, and prosecuted one of the agents. ImmD is still following up the investigation. Further arrest and prosecution of more persons concerned cannot be ruled out.
 
     It is an offence for any persons or companies, including the applicants, intermediaries or employing companies, to furnish false information or make false representation to ImmD in their applications for visas or entry permits. Upon conviction by the court, offenders are liable to a maximum fine of $150,000 and imprisonment for 14 years. In addition, it is also an offence to make, possess or use false instruments. Upon conviction by the court, offenders are liable to a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment. Apart from rejecting such applications, ImmD will also initiate criminal investigations into the cases concerned. Should any person be unveiled for obtaining his visa or entry permit to Hong Kong by illegal means, the visa or entry permit so obtained will become null and void according to the law, and the person concerned will be subject to removal back to his place of origin. Even if the person has ordinarily resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of seven years or more and obtained the right of abode in Hong Kong, his right of abode in Hong Kong will be declared invalid according to the law, and he will be subject to removal back to his place of origin.
 
     ImmD will continue to step up enforcement actions, gather intelligence and collect evidence through different channels, as well as adopt a multi-pronged approach against persons who apply for visas or entry permits to Hong Kong by illegal means. Measures to be taken include strengthening the immigration examination, stepping up actions to combat illegal activities of unscrupulous intermediaries and checking on suspicious cases, and enhancing intelligence exchange and co-operation with the relevant authorities of other places. Should any suspicious cases be found, ImmD will carry out in-depth investigation on the persons concerned and initiate prosecution when there is sufficient evidence.
 
     Thank you, President.
 
Ends/Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:00
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