Immigration Department Review 2017


Hong Kong (HKSAR) -      The Director of Immigration, Mr Tsang Kwok-wai, delivered a year-end review of the Immigration Department's work in 2017 including its future outlook today (February 13). The following is a summary of the department's major activities in 2017:

Traffic at control points
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     Over 299 million passengers passed through our control points in 2017, representing a slight increase of 0.9 per cent over the figure for 2016. The total number of visitor arrivals exceeded 58.47 million, representing a 3.2 per cent increase compared with that of 2016, of which Mainland visitor arrivals was 44.19 million, representing an increase of 3.8 per cent when compared with that of 2016.

Moreover, the number of arrivals of other visitors in 2017 was 14.28 million, which was 1.3 per cent higher than that of 2016. Among the visitor arrivals in 2017, 13.7 million visitors travelled through the Airport Control Point, while 39.94 million visitors and 4.83 million visitors passed through land control points and sea control points respectively.

Facilitation of people movement
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Extension of e-Channel service

     To further enhance the department's passenger clearance handling capacity and efficiency, we have effectively utilised information technology and extended the e-Channel service to accommodate more passengers. At present, a total of 595 multi-purpose e-Channels are installed at all control points and can be flexibly deployed for use by eligible Hong Kong residents or visitors.

     To provide greater convenience for departing visitors, self-service departure for visitors to Hong Kong (Smart Departure) was launched at Hong Kong International Airport on October 10, 2017.

The service was extended to other control points on December 18, 2017. Smart Departure employs facial recognition technology for identity verification, which allows eligible visitors holding electronic travel documents to perform self-service departure clearance through Smart Departure e-Channels without prior enrolment. To demonstrate the details of the Smart Departure e-Channel clearance process, the department produced a promotional video while the service was introduced.

As at the end of 2017, over 650 000 visitors had used the service.

     Moreover, to further assist visually impaired persons in using the e-Channel service, after the launch of the voice-navigated service at the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line, Macau Ferry Terminal and Shenzhen Bay Control Points, the service was extended to the China Ferry Terminal Control Point in December 2017.

     The department has implemented the arrangement for mutual use of automated immigration clearance services with Korea, Singapore, Germany and Australia. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government will continue to liaise with countries and regions having close ties with Hong Kong in tourism and trade to introduce the mutual use of automated immigration clearance service for visitors. We believe that this will allow greater travel convenience for people in Hong Kong and our partnering economies, which in turn will enhance the economic, social and cultural ties between the places.

Immigration Mobile Application

     Since the launch of the Hong Kong Immigration Mobile Application in December 2013, around 162 000 downloads have been recorded.

The Mobile Application not only provides Hong Kong residents and visitors with the latest information on the estimated passenger waiting time at major land boundary control points, but also posts the latest and frequently used information of our services.

Facilitation for cross-boundary students (CBS)

     According to the figures from the Education Bureau, the number of CBS in the 2017/18 school year is around 27 900. To provide speedy and safe clearance for CBS, designated counters have been reserved during peak hours to expedite the clearance of CBS. In addition, by making use of information technology, e-Channels for CBS, on-board clearance service and the simplified clearance procedure for CBS have also been implemented to further facilitate clearance for CBS.

Attracting talent from outside Hong Kong and strengthening the co-operation and exchanges between Hong Kong and countries along the Belt and Road
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General Employment Policy (GEP)

     Hong Kong maintains an open policy towards professionals and entrepreneurs entering the city for employment or investment.

The prevailing GEP allows entry of those with special skills, knowledge or experience of value to and not readily available in Hong Kong, or who can contribute substantially to the economy. In 2017, 39 952 foreign professionals and entrepreneurs were admitted under this policy.

Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP)

     The ASMTP has attracted a wide variety of professionals from the Mainland to come to work in Hong Kong since its implementation in July 2003. The main sectors of employment were artsand culture; academic research and education; and financial services.

In 2017, a total of 12 381 applications were approved.

Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS)

     The QMAS was launched in June 2006 and aims to attract highly skilledor talented persons to settle in Hong Kong in order to enhance Hong Kong's economic competitiveness. Talent from around the world can apply to settle in Hong Kong without first securing an offer of local employment. In 2017, 411 applicants were allotted under the quotas, with 381 under the General Points Test (GPT) and 30 under the Achievement-based Points Test (APT).

Since implementation of the scheme, successful applicants under the GPT were mainly from four sectors, namely financial and accounting services; information technology and telecommunications; architecture, surveying, engineering and construction; and manufacturing. Under the APT, successful applicants mainly came from three sectors, namely sports; arts and culture; and broadcasting and entertainment.

     To further promote the QMAS, the department produced a promotional video inDecember 2017 and arrangements have been made to broadcast it on local television channels, in major control points and offices of the HKSAR Government outside Hong Kong.

Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates (IANG)

     The IANG waslaunched in May 2008 to further attract non-local graduates to stay/return and work in Hong Kong so as to strengthen Hong Kong's human capital and competitiveness. In 2017, 9 331 non-local graduates were given permission to stay/return and work in Hong Kong.

Admission Schemefor the Second Generation of Chinese Hong Kong Permanent Residents (ASSG)

     The ASSG was launched in May 2015 to attract the second generation of Chinese Hong Kong permanent residents from overseas to return to Hong Kong.

As at the end of 2017, the department had received 550 applications, of which 315 applications were approved. The majority of the applicants approved came from the United States, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, and they held bachelor's or master's degrees mainly in engineering, finance, informationtechnology, or law. Some of them also had relevant experience that could supplement Hong Kong's human capital.

     In 2017, our officers launched a series of promotion campaigns in Canada, Japan and Korea, introducing various talent admission schemes to the second generation of emigrated Hong Kong residents, students from renowned universities overseas and others who are interested in developing a career in Hong Kong.

Relaxation of stay arrangements for talent, professionals and entrepreneurs

     To take a more proactive approach to recruiting and retaining talent, professionals and entrepreneurs from outside Hong Kong, and hence expand the talent pool, the department has implemented a series of enhancement measures since May 2015, including the relaxation of stay arrangements for entrants admitted under various admission schemes.

Among others, top-tier entrants under the GEP, the ASMTP and the GPT under the QMAS may be granted a six-year extension on time limitation only without other conditions of stay upon application for extension, with a view to facilitate their long-term development in Hong Kong. From its implementation to the end of 2017, 2 534 top-tier entrants had benefited from the measure.

Relaxation of the visa policy for nationals of countries along the Belt and Road

     To strengthen the co-operation and exchanges between Hong Kong and countries along the Belt and Road, with effect from March 1, 2017, nationals of Cambodia may apply to enter Hong Kong for employment (under the GEP, the Supplementary Labour Scheme or as foreign domestic helpers), investment (to establish or join in business), training or study, as well as under the QMAS, the IANG or the ASSG. Also, the mutual visa-free visit arrangement between Hong Kong and Belarus will come into effect on February 13, 2018, so that nationals of Belarus may visit Hong Kong visa-free for a stay of up to 14 days for each visit.

The relaxation facilitates co-operation and exchanges between Hong Kong and Cambodia and Belarus.

Law enforcement
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Operations against illegal workers and parallel traders

     The department is greatly concerned about illegal employment offences. In 2017, 15 970 operations against illegal employment were conducted, with 6 038 illegal workers and 572 employers arrested. In addition, the department has continued to step up enforcement action against illegal workers who were non-ethnic Chinese illegal immigrants (NECIIs) or non-refoulement claimants and their employers.

In 2017, the department conducted 758 targeted operations against NECIIs, in which a total of 478 non-ethnic Chinese illegal workers and 270 local employers were arrested.

     The department continued making concerted efforts to combat offences involving parallel trade activities. Since September 2012, the department has mounted a series of anti-illegal worker operations code-named "Windsand". As at the end of 2017, a total of 3 383 Mainland visitors had been arrested for breaching their conditions of stay by being involved in suspected parallel goods trading.

Among them, 224 Mainland visitors were convicted and sentenced, and the jail terms ranged from four weeks' to three months' imprisonment. In accordance with the existing mechanism, the department has passed the particulars of the convicted Mainland residents to the Mainland authorities for cancellation of their exit endorsements and they will be prohibited from visiting Hong Kong for two years.

