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FDHs warned overstaying, intentional or not, is a crime

02 July 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao

FDHs are told they should apply for an extension at least 8 weeks before their visa expires

Migrant domestic workers who overstay because of oversight are lucky if they get away with nothing more than a reprimand, a source at the Immigration Department said.

The information came after a number of migrant workers admitted to having overstayed unwittingly because they relied on their contract expiry instead of the date stamped on their employment visas.

The workers claimed they were only asked to write a letter explaining why they forgot to renew their visa or apply for extension before it expired.


At least one worker admitted to having already overstayed for a year before she realized her oversight. Others said they had been without valid visas from one month to six months before they went to Immigration to ask for an extension.

They said they waited for hours for the results of their applications, longer than others who had not overstayed their visa. But that was all the inconvenience they suffered.

But the Immigration source said that not all who overstay out of their own neglect can expect lenient treatment.

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“It’s an offense under Immigration rules to overstay your visa,” he emphasized. Thus, a penalty could be imposed on an offender, depending on how officers assess each case.

He advised workers to always check the visa expiry date and apply for renewal or extension at least eight weeks beforehand.

Cynthia Abdon-Tellez, general manager of the Mission for Migrant Workers, said no one should be complacent on this matter as it is always the officer at the counter who makes decisions, unless he brings it to his immediate superior.

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“An expired visa amounts to overstaying, a crime in the Immigration’s eyes,” said Abdon-Tellez, a long-time community leader in Hong Kong.

“Best to inspect the visa validity date as soon as it is issued and note it in your diary or calendar to have something to remind you in due time,” she said. 

On Monday, two Filipinas who were at Immigration Tower in Wan Chai as early as 8am said they were there to get their visas extended after failing to realize they had overstayed.


Ellise said she had fixed her attention on the Jul 6 expiry of her second employment contract and not on the validity of her employment visa which was sometime in January.

She said that the Immigration officer who interviewed her asked a lot of questions before telling her to write a letter explaining what happened. He asked her employer to do the same.

Rose, who was with Ellise, said she had a similar story: her visa also expired five months previously without her noticing it, so she was also there waiting for the result of her application for an extension.

"I think they’re punishing us for filing so late,” she said.

Several members of Facebook group Domestic Helpers Corner said they also overstayed accidentally because they didn’t pay attention to their visa expiry date.

One member said the Immigration officer who interviewed her became cranky when he found out she had overstayed for more than a month.

“Did you know that overstaying is illegal!? You can go to jail,” she quoted the officer as saying. But he approved her visa renewal just the same.

Lynn Pejoto said she dropped in her application for visa extension even after she had already overstayed for a month. When an officer saw the lapse, he rang up Pejoto’s employer and told her to make her helper return to Immigration next day with the required documents so the new visa could be stamped immediately on her passport. She had a year left in her contract.

FelDom T. Frogoso said when she renewed her contract last year, she didn’t notice that her visa attached to her old passport had been expired for a year.

“Pero awa ng Diyos wala naman naging problema sa Immigration kasi same employer din naman ako,” she said. (By God’s mercy I had no problem at Immigration because I remained with the same employer.)

She said the officer asked for her salary record but, as she had nothing to show, she was asked to write down the salary she received for the past two years.

Angelica A Cantor asked fellow workers what to expect as her visa had already expired and she was finishing her contract in October.

A visa consultant’s reply may not sound comforting. “Immigration takes visa overstayers very seriously indeed, and long-term overstayers could find themselves jailed for a period before being removed from Hong Kong,” the consultant said.

It’s a fair warning for everyone.

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