Same-sex spouses will be able to apply for dependent visas to stay with their partners in Hong Kong from Wednesday (19 September). The government will change its visa policy in line with a historic legal ruling in July this year.
The new policy means anyone who entered legal and officially recognized same-sex civil partnerships, civil unions or marriages overseas could apply for spousal visas. This is providing that themselves and their partners fulfill existing requirements.
A British woman known as QT won a seven year battle with the Immigration Department. The Court of Final Appeal ruled in QT’s favor that she should be granted a dependency visa because her wife had been employed in Hong Kong.
In the unanimous ruling, the Court agreed that denying QT a dependent visa was unconstitutional.
But, the Immigration Department stressed, this week’s move did not change the meaning of ‘spouse’ in Hong Kong.
‘The revision has nothing to do with legal recognition of same-sex civil partnership, same-sex civil union, ‘same-sex marriage’, opposite-sex civil partnership or opposite-sex civil union in Hong Kong’ an immigration spokesperson said.
Marc Rubinstein, Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the Hong Kong Gay and Lesbian Attorneys Network (HKGALA), welcomed the guidelines. The government had implemented the decision in the QT case ‘relatively quickly’, he told Gay Star News.
He also welcomed wording that suggested the new guidelines would apply to the spouses or domestic partners of both holders of work visas and permanent Hong Kong residents.
He said the department’s efforts to explain that the new rules did not change the position of marriage in Hong Kong were an unnecessary reiteration of current law and not relevant to the immigration guidelines. He suggested this was done to try to pre-empt criticism.
Co-director of Pink Dot HK, Betty Grisoni, said: ‘I am sure I speak on behalf of the entire LGBT+ and allies community in saying that this is a true major step for recognition of same sex-relationship in Hong Kong’.
She told Gay Star News the fact officials stressed the policy was only applicable to non-locals was ‘outrageous’. ‘Honk Kong needs to provide legal protection and benefits for all loving couples local and foreigners’, she told Gay Star News.
LGBTI lawmaker Ray Chan was among the first to welcome the government move. ‘Welcome to #HongKong!’ he wrote on Twitter.
— Ray Chan (@ray_slowbeat) September 18, 2018
LGBTI group Big Love Alliance welcomed the ruling a Facebook post. But significantly, they reminded everyone that the government only changed because it was forced to by the courts.
‘There is still a long way to go for same sex marriage in Hong Kong’ the post said.