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Immigration tells FDHs, no need to camp out overnight

05 February 2017

Early birds: Domestic workers applying for visa renewal spend the night outside the gates of the Immigration Tower in Wanchai to make the cut for the next day's walk-in applicants' daily quota.



By Vir B. Lumicao

Foreign domestic workers need not camp out overnight outside the Immigration headquarters in Wanchai just to avail of services as there are other options.

This was the statement given by an Immigration spokesperson to The SUN in response to a telephone enquiry on why dozens of helpers spend the night each day on the bridge to Immigration Tower on Gloucester Road just to ensure a slot in the day’s walk-in quota.

The practice is seen to have persisted for the past several months, with some visa applicants staking their place in the queue as early as 7pm the night before their intended appointment with Immigration officers.

 “I don’t know why the people have to sleep outside the Immigration Tower when there are other ways to submit their visa applications on time,” the Immigration spokesperson told The SUN. “Sometimes the quota is not (even) fully used,” she said.

She said the helpers could send their for contract renewal applications by post, use the drop-in box next to the interview windows on the second floor of the Immigration Tower, or make an appointment online way ahead of their visa expiry.

The helpers who braved the cold on Jan 23 when this writer dropped by the queue for an interview said their visas were expiring in a few days or they were about to go home for a vacation and had missed the online booking cut-off.

They said they were all hoping to be included in the daily quota of 70 for walk-in applicants.
But before noon of the same day, this writer saw the walk-in applicants being booked for an appointment two days later on the second floor of the Immigration office.

“Pumila ako kanina sa counter pero ang sabi full na raw ang quota hanggang sa Jan 25, kaya pumila na ako rito,” said Eliza, 33, who is renewing her visa after signing for another two years because her she is completing her a contract in February.

Aurora, 44, returned to the overnight camp-out on Jan 23 hoping to make the next day’s cut for the walk-in applicants, this time to submit her contract with a new employer. She said she was in the same place on Jan 18-19 when she applied for a visa extension because her previous employer died.

The Immigration Department says the number of contract renewal applications it receives usually peaks in the summer holiday.

It says it has used flexibility in deploying manpower to cope with the surge in demand by applicants going to the Immigration offices in advance for the walk-in quota.

To avoid any inconvenience, it encourages helpers and employers to make appointments for service at specific time slots or use alternative means of submitting their applications.

The department said that apart from applying in person at the Immigration Tower or at regional Immigration branch offices, helpers applying for contract renewal with the same employer should make their applications by post, via drop-in or online.

Applications made via these means will normally be finalized within 10 working days upon receipt of all necessary documents.

Those changing employer after completing their contracts must submit their applications in person within four weeks before the contract’s expiry to the Foreign Domestic Helpers Section of Immigration Tower in Wan Chai.

They could also make appointments in advance for submitting applications in person via www.gov.hk/esbooking or the 24-hour appointment booking hotline at 2598 0888, it said.

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