Immigration Department
Agency overview
Formed4 August 1961; 62 years ago (1961-08-04)[1]
JurisdictionHong Kong
HeadquartersImmigration Headquarters, 61 Po Yap Road, Tseung Kwan O, New Territories, Hong Kong
Minister responsible
Agency executive
Immigration Department
Traditional Chinese入境事務處
Simplified Chinese入境事务处
Pre-handover Name
Traditional Chinese人民入境事務處
Simplified Chinese人民入境事务处

The Immigration Department of the Government of Hong Kong is responsible for immigration control of Hong Kong. After the People's Republic of China assumed sovereignty of the territory in July 1997, Hong Kong's immigration system remained largely unchanged from its British predecessor model. Residents from mainland China do not have the right of abode in Hong Kong, nor can they enter the territory freely, both before and after 1997. There are different regulations that apply to residents of Macau, another Special Administrative Region of China. In addition, visa-free entry acceptance regulations into Hong Kong for passport holders of some 170 countries remain unchanged before and after 1997.

In a special arrangement, although Hong Kong's residents of Chinese descent are defined as citizens of the People's Republic of China, as stipulated by the Basic Law, Hong Kong's Immigration Department is responsible for issuing Hong Kong SAR passports for Hong Kong residents who are also PRC citizens seeking international travel.


Flag of Immigration Department, 1988–1997.
Badge of Immigration Department, 1988–1997.

Prior to the 1950s, immigration to Hong Kong was not controlled by the government of Hong Kong and migrants freely entered Hong Kong. By the end of World War II, the influx of migrants from China to Hong Kong to flee Communist rule resulted in immigration control.

From 1949 to 1961, registration of persons with identification was required under the Registration of Persons Ordinance 1949 and established a Commissioner of Registration.

Until the establishment of Immigration Department on 4 August 1961, immigration control in Hong Kong was handled by the Hong Kong Police Force.[2] The Immigration Service Ordinance 1961 created the new department in charge of immigration control. Later in 1977, the department enlarged its functions to cover registration of persons by amalgamating with the Registration of Persons Office and Director of Immigration also assumed as Commissioner of Registration.[3] In 1979, the department took over from the Registrar General civil registration duties and the Director of Immigration was appointed as Registrar of Births and Deaths, and Registrar of Marriages.

In 1975 - 1980s, Hong Kong government received up to 200,000 Vietnamese refugees with impacts on the economy, security, society, and searched for solutions.[4] In the early 1987, one of the accommodated refugee boats received the assistance of the Immigration Department to depart to continue sailing. It arrived in Kinmen to apply for the asylum, but was rejected by the ROC military, then was slaughtered on the Lieyu Island on March 7. The boat was burnt with evidence destroyed, and the Hong Kong government-issued documents were hidden to cover up, later the ROC Ministry of National Defense repeatedly denied on the journalists' reportages and the parliament questioning, until being exposed by the publication of General Hau Pei-tsun's diary in 2000, known as the Lieyu Massacre.[5][6][7]

Prior to the handover of Hong Kong in 1997, the Immigration Department was responsible for processing BN(O) passport applications, which is now handled by the government of the United Kingdom.[8]

In 2019, the department stopped allowing people to search birth or marital records without the consent of those being searched.[9]

The department is headquartered in the Immigration Tower in Wan Chai North.


Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre and Immigration Service Institute of Training and Development in Castle Peak Bay, Tuen Mun

The department performs the following roles:


Main article: Director of Immigration

The incumbent Director of Immigration is Benson Kwok, who took office in September 2023.


Immigration Tower

As with all of the HK Disciplined Services, British-pattern ranks and insignia continue to be utilised, the only change being the exchange of the St. Edward's Crown for the Bauhinia Flower crest post-1997. The ranks and insignia are listed below with their UK equivalences:

Rank UK Equivalent Insignia[11]
Director of Immigration
Deputy Director of Immigration
Assistant Director of Immigration
Senior Principal Immigration Officer
Principal Immigration Officer
Assistant Principal Immigration Officer
Chief Immigration Officer
Senior Immigration Officer
Lieutenant with a silver bar beneath
Immigration Officer
Immigration Officer (Probationary)
(入境事務主任 [見習]

(with effect from 19 April 2010)
Second Lieutenant
Chief Immigration Assistant
Three silver bars
Senior Immigration Assistant
Two silver bars
Immigration Assistant
One silver bar

Visa delays and denials

In February 2024, the Immigration Department announced that all visa applicants would be subject to a national security risk test.[12]


In 2005, Ma Ying-jeou was denied a visa by the Immigration Department, despite being born in Hong Kong.[13]

In July 2020, TECO's highest officer in Hong Kong, Kao Ming-tsun, was not granted a renewal of his work visa by the Hong Kong government because he refused to sign a statement supporting the "One China" principle.[14] The Mainland Affairs Council of Taiwan mentioned that other government representatives in TECO had experienced major visa delays from the Hong Kong government as well.[14]


