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On matters of visa validation

20 January 2017

By Cynthia Tellez

The Mission recently handled quite a number of cases related to visa validity. This should not be too problematic if understood correctly and/or handled properly.There are different cases but all are related to the validity of the visa issued by the Immigration Department.

Allow us to discuss one by one for easy understanding of the readers of The SUN.

1. Visa validity in relation to passport validity. Upon arrival in Hong Kong for a new contract with an entry visa for employment, the first thing that an immigration officer does is to check the validity of the passport. A two-year visa is issued to foreign domestic workers (FDW) for a two-year contract if the passport is valid for at least 25 months. That is a month longer than two years. For those processing the renewal of their contract in Hong Kong and those allowed to change employers without leaving Hong Kong, once the contract reaches the Immigration Department for the issuance of working visa, the validity of the passport is also checked. If the validity is still more than two years, the initial one-year visa for the two-year contract will be issued and the FDWwill be required to exit Hong Kong before issuing the last year of the two-year visa to complete the two-year employment contract.

But there are instances when the passport validity is less than two years or even less than one year. The usual action of the Immigration Department will be to issue a visa that is a month shorter than the passport’s validity. Meaning, the expected one-year visa will not be issued and instead, the Immigration gives only seven months if the passport is only valid for eight more months.

This is the actual process and practice that relates to the validity of visa in relation to your passport. Do not think that you will automatically be given a visa that is good for one year or two years, as the case may be. The visa validity will also depend on the expiration date of the passport. Everyone must always check on this matter to ensure that their working visa remains valid, and immediately inform the employer about it. This way, you can immediately agree on the date on which you should apply for a new passport and afterwards, the extension of your visa.

Check also with the Consulate how long it takes for a new passport to be processed so you are sure to have your new passport ready before your visa expires.

There are also instances when the employer confiscates the passport, which is illegal. In case you are in such situation and you cannot immediately insist on getting your passport back, at least take note of the expiration date of your visa. You should remind your employer about this, and insist that your passport must be returned to you for the renewal of your visa, also for your own safekeeping. If your employer still refuses to give back your passport, you should inform the police about it. Use the report card from the police to immediately inform the Immigration Department of the situation. Ask for police assistance to retrieve your passport. Immigration may extend some leniency on this case. However, retrieving your passport should not take long. If your employer continues to refuse to hand it back to you, get the help of police immediately.

If the passport is declared lost, immediately report to the police and get a report card. Show the police report card to the Philippine Consulate in applying for a new passport.

The collection notice from the Philippine Consulate must be shown to the Immigration Department to inform them about the situation.

All the above steps are preventive measures to avoid being charged with breach of condition of stay by the Immigration Department. Remember that staying beyond the allowed date of permit to stay in Hong Kong is punishable by law.

2.  Another case pertains to the two-week rule of the Immigration Department. The Rule says that if the employment contract is terminated prematurely, meaning before the expiration of the visa, then an FDW can only stay up to 14 days after termination. The visa is automatically shortened to just two weeks after termination, even if the previous validity is longer than this.

But, say, the visa is only valid for just one (1) week. In this case, the automatic validity of the visa is not two weeks, but only one week. There is no such thing as automatic extension for two weeks if the contract is terminated prematurely with a visa that has less than two week’ validity.

In any case, it is best is for the FDW to report immediately to the Immigration Department upon termination of the contract. There is nothing to lose here. In fact, you can even verify when your permit to stay ends.

If you are in a situation wherein the passport is with the lending company or with a person, please be reminded that, again, this is illegal. Demand the person or establishment or agency holding your passport to give back the passport to you immediately and clearly tell them that your visa is expiring soon and that you need to report to the relevant authorities. If they refuse, seek the assistance of the police in retrieving your passport. As much as possible, bring with you two friends who are willing to witness what is happening.

If the person or establishment or agency refuses to give back the passport in the presence of the police and denies that the passport is with them and you are stuck, ask for police report on lost passport. Apply then for a new passport at the Philippine Consulate General with the Police Report.
Remember to always photocopy your personal documents such as passport, HK identification card, SSS cards, Philhealth, etc and keep them for possible future use.

As a reminder, always be conscious and knowledgeable of the important documents you need especially while working overseas. File and keep them safely. Keep photocopies of them as well.
If you still have some matters you want to clarify, please contact the Mission at 2522 8264.

This is the monthly column from the Mission for Migrant Workers, an institution that has been serving the needs of migrant workers in Hong Kong for over 31 years. The Mission, headed by its general manager, Cynthia Tellez, assists migrant workers who are in distress, and  focuses its efforts on crisis intervention and prevention through migrant empowerment. Mission has its offices at St John’s Cathedral on Garden Road, Central, and may be reached through tel. no. 2522 8264.

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