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FDWs told, don’t rely on agencies to ensure your visa status

27 April 2021

By Daisy CL Mandap 

Rachel says her misplaced trust in her agent led her to be charged with overstaying

A migrant support organization is warning foreign domestic workers to make sure the employment agencies that promised them jobs did submit their new work contracts to the Immigration Department, or they might end up overstaying their visas.

This comes amid reports made to the Mission for Migrant Workers that several FDWs had ended up overstaying because they relied on their recruiters’ word that their new employment contracts were already under process by Immigration.


One such case involves Rachel G., who did not realize she had already overstayed her visa for three months because she was all the while thinking that she had a pending employment contract under consideration by Immigration.

Rachel, 42,  said she did go to Immigration a couple of times, and each time, she was just asked for proof that her new employment contract was already being processed so she need not ask for a visa extension.

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What Rachel showed the officers were the text messages between her and her agent she knew only as Benson, who repeatedly assured her that the employment contract she signed on Dec. 28 last year was already with Immigration.

She said she trusted Benson, who reportedly holds office in Sai Kung and Ma On Shan, because he was the one who placed her with her previous employer.

Once, Benson even went to Immigration with her, and gave the officer the name and number of the elderly woman who was supposed to hire Rachel. The officer reportedly called the would-be employer to confirm the contract.


But on Apr 19, Monday, Rachel was finally told no employment contract was submitted in her name. She was directed to go to the visa extension counter, where it was found out that her last day of visa was as stamped in her passport, which was Feb 3 this year.

Immediately, Rachel was taken to custody, and detained for the next two days. On Apr 22, she appeared in Shatin Magistrates Court, charged with violating her visa conditions.

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She pleaded guilty, but said it was only because she was advised by her duty lawyer that if she denied the charge, she could be imprisoned for a month and a half.

Rachel is now out on recognizance, meaning she is not being sent back home just yet while she considers whether she should file an appeal within the 14 days she was given after her sentence.

She said Benson, who operates two agencies in Sai Kung and Ma On Shan whose names she could not be sure of because they were written in Chinese, is no longer taking her calls. 

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Quite belatedly, Rachel again turned for help to the Mission, which just six years ago, had picked her up in the wee hours outside a hotel in Western, where she ended up after being terminated by a previous employer.

Since that fateful day, Rachel had gone back to her home in Antipolo City, but returned to Hong Kong and finished a two-year contract in November last year. That was when she crossed paths with Benson, who secured her a new employer. However, she was dismissed after only a month.

But because she felt the agent had looked after her well, Rachel decided to cast her lot with him again. It was an unfortunate decision that led to her being arrested, handcuffed, and held in jail for two days, before being convicted of a crime, which at the very least, she did not have any intention of committing.

Once again, the Mission has come to her rescue. Case officer Edwina Antonio is pleading her case with Immigration, and has made an appointment with a renowned human rights lawyer to seek other remedies that could be pursued so Rachel is given justice.

Antonio says FDWs should not rely on anyone to ensure they remain in HK legally

Antonio says Rachel's does not appear to be an isolated case, as she had reported on four other people who claimed to have found themselves in the same situation when she was being interviewed by Immigration officers.

Mukhang maraming mga stranded workers na hindi naipapasa ng agency ang mga papeles sa Immigration kaya sila na-overstay,” said Antonio.

(Many workers stranded her end up overstaying their visas because the agency failed to submit their documents to Immigration).

She said the Mission can only speculate on the motivation behind the seemingly deliberate attempts by agencies, or people purporting to be legitimate recruiters, to mislead migrant workers into thinking their continuous stay in Hong Kong is assured.

One reason she could think of is money, especially if the worker is charged upfront for an amount that is way above the legal limit, which is 10% of the first monthly salary.

In Rachel’s case, while she was not asked for money outright, she said she had been in touch with a Filipino couple who claimed to have paid Benson at least $10,000, and now fear suffering the same fate as she had.

She also recalled being told by Benson that she would have to pay his agency after her new employment visa was approved. 

A recent search of the agency names Benson reportedly used showed that neither is registered with the Employment Agencies Administration of the HK Labour Department, which could also be why he did not file an employment contract for her as he promised.

Another reason could be the intense competition among agencies to secure as many clients as possible from the fast  dwindling number of FDWs in Hong Kong who are being allowed by Immigration to process new employment contracts here. That could lead them to lie about getting them a new employer, just so the worker does not go to another agency.

Antonio said that whatever the reason, Filipino helpers who are hoping to be allowed to remain in Hong Kong after their work contracts are prematurely terminated should ensure that they do not fall foul with the law by taking charge of their own affairs.

They should not rely on agents or other people who might assure them that their work status is being looked after, because ultimately, it is their own future which is at stake. 


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