Immigration measures for Mainland pregnant women

     In order to tie in with the "zero quota" policy implemented since 2013, and prevent Mainland pregnant women who do not have prior booking for obstetric services with local hospitals from entering Hong Kong for delivery, the department has strengthened the complementary immigration measures including proactive interception at control points, and established a task group to focus investigation on Mainland pregnant women who might have contracted a bogus marriage with a Hong Kong resident, overstayed, or used other illicit means to give birth in Hong Kong, as well as the intermediaries or other persons assisting them in doing so. Moreover, the department conducted analysis of the trends of and methods they used in gate-crashing, so as to arrange targeted interception and joint operations with other departments.

In 2017, 52 301 Mainland pregnant women were intercepted at control points, of whom 4 719 without prior booking for obstetric services at local hospitals were refused permission to land. Their particulars were passed on to the Mainland authorities to prevent them from seeking entry again. In addition, the number of Mainland pregnant women seeking delivery services at local hospitals without prior booking has declined substantially from 160 cases per month on average during its peak to an average of fewer than four cases per month in 2017, demonstrating the effectiveness of the measures with remarkable results.

Bogus marriages uncovered

     The department continued to express concern over foreigners obtaining permission to stay in Hong Kong via the means of bogus marriage, on which a special task force specialising in bogus marriage investigation gathers intelligence through various avenues.

Meanwhile, the Marriage Registries have also stepped up vigilance on suspected cases. The special task force will thoroughly investigate each suspected case with a view to collecting sufficient evidence so as to prosecute the suspected persons involved. In 2017, 85 people were convicted of offences relating to bogus marriages and were sentenced to jail terms ranging from six to 21 months.

     The department has been aware that some criminal syndicates have continually published via newspapers, instant messaging software and social networking mobile applications to induce young people to engage in bogus marriages for huge remuneration.

Our special task force identified a syndicate that recruited young people to engage in bogus marriages. In December 2017, the department conducted an undercover operation code-named "Snare" by deploying an officer disguised as a person seeking to contract into bogus marriage and who was arranged to meet with a bogus marriage intermediary. During the meeting, a syndicate mastermind and two core syndicate members were arrested, whilst another core syndicate member and nine Hong Kong and Mainland residents suspected of engaging in bogus marriages were later caught.

The syndicate mastermind has been charged and is pending court trial while the other arrestees are under investigation.

     Furthermore, to remind members of the public, including young people, of the possible consequences of participating in bogus marriages and the serious implications of committing related offences, the department has from time to time disseminated information on crackdowns on bogus marriage syndicates and successful prosecutions of intermediaries and participants through press conferences, press releases, media interviews and more. To deliver the relevant information more effectively, the department produced a short video about bogus marriage in September 2017. The department will continue to deliver such messages via various innovative channels so as to remind members of the public not to participate in activities relating to bogus marriages.

Combating transnational illegal migration and travel document forgery

     The department has long worked with overseas, Mainland and local law enforcement agencies to combat illegal international migration and document fraud.

The department's Anti-Illegal Migration Agency (AIM) fights against transnational illegal migration and investigates cases involving the HKSAR passport, and holds regular meetings with local consular missions to discuss the tackling of problems relating to illegal migration and related cross-boundary crimes. Meanwhile, a proactive approach has been adopted for crimes involving transnational illegal migration by conducting joint operations with international and local law enforcement agencies. In December 2017, the AIM launched a special operation code-named "Sky League" and conducted by the department at Hong Kong International Airport, with the participation of local consulate representatives of Australia, Canada, France, Japan, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States as advisers or observers.

     To combat travel document forgery in order to prevent the use of forged travel documents to enter Hong Kong or go to other countries by passing through Hong Kong, in 2017 the AIM mounted a total of 28 751 operations against forgery activities and 32 248 departing or transiting passengers were spot-checked, with a total of 515 forged travel documents and 231 forged smart Hong Kong identity cards (HKICs) detected.

The AIM will continue to work closely with the local, Mainland and overseas law enforcement agencies and consulates in the exchange of information and intelligence pertaining to forged documents and the department will take decisive action to combat such crimes.
 