Since 2018, visas for some journalists have been declined by the Immigration Department, including New York Times journalist Chris Buckley and Hong Kong Free Press' incoming editor.[15] In March 2021, the Ombudsman of Hong Kong announced that the Immigration Department was placed under investigation due to the rejection of the visa for the Hong Kong Free Press' incoming editor.[15]

In November 2021, a journalist from The Economist was not granted a renewed visa.[16]

In June 2023, Yoshiaki Ogawa was denied entry upon landing into Hong Kong.[17]

In April 2024, a person from Reporters Without Borders (RSF) was searched multiple times at the airport before being denied entry into Hong Kong.[18]


In February 2020, Elizabeth Ward, Australia's new Consul-General to Hong Kong and Macau, was unable to take up her post due to visa delays, which was attributed to political tensions between Australia and China.[19] In October, she was officially appointed.[20]

In September 2021, SCMP reported that the department denied visas to dozens of Cathay Pacific pilots.[21]

In November 2022, the department withheld the visa of Tim Owen, the lawyer of choice for Jimmy Lai.[22] In December 2022, the visa was rejected.[23]

In December 2022, freelance photographer Michiko Kiseki was not allowed into the city, after hosting an exhibition of photos from the 2019-20 Hong Kong protests.[24]

In August 2023 and earlier in January 2020, photographer Matthew Connors was denied entry after landing in Hong Kong.[25]

In October 2023, professor He Xiao-qing, who studies the Tiananmen square massacre, was denied an extension of her visa.[26]

In January 2024, Hong Kong removed citizens of Eswatini from visa-free access into Hong Kong, and when asked if it was because of Eswatini's official ties to Taiwan, the Hong Kong government said "The Immigration Department reviews its visa policy from time to time and makes adjustments as necessary to uphold immigration control while facilitating travel convenience for genuine visitors."[27]

List of notable activists refused entry to Hong Kong

The department is also tasked with preventing visits by prominent human rights and democracy advocates, upon the direction of the mainland government.[28]

This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (September 2019)
Name Time
Yang Jianli 2008; 2009; 2011; 2014[29][30]
Wang Dan January 2011[31]
Chen Wei-ting June 2014[32]
Benedict Rogers October 2017[33]
Chang Tieh-chih December 2017[34][35][36]
Victor Mallet November 2018[37]
Freddy Lim December 2018[38]
Albert del Rosario June 2019[39]
Feng Congde June 2019[40]
Dan Garrett September 2019[41][42]
Kenneth Roth January 2020[43]

