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FDH visa approvals drop by about half amid pandemic

20 January 2022

By Daisy CL Mandap 

Immigration data show a drastic drop in the number of migrant workers applying for FDH visas

Hong Kong Immigration has approved only about half of all new visa applications for foreign domestic helpers in the past two years of the pandemic, compared with approvals made in 2019.

The figures were revealed by Labor Secretary Law Chi-kwong during questioning by legislator Judy Chan at the Legislative Council on Wednesday, Jan. 19.

For the year 2019, the total visa applications for FDH approved by Immigration was 101,710. This went down to 68,864 in 2020 for a 32.2% drop, and to 58,152 for 2021, or an overall reduction rate of 42.8% since the pandemic began.

However, Law said more than 5,000 of these visa approvals involved re-applications by those unable to enter Hong Kong, meaning those who actually stayed or came, numbered just over 53,000, or about 48% fewer than in 2019.


Notably, despite the drastic drop in visa applications, Immigration increasingly rejected such applications over the three-year period, both in actual numbers and percentage-wise.

For 2019, for example, the number of applications made was 102,495, meaning the number of rejections was just 785, or 0.76 of the overall number.

In 2020, when 74,253 FDHs applied, the rejections numbered 5,389 or 7.2% overall.

The ratio dropped further in 2021 to 11.46% when 7,530 of the total 65,682 applications were rejected.

What this indicates is that the drop in interest among FDHs could also be due to Immigration stepping up its scrutiny of visa applications, largely as a result of its avowed desire to keep out so-called “job hoppers”.


Law said the visa approval figures included those from terminated FDHs allowed to process new contracts in Hong Kong under the “exceptional circumstances of Covid-19.” They did not include those who renewed their contracts, or agreed to extend them for six months, the maximum period allowed by Immigration under its new flexibility arrangement.

For such “other applications,” Law said the figure was 200,000 for 2020 and 340,000 for 2021.

Inferring from these figures, it would appear that a majority of those currently working in Hong Kong have opted to just renew their contracts, or agreed to an extension, rather than terminate their contracts and risk being called  “job hoppers.”

Asked whether it was possible for the Department to allow FDHs to come in according to the dates of their visa approval, Law said this could result to further delay.

“The administrative arrangement involved therein (including arranging submission of documents as proof such as work visa and vaccination record, etc. as well as the registration from families employing FDHs, compiling of the waiting list, making announcement on the order of priority, accepting new registrations regularly and updating the waiting lists, etc. is complicated,” he said.

Law says entry by visa approval date could create more problems

“It may cause delay and affect more FDHs waiting to come to work in Hong Kong.”

Law said a total of 2,288 rooms for quarantine will be available to incoming FDHs starting on Feb 1, with the addition of 150 more rooms at Rambler Garden Hotel. The other designated quarantine facilities are Courtyard by Marriott in Shatin and Regala Skycity in Tung Chung.

He said the government understands the need of local families for FDHs and will consider adding more DQFs, “having regard to the global and local epidemic situation.”

As for the employment agency figures supplied by Law, it would appear that despite the big number of complaints made against them, prosecution had been rare.

In 2020, a total of 82 complaints were made, 53 of which were for overcharging, and 29 for breach of the agency Code of Practice. In 2021 this went down to 62 - 31 for each allegation.


However, only 10 successful prosecutions were made in 2020, 3 each for illegal operation and overcharging, and 4 for other violations. In 2021, the number was down to 4, 2 for unlicensed operation, 1 for overcharging and 1 for “others.”

Seven licenses were revoked in each year following these prosecutions. Five were for overcharging and 2 for breach of CoP in 2020, while it was 2-4 and 1 for “others” for 2021.

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