     To prevent the use of forged HKICs for illicit purposes, the department will continue to deliver talks on the security features of smart HKICs, and the ways of identifying forged ones, to personnel in the private and government sectors who often handle identity documents in their work, so as to enhance the awareness of front-line staff.
 
Comprehensive review of the strategy for handling non-refoulement claims
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     The Unified Screening Mechanism (USM) commenced its operation in March 2014. Under the mechanism, the department assesses non-refoulement claims made on applicable grounds. A total of 6 699 claims were pending screening at the commencement of the USM.

As at the end of 2017, the department had received 15 368 claims and determined 10 565 claims, amongst which 86 claims were substantiated (including 24 claims substantiated at the appeal stage), while 5 603 claims were withdrawn. Overall, as at the end of 2017, the total number of claims pending screening was 5 899, a substantial decrease of 41 per cent as compared to 9 981 claims pending screening as at the end of 2016. Amongst those claimants with pending claims, around 80 per cent originated from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam.
 
     In view of the significant increase of non-refoulement claims lodged through illegal entry, overstaying and upon being refused permission to land at control points at the initial stage of the implementation of the USM, the HKSAR Government commenced a comprehensive review of the strategy for handling non-refoulement claims in 2016.

Various targeted measures have been introduced including prevention of the arrival of potential claimants, screening procedures, enforcement and removal to tackle the issue of non-refoulement claims at root. The department has been providing active support accordingly and such measures have achieved prominent results since the commencement of the review.
 
Enforcement action against smuggling of NECIIs
 
     At the early stage of the commencement of the USM, smuggling via the Mainland was one of main ways of arrival of claimants to Hong Kong. Of them, the majority originated from countries not enjoying visa-free access to Hong Kong including Vietnam, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The department is very concerned about the situation, and has maintained close liaison and intelligence exchange with the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) and the Mainland authorities for joint efforts in combating these illicit activities at source.
 
     Since the commencement of the special operations in mid-February 2016, the border control departments and the exit and entry offices of relevant Mainland provinces have taken sustained enforcement action against illegal immigration activities in various Mainland provinces, leading to the interception of over 67 000 NECIIs. They also foiled 53 organised syndicates and 293 cases of attempted illegal entry into Hong Kong, involving over 3 400 persons. In the same period, the department and the HKPF conducted seven joint operations with Mainland law enforcement agencies and successfully smashed a number of cross-boundary crime syndicates, resulting in the arrest of over 120 core members of smuggling syndicates in both places.
 
     Moreover, the department and the HKPF conducted a joint operation code-named "Topcuffer" with the Public Security Frontier Corps of Guangdong and the Division of Exit-entry Administration of the Shenzhen Municipal Public Security Bureau in May 2017, smashing a forgery syndicate specialising in producing forged HKICs for Vietnamese illegal immigrants and non-refoulement claimants.

During the operation, a total of 11 core syndicate members were arrested in Shenzhen and Hong Kong, and large numbers of forged identity cards and tools for forging HKICs were seized. In October 2017, another joint operation code-named "Topland" was conducted, cracking down on a cross-boundary syndicate specialising in smuggling Vietnamese illegal immigrants to Hong Kong. During the operation, a total of 19 persons including five core syndicate members and 14 Vietnamese illegal immigrants were arrested.
 
     Apart from stepping up enforcement against syndicates, the HKSAR Government commenced the Immigration (Unauthorized Entrants) (Amendment) Order 2016 in May 2016 to expand the definition of "unauthorized entrants" with an aim of covering the vast majority of NECIIs and enhancing the penalties against smuggling of illegal immigrants from these countries in order to combat human trafficking syndicates, achieving a strong deterrent effect.

Since the Order came into effect, hearings have been conducted for a number of cases in local courts. Imprisonment for up to five years and three months has been imposed so far by the court as the heaviest penalty, which has reflected the seriousness of the case.
 
     Since the implementation of the measures, the number of NECIIs intercepted or surrendered has showed a declining trend. In 2017, a total of 893 NECIIs (monthly average: 74) were intercepted, a drop of almost 60 per cent compared with 2016 (monthly average: 185) and a significant drop of three quarters from the peak in 2015 (monthly average: 318).

