LCQ1: Immigration clearance and entry visas to the Mainland for non-Chinese Hong Kong permanent residents with foreign passports

     Following is a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by the Dr Hon David Li in the Legislative Council today (February 15):


     It was announced in the 2001-2002 Policy Address that foreign nationals who are Hong Kong permanent residents may be granted three-year multiple-entry visas to the Mainland.  Further, they may also apply to the Hong Kong Immigration Department for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Cards.  Yet neither of these arrangements allows such foreign nationals to use automated passenger clearance channels to enter and exit the Mainland.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it has carried out any discussion with the relevant mainland authorities to extend the automated passenger clearance channel service at mainland boundary control points to foreign nationals who are Hong Kong permanent residents; and if so, of the outcome; and

(b) whether the Government will approach the relevant authorities to request the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to give priority treatment to the visa applications from foreign nationals who hold a Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card, so as to facilitate them to travel between both places without having to wait in a long queue for their visas?



     To maintain Hong Kong's key position as an international financial centre, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) has strived to enhance travel convenience for permanent residents of Hong Kong.  Currently, there are 144 countries or territories which provide visa-free access or visa-on-arrival arrangements to HKSAR Passport holders.

     My reply to the two parts of the question is as follows:

(a) Since 2005, holders of the Mainland Travel Permit for Hong Kong and Macau Residents, or commonly known as the "Home Visit Re-entry Permit", may, following enrollment, use the automated passenger clearance channels at Mainland boundary control points.  Currently, automated passenger clearance channels are set up at immigration control points in major cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Zhuhai and Shenzhen.  The facilities have greatly facilitated immigration clearance of Hong Kong visitors through shortening waiting time.

     We have, from time to time, exchanged views with the relevant Mainland authorities on measures to further facilitation for Hong Kong visitors.  We are given to understand that the relevant Mainland authorities currently have no plan to extend the automated clearance service for non-Chinese Hong Kong permanent residents holding passports issued by other countries.

     Meanwhile, eligible non-Chinese Hong Kong permanent residents may apply for the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) Business Travel Cards, normally we called them the APEC Cards, through the Immigration Department (ImmD) to enjoy various travel convenience benefits, including multiple visa-free visits to the Mainland, with up to 60 days of stay for each visit, within the validity period of three years.  Currently, major cities in the Mainland, including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, have set up priority lanes for APEC Business Travel Card holders.  In the past three years, the ImmD approved and issued around 10 000 APEC Business Travel Cards to Hong Kong permanent residents with foreign passports.

(b) One of the duties of the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in the HKSAR (OCMFA) is to process and issue Mainland visas in Hong Kong.  Its clients include Hong Kong permanent residents who are foreign nationals as well as visitors who visit the Mainland routing through Hong Kong.  Since 2001, non-Chinese Hong Kong permanent residents and their spouses and children are eligible to apply for multiple-entry visas which are valid for up to three years.  We understand that the office of the OCMFA is busiest on Mondays and Tuesdays.  Hence, persons living or working in Hong Kong may arrange to submit visa applications on other working days of the week.  At the same time, the OCMFA indicated that they would actively consider different arrangements to cope with service demand, including enhancing the facilities of its visa office and the processing efficiency.

     Besides, in view of the increase in visa applications submitted by visitors intending to visit the Mainland routing through Hong Kong, the OCMFA has, through its official website, urged foreign visitors to apply for their visas through the Chinese diplomatic and consular missions in their home country in advance before coming to Hong Kong.

Ends/Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Issued at HKT 15:32