See also


  1. ^ "Press Release". Archived from the original on 10 March 2008. Retrieved 25 March 2009.
  2. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 20 October 2007. Retrieved 25 March 2009.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Registration of Persons Department". Archived from the original on 3 July 2009. Retrieved 25 March 2009.
  4. ^ Regina Ip (17 July 2000). "世界最後一個越南難民中心關閉標誌歷史新紀元" [The closure of the last Vietnamese refugee center in the world marks a new era in history]. Hong Kong: Security Bureau (Hong Kong). Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  5. ^ Hau, Pei-tsun (1 January 2000). 八年參謀總長日記 [8-year Diary of the Chief of the General Staff (1981–1989)] (in Chinese (Taiwan)). Taipei: Commonwealth Publishing. ISBN 9576216389.
  6. ^ Guan, Ren-jian (1 September 2011). 你不知道的台灣 國軍故事 [The Taiwan you don't know: Stories of ROC Arm Forces] (in Chinese (Taiwan)). Taipei: Puomo Digital Publishing. ISBN 9789576636493. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  7. ^ Gao, Yong-cheng (13 July 2022). "111司調0025 調查報告" [2022 Justice Investigation Report No. 0025] (in Chinese (Taiwan)). Taipei: Control Yuan. Retrieved 7 August 2022.
  8. ^ "British national (overseas)". GOV.UK. Archived from the original on 10 December 2018. Retrieved 14 March 2020.
  9. ^ "Press freedom fears as Hong Kong to tighten access to 2 official databases". South China Morning Post. 26 October 2021. Retrieved 26 October 2021.
  10. ^ "Hong Kong Travel Documents". Archived from the original on 17 November 2012. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
  11. ^ "Immigration Department Annual Report 2009-2010". Archived from the original on 16 February 2011. Retrieved 9 March 2011.
  12. ^ "Hong Kong introduces national security risk test for all visa applicants". South China Morning Post. 8 February 2024. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  13. ^ "HK denial of visa to Taipei mayor may backfire". Financial Times. 5 January 2005. Archived from the original on 11 December 2022. Retrieved 11 October 2021.
  14. ^ a b "Taiwan official leaves Hong Kong after refusing to sign 'One China' statement - report". Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. 17 July 2020. Archived from the original on 18 July 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  15. ^ a b "Hong Kong's Ombudsman to investigate Immigration Dep't for denying a work visa to HKFP without reason". Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. 16 March 2021. Archived from the original on 16 March 2021. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  16. ^ Grundy, Tom (13 November 2021). "Hong Kong ousts Economist journalist Sue-Lin Wong without explanation, in latest blow to press freedom". Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  17. ^ Mok, Lea. "Japanese journalist who covered the 2019 protests denied entry to Hong Kong - reports - Hong Kong Free Press HKFP". Retrieved 3 July 2023.
  18. ^ Grundy, Tom (10 April 2024). "Reporters Without Borders rep. denied entry to HK, NGO says". Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. Retrieved 7 May 2024.
  19. ^ "Hong Kong delays visa approval for top Australian diplomat". Australian Financial Review. 1 April 2020. Archived from the original on 3 March 2021. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  20. ^ "Former Hong Kong-Australia free trade negotiator named top envoy to city". South China Morning Post. 4 October 2020. Archived from the original on 5 May 2021. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  21. ^ "Hong Kong denies work visas to dozens of Cathay pilots seeking to relocate". South China Morning Post. 25 September 2021. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  22. ^ Chau, Candice (1 December 2022). "Media tycoon Jimmy Lai's trial adjourned to Dec 13, Hong Kong Immigration withholds visa extension for his lawyer". Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. Retrieved 1 December 2022.
  23. ^ Chau, Candice (13 December 2022). "National security trial against media tycoon Jimmy Lai adjourned until September 2023". Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. Retrieved 13 December 2022.
  24. ^ Grundy, Tom. "Hong Kong criticised for barring protest photographer Michiko Kiseki from city - Hong Kong Free Press HKFP". Retrieved 15 January 2023.
  25. ^ "US photography professor who covered 2019 protests says Hong Kong denied him entry, suspects he is 'on a list'". Hong Kong Free Press. 29 August 2023. Retrieved 29 August 2023.
  26. ^ Chan, Irene. "Chinese University fires Tiananmen crackdown scholar after Hong Kong gov't rejects visa extension - Hong Kong Free Press HKFP". Retrieved 30 October 2023.
  27. ^ Grundy, Tom. "Hong Kong axes visa-free travel for Eswatini nationals". Retrieved 6 February 2024.
  28. ^ "Why China's move to bar Human Rights Watch chief from Hong Kong was contrary to the city's Basic Law". Hong Kong Free Press. 14 January 2020. Archived from the original on 14 January 2020. Retrieved 15 January 2020.
  29. ^ "低調始放行 王丹屢被拒 | 蘋果日報". Apple Daily 蘋果日報 (in Chinese (Hong Kong)). Archived from the original on 24 January 2021. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  30. ^ "楊建利被拒入境香港參觀六四紀念館". BBC News 中文 (in Traditional Chinese). 20 April 2014. Archived from the original on 28 January 2021. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  31. ^ "简讯:香港拒绝允许王丹入境". BBC News 中文 (in Traditional Chinese). 26 January 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  32. ^ "Hong Kong Denies Entry to Taiwan Author Who Supported Pro-Democracy Movement". Radio Free Asia. Archived from the original on 9 October 2019. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  33. ^ Lee, Danny (11 October 2017). "British human rights activist refused entry to Hong Kong". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 3 September 2019.
  34. ^ Ng, Kang-chung; Leung, Christy (7 December 2017). "Taiwanese politics and culture commentator Chang Tieh-chih barred from entering Hong Kong". SCMP. Archived from the original on 9 October 2019. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  35. ^ Tong, Elson; Cheng, Kris (6 December 2017). "Taiwanese writer Chang Tieh-chih says he was denied entry to Hong Kong". Hong Kong Free Press. Archived from the original on 9 October 2019. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  36. ^ Miao, Zong-han; Chang, S.C. "Taiwan protests after culture official denied entry to Hong Kong". Focus Taiwan. Archived from the original on 9 October 2019. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  37. ^ Lum, Alvin; Su, Xinqi; Sum, Lok-kei; Ng, Naomi. "British Journalist Victor Mallet denied entry to Hong Kong as tourist". SCMP. Archived from the original on 22 September 2019. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  38. ^ Chan, Holmes (24 December 2018). "Hong Kong says pro-independence Taiwan band member barred as he lacks 'special skills, knowledge or experience'". Hong Kong Free Press. Archived from the original on 9 October 2019. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  39. ^ "Ex-Filipino minister denied entry to HK: lawyer". RTHK. Archived from the original on 26 September 2019. Retrieved 26 September 2019.
  40. ^ "Ex-Tiananmen leader denied entry into Hong Kong ahead of June 4". Hong Kong Economic Journal. Archived from the original on 4 September 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  41. ^ "Academic denied entry to HK after US testimony". RTHK. Archived from the original on 8 October 2019. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  42. ^ "US academic denied Hong Kong entry after US Congress testimony". ABS-CBN News. Agence France-Presse. Archived from the original on 8 October 2019. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  43. ^ 人權觀察執行長表示由紐約飛抵香港後被拒入境 Archived 14 January 2020 at the Wayback Machine. RTHK. 2020-1-13

Order of precedence

Preceded byHong Kong Police Force Immigration Department (Hong Kong) since 1961 Succeeded by