The measures have achieved remarkable results.
 
Implementation of Pre-arrival Registration (PAR) for Indian Nationals
 
     Quite a number of the claimants were Indian visitors who arrived in Hong Kong by making use of the visa-free concession and overstayed afterwards. Meanwhile, a number of Indian visitors were invited to secondary examination upon their arrival in Hong Kong in order to check their purposes of visit, and this caused longer waiting time for these genuine visitors. Therefore, the department introduced PAR for Indian Nationals with effect from January 23, 2017, to provide convenience to genuine visitors.

Indian nationals who complete PAR online can visit Hong Kong visa-free. Such an arrangement prevents Indian visitors suspected as having high immigration risk from exploiting the existing visa-free arrangement to enter Hong Kong and contract into illicit activities. Under the new arrangement, Indian nationals must apply for and successfully complete PAR online before they can visit Hong Kong visa-free unless they belong to one of the exempted categories.

Otherwise, they should apply to the department for an entry visa if they intend to visit Hong Kong. PAR is normally valid for six months and allows multiple entries. Subject to meeting normal immigration requirements, a registrant may, during the validity of PAR, use the Notification Slip for Pre-arrival Registration for Indian Nationals printed on his or her own together with the registered Indian passport to make multiple visits to Hong Kong for a stay of up to 14 days for each visit.

As at the end of 2017, a total of 429 715 applications for PAR had been received and the successful rate for PAR registrants was over 90 per cent. From the implementation of PAR till the end of 2017, the monthly average of Indian overstayers dropped by about 80 per cent while the number of Indian nationals lodging non-refoulement claims decreased by about 70 per cent as compared with the monthly average figure in 2016.
 
Screening procedures
 
     Given the effectiveness of pre-arrival control measures implemented, the number of non-refoulement claims received drastically dropped by 52 per cent from 3 838 claims in 2016 to 1 843 claims in 2017. Meanwhile, the department has always strived to introduce various measures under the existing legal framework to enhance screening procedures and optimise the use of available resources, which include advanced scheduling of screening interview arrangements and smoothened flow of briefing sessions so as to expedite the processing of claims.

The average processing time was reduced from 25 weeks at the initial stage of the implementation of the USM to 15 weeks in 2016. The processing time has been further reduced to about 10 weeks on average with the implementation of the Pilot Scheme on Provision of Publicly-funded Legal Assistance for Non-refoulement Claimants (Pilot Scheme) launched by the HKSAR Government in September 2017.
 
     Through various measures to expedite the claims processing, the department determined 4 182 claims in 2017, registering a 30 per cent increase as compared to 3 218 claims in 2016. With parallel operation of the Pilot Scheme and the Duty Lawyer Service, a larger publicly funded legal service quota will be provided to claimants, through which the department expects to continue the momentum and further enhance the screening capacity to 5 000 determined cases or more per year.

Depending on the claims intake situation, the department would handle the new claims readily upon clearing the existing backlog. Given most of the unsubstantiated claimants would lodge appeals against the decisions of the department, the HKSAR Government has been deploying more resources and appointing new members to the relevant Appeal Board with a view to expediting the appeal process. The department will spare no effort to provide full support on the appeal proceedings concerned.
 
     To better codify the screening procedures and prevent deliberate delay or abuses of the mechanism, the HKSAR Government is conducting a review of the legislative provisions under the Immigration Ordinance governing procedures on screening of claims and related matters by taking into account the current operational experience of the USM and the relevant overseas laws and practices.

The HKSAR Government will brief the Legislative Council (LegCo) on progress of the review in a timely manner.
 
Enforcement action against claimants taking up illegal employment in Hong Kong and their employers
 
     As stipulated in section 38AA of the Immigration Ordinance, illegal immigrants or people who are the subject of a removal order or a deportation order are prohibited from taking any employment, whether paid or unpaid, or establishing or joining in any business. Offenders are liable upon conviction to a maximum fine of $50,000 and up to three years' imprisonment. Since the Ordinance came into effect until the end of 2017, 1 800 persons were arrested on suspicion of breaching the Ordinance.
 
