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Status of children born to foreign domestic workers

07 December 2017

By Pathfinders

Becoming a mother is an exciting yet stressful life event for most women. Due to the nature of their jobs, pregnancy and child-rearing in Hong Kong are especially challenging for mothers who are Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs).

In September, we shared information about the maternity rights and obligations of FDWs. In this issue, we will move on to the next important topic - the rights of children born to FDWs in Hong Kong.

Unfortunately, when a FDW pregnancy is announced or discovered, some of the women are fired unlawfully and end up overstaying in Hong Kong. In these cases, PathFinders strongly recommends that the women surrender themselves to the immigration authorities for  the safety of themselves and their unborn child.

This article will focus on the rights of children born in Hong Kong to still legally-employed FDWs and answer some commonly asked questions.

What immigration status will my baby have in Hong Kong?

The immigration status of a baby born in Hong Kong is not independent. It is linked to his/her parent’s immigration status at the time the baby is born. In other words, the more secure the parents’ immigration status, the more secure the baby’s and the more social welfare and healthcare support the baby is entitled to. For a legally-employed FDW mother, her baby born in Hong Kong typically falls into one of the following three cases:

Case 1 - baby born to a Hong Kong Permanent Resident (“HKPR”) / Chinese father and his name is on the birth certificate. In this case, the baby will be entitled to Right of Abode (“RoA”) in Hong Kong

Case 2 - baby whose father is not HKPR but does holds a valid visa and his name is on the birth certificate. The baby will be issued a visa (also called a “permit to stay”) and the visa period will normally be equivalent to the mother’s or father’s visa, whichever is more favourable

Case 3 - baby born to a father who does not have a valid visa and/or the father’s name does not appear on the birth certificate. The baby’s visa and its visa period will be tied to the mother’s FDW visa

Will my baby be eligible to social, healthcare and education benefits in Hong Kong?

Case 1:

A baby who has RoA (Case 1 above) will be able to access most of the social rights and benefits (the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme (CSSA), low payment rate/free public healthcare, kindergarten vouchers or Student Financial Assistance, subsidised child care services) and will not be at risk of removal from Hong Kong. CSSA provides a safety net for those who cannot support themselves financially by meeting their basic needs.

Cases 2 and 3:

For a baby on dependant/FDW visa (Case 2 or 3 above), his/her benefits are relatively limited. If the baby’s granted visa period is not less than 180 days, he/she may qualify for the “Hong Kong Hospital Authority’s Eligible person” requirement, meaning he/she may access the subsidised services provided by local hospitals under the Hospital Authority. If for any reason, the baby’s granted visa period is less than 180 days, he/she can still use the public services provided by the local Emergency and Accident Unit at local hospitals but at a fee level close to private hospital rates.

As for Education and Childcare services, while Case 2 and 3 babies are eligible to the same education subsidies and benefits that Case 1 babies are entitled to, they are typically unable to access subsidised, low-cost childcare services.

For a FDW single mother or where her partner is unable to care for the child, the most cost-effective childcare option is to care for her child herself while working as a FDW. However, we only very rarely see this happening.

Alternatively, the FDW mother may consider private childcare services. However, this is costly and not all childcare centres accept applications from non-HKPR. Also, since childcare centres in Hong Kong do not offer overnight childcare services and the FDW mother is required to live in the employer’s residence, raising her child in Hong Kong is only practically possible if the FDW’s partner or another responsible person is available and capable of caring for her child at night. It is important to note that in Hong Kong, leaving a child under the age of 16 unattended may result in prosecution for ill-treatment or neglect of a child or young person.*1

Is my Hong Kong-born baby entitled to HKPR status?

Case 1 babies are eligible to HKPR status at birth, regardless of the nationality of the father. However, if the father is a non-Chinese national HKPR, the baby is required to ordinarily reside in Hong Kong without being away for over 36 months or he/she may risk losing his/her HKPR status.*2

In addition, the Immigration Ordinance provides that the HKPR status of people born to a non-Chinese national HKPR parent will expire when he/ she turns 21 years old.*3  He/she is then required to reapply for HKPR status under his/her own name through the standard procedure. (In most cases, this rule is not strictly enforced, with only a few HKPR children being required to reapply for HKPR status when they reach the age of 21. Those who do get a reminder from Immigration about reapplying for HKPR, however, are only asked to make a written declaration that he/she has taken Hong Kong as his/her place of permanent residence – Ed)

For Cases 2 and 3, the parent may submit a request for the Verification of Eligibility for a Permanent Identity Card (VEPIC) if the child’s father has become a HKPR after birth registration, or if the child has ordinarily resided in Hong Kong for not less than 7 years and has taken Hong Kong as his/her place of permanent residence*4. The merits of the application will be assessed by Immigration Department. 

What kind of identity documentation will my baby be eligible to apply for?

All babies born in Hong Kong, including those born to FDW mothers, must register his/her birth within 42 days to avoid late charges. Registering a birth is free but requesting a copy of the birth certificate costs HK$140.

In addition, a legally-employed FDW may apply for a Philippine birth certificate and passport for her baby born in Hong Kong from the Philippine Consulate General, provided all required documents are presented. As the baby will not be able to renew his/her Hong Kong visa without a valid passport, we advise FDW mothers to apply for a passport for the baby as soon as possible.

For a FDW to raise her child in Hong Kong is exceptionally challenging both financially and emotionally. To protect themselves and their children, FDWs are advised to make careful family planning and life decisions. PathFinders provides classes and workshops about women’s health, maternity rights and protections as well as education about relationships.

For class information and to enroll, please visit our website www.pathfinders.org.hk.
For further information, assistance and advice, contact PathFinders by email: info@pathfinders.org.hk or on our hotline: 5190 4886.
Alternatively, please contact the Immigration Department  at (enquiry@immd. gov.hk) or via their general hotline on 2824 6111.
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Footnotes:
1 Cap. 212 Offences against the Person Ordinance, s. 27(1)
2 The Immigration Depart-ment, Circumstances under which the person will lose the status of a permanent resident
3 The Immigration Ordinance has set out the eligibility and transitional arrangements for the right of Abode in the HKSAR 

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