A medial case at the Court of Appeal saw a ruling that might change Hong Kong’s immigration policy for same-sex couples. The court ruled that the Immigration department indirectly discriminated a British women by rejecting her application for a dependant visa. The Appellant entered into a civil union in England before her partner had been offered an employment in Hong Kong and they both moved here.
Ordinarily, married spouses can apply to stay in Hong Kong with their partners under immigration laws. However, civil unions of same-sex couples are not recognized as a marriage under Hong Kong law and therefore, as argued by the Immigration Department, lack the eligibility criteria for a dependant visa. The judges examined at length whether the department indirectly discriminated the Appellant or can rely on the protection of marriage as it is defined in Hong Kong. The judges held that, in this instance, the Immigration Department's reference to Hong Kong’s definition of a marriage and immigration policy aim does not justify the discriminatory treatment.
While the Immigration Department has been ordered to come to an arrangement with the Appellant, this does not (yet) affect immigration policy in Hong Kong and thus other, similar, cases. The department already indicated that it will review its policy, however, has not given a time frame or defined the aim of the review and possible amendments.
The Immigration Department has applied for and been granted leave to appeal to the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong to review the earlier judgement.