     The department has continued to step up enforcement against illegal workers who are non-refoulement claimants and their employers.

Analysis indicates that illegal immigrants or non-refoulement claimants who take up unlawful employment usually participate in recycling industries, the catering sector and renovation sites in certain districts. Accordingly, the department has continued to step up targeted inspection and intelligence gathering at such venues as factories, restaurants, food factories, premises under renovation, recycling centres, container depots and warehouses in these districts and conduct raids where appropriate (including joint operations with other law enforcement agencies as necessary). In 2017, the department conducted 758 targeted operations against non-ethnic Chinese illegal workers.

A total of 478 non-ethnic Chinese illegal workers and 270 local employers were arrested. The arrested non-ethnic Chinese illegal workers were jailed from 15 months to 22 months after conviction. At the same time, the department will continue to enhance publicity to remind employers that employing unemployable persons is a serious offence for which offenders are liable to immediate imprisonment.
 
Expedited removal of unsubstantiated claimants
 
     The department is committed to removing all unsubstantiated non-refoulement claimants from Hong Kong as soon as possible.

To support the expedited screening of non-refoulement claims, the department enhanced the operational efficiency of its repatriation work last year through multiple measures, including closer liaison with relevant consulates, airlines and other government departments, as well as flexible deployment of resources. As a result, the total number of non-ethnic Chinese repatriated rose from 2 922 in 2016 to 4 139 in 2017, representing an increase of over 40 per cent.
 
     To further enhance the effectiveness of its repatriation work, the department repatriated a total of 68 Vietnamese illegal immigrants, by the means of chartered flight on December 28, 2017. For those who are resistant to being repatriated voluntarily and even resist repatriation through violent acts, the department will liaise with relevant airlines and consulates.

Forced repatriation will be carried out by assigning officers to escort removees on board the same flight when necessary. The department again repatriated a total of 20 Vietnamese illegal immigrants by the means of chartered flight yesterday (February 12). They were all unsubstantiated non-refoulement claimants and comprised 16 men and four women aged 21 to 56.
 
Liaison with major source countries

     In addition, the department is committed to establishing closer liaison with major source countries of claimants.

Following the duty visits to Vietnam, Pakistan and Bangladesh in 2016 during which the department introduced Hong Kong's stringent legislative provisions against illegal employment and human trafficking as well as the objectives of the implementation of the USM, and explored co-operation on intelligence gathering and liaison on enforcement, the department again sent delegates to Pakistan in 2017 to discuss ways to expedite the removal process. The department will depend on the need to send delegates to the relevant major source countries to express our concern over human smuggling of their nationals and the situation of their lodging non-refoulement claims in Hong Kong and strengthen liaison, exchange of intelligence and co-operation with the local law enforcement agencies in those countries. Closer liaison with the local consulates concerned will also be maintained to further expedite the removal process.
 
HKSAR passport visa-free access and travel convenience
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     The department has all along been making its best efforts in providing greater travel convenience for HKSAR passport holders.

Barbados and Togo agreed to grant visa-free access or visa-on-arrival to HKSAR passport holders last year. In addition, HKSAR passport holders visiting Belarus will be granted visa-free access for a stay of up to 14 days with effect from today. Hence, a total of 160 countries and territories now grant visa-free access or visa-on-arrival to holders of HKSAR passports.

The department will continue to lobby for visa-free access for HKSAR passport holders to facilitate their travel to more countries and territories.
 
Setting up of the Immigration Division under the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Wuhan
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     With a view to providing faster and comprehensive support to Hong Kong residents in distress in the Mainland, the Immigration Division of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Wuhan of the HKSAR Government commenced operation on November 27, 2017, to provide practical assistance to Hong Kong residents in distress in Hubei, Hunan, Shanxi, Jiangxi and Henan Provinces. The Division, together with Immigration Divisions of the Beijing Office and the three Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices in Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangdong, also provides HKSAR passport replacement service to Hong Kong residents in the Mainland. In 2017, a total of 3 259 HKSAR passport replacement applications were handled through the five Immigration Divisions of Mainland offices.
 
Assistance to Hong Kong residents in distress outside Hong Kong
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     The Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit (AHU) works closely with the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in the HKSAR (OCMFA), overseas Chinese diplomatic and consular missions (CDCMs), consulates in Hong Kong, offices of the HKSAR Government outside Hong Kong and other government departments to provide practical assistance to Hong Kong residents in distress outside Hong Kong.

Moreover, the AHU has set up the 24-hour hotline 1868 to provide emergency assistance for Hong Kong residents in any country or territory. Meanwhile, the 24-hour hotline 12308 of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will, according to the circumstances and needs of individual cases, refer the relevant assistance requests from Hong Kong residents to the AHU for follow-up.
 
     In 2017, a total of 3 311 requests for assistance were handled by the AHU. Most requests were related to loss of travel documents, hospitalisation, accidents or death cases outside Hong Kong.

In addition, the department has set up an emergency reinforcement team so that more staff can be deployed to answer hotline calls and public enquiries, or be sent to the places concerned to provide prompt assistance to Hong Kong residents in distress.
 
     To enhance public awareness of outbound travel safety, the department stepped up promotional campaigns in 2017. From April to December 2017, the department and the OCMFA co-organised seminars on "Overseas Safety and Consular Protection" with several universities so as to introduce to more than 600 university students who would soon take part in overseas exchange programmes the consular protection provided by China and the work of the AHU. During the seminars, students were reminded of points to note before departure and got travel tips for their journeys abroad, including details on ways to seek assistance and other relevant information.
 
Registration of Outbound Travel Information (ROTI)
 
     Hong Kong residents can register their contact details and itineraries via the ROTI service before setting off on their trips.

The information provided can help the AHU to contact and assist Hong Kong residents in the event of an emergency outside Hong Kong. ROTI registrants will receive updates on Outbound Travel Alerts and related public information via MyGovHK and, depending on the situation, via SMS on mobile phone as well. The department jointly held a seminar with the OCMFA and the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong in November 2017 for the members of the travel industry with a view to promoting the benefits of using the ROTI service in addition to introducing to them the consular protection provided by China and the work of the AHU.

As at the end of 2017, a total of 67 670 Hong Kong residents had registered for the service.
 
Major incidents outside Hong Kong
 
     In 2017, several major incidents involving Hong Kong residents occurred outside Hong Kong, including the bridge collapse incident involving a Hong Kong tour group in Jinggangshan in Jiangxi Province (April), the traffic accident at the Gold Coast in Australia (August), the traffic accident involving a Hong Kong tour group in Nansha in Guangdong Province (September) and the closure of the airport in Bali in Indonesia due to a volcano eruption (November). The AHU worked closely with the OCMFA, the relevant CDCMs, consulates in Hong Kong, offices of the HKSAR Government in the Mainland and other government departments to provide all practical assistance to the affected Hong Kong residents and their family members.
 
Civil Celebrants of Marriages Scheme
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     The Civil Celebrants of Marriages Scheme was launched in March 2006. As at the end of 2017, a total of 2 121 civil celebrants had been appointed.

They have so far given a total of 283 914 marriage notices, representing 43.5 per cent of the total applications, while 282 157 marriages have been solemnised by them, representing 45.7 per cent of the total marriage registrations. The department will continue to monitor the services provided by civil celebrants and review the running of the scheme to ensure that people are able to enjoy flexible, diversified and satisfactory marriage solemnisation services.

Recruitment of service staff
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     In the financial year of 2017-18, the department will recruit about 1 000 staff (including 300 Immigration Officers and 700 Immigration Assistants). In addition, the department will continue to recruit staff to meet the demand on manpower resources for business development in the next financial year (2018-19).

A new round of open recruitment of Immigration Officers was launched in early January 2018 whereas the open recruitment of Immigration Assistants will continue all year round.
 
Awards
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     The department has upheld our values of striving for excellence in serving the public. The efforts we made to provide quality service continued to be recognised by a number of awards granted to the department. In the 2017 Hong Kong International Airport Customer Service Excellence Programme organised by the Airport Authority Hong Kong, a total of 11 staff members of the department won the Corporate Excellence Awards Outstanding Customer Service.

Furthermore, the officer with the highest number of votes in the Most Courteous Immigration Control Officers exercise organised annually by the department will be appointed by the Hong Kong Tourism Board as the Hong Kong Courtesy Ambassador for promoting the courtesy values of the department.
 
     In the Civil Service Outstanding Service Award Scheme 2017 organised by the Civil Service Bureau, the AHU of the department was awarded the Team Award (Crisis/Incident Support Service) Silver Prize. The Project Team of "Admission Scheme for the Second Generation of Chinese Hong Kong Permanent Residents and Enhancement Measures on Admission Schemes for Talent" was awarded the Team Award (General Public Service) Bronze Prize and the Special Citation (Integrity Management) in recognition of our continuous efforts in providing quality services and in integrity management. Moreover, two members of the department received the Ombudsman's Awards for Officers of Public Organisations, making this the 19th consecutive year in which our officers were awarded.

In addition, six members of the department were commended in the Secretary for the Civil Service's Commendation Award for their consistently outstanding performance. It was the 14th consecutive year that our officers were commended. Furthermore, the department has been awarded the Caring Organisation Logo by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service in consecutive years since 2006 and has been awarded the 10 Years Plus Caring Organisation Logo since 2015-16 in recognition of our commitment to caring for the community, employees and the environment.

The department will continue to strive with devotion and serve the public with excellence.
 
The Hong Kong Immigration Department YouTube channel
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     The official YouTube channel "Hong Kong Immigration Department" was launched in February 2016, to give the public access to information on the services and activities of the department anytime and anywhere. Video clips uploaded to the Channel are grouped under three categories, namely "Easy Access", "About Us" and "Departmental Activities". Under the "Easy Access" category, the department has produced over 40 videos which feature services most commonly used by the public and their respective application requirements and procedures.

The department produced several short videos in 2017. Contents of the videos include the Smart Departure e-Channel clearance process, promotion on the QMAS and a reminder for members of the public not to participate in activities relating to bogus marriages. For the other two categories, short videos introducing our work and activities have been uploaded, offering another avenue for the public to get to know about the department.

The total number of views of the channel is over 480 000 since launch. The department will continue to produce more videos to better meet public needs and provide greater convenience for the public.
 
Vision for 2018
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Commissioning of New Control Points
 
     To cater for the needs arising from the social and economic development of the Mainland, Hong Kong and Macao, three new cross-boundary control points at the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Hong Kong Port, the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link West Kowloon Station and the Liantang/Heung Yuen Wai Boundary Control Point are expected to be completed in succession in 2018, which will further enhance the passenger handling capacity of control points. The department will offer active support accordingly and continue to provide efficient immigration services for the public.
 
Strengthening the promotion of talent admission schemes to attract talent
 
     To take a more proactive approach to attracting talent and professionals from outside Hong Kong, the department will continue to make overseas visits and co-operate with Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices to promote various talent admission schemes including the ASSG in 2018 so as to attract talent from around the world to Hong Kong for development and make contributions to Hong Kong's economy.
 
Review of visa requirements for entry to Hong Kong for nationals of countries along the Belt and Road
 
     To foster co-operation and exchanges between Hong Kong and countries along the Belt and Road, the department will continue to review and consider relaxing the visa requirements for nationals of the relevant countries.
 
Continual effort in the comprehensive review of the strategy for handling non-refoulement claims
 
     The comprehensive review of the strategy for handling non-refoulement claims has achieved results.

The department will continue to provide full support for the review, make sustained efforts to combat the smuggling of NECIIs to Hong Kong, implement other pre-arrival control measures, expedite the screening of non-refoulement claims and removal of unsubstantiated claimants, and step up enforcement against unlawful employment.
 
Further strengthening the assistance to Hong Kong residents outside of Hong Kong
 
     Apart from working with the OCMFA to send out representatives from the AHU to Japan and Korea in July 2017 to discuss and exchange views with the CDCMs, the department will continue to arrange similar exchanges with the OCMFA this year, paying visits to Southeast Asian countries and strengthening dialogues with representatives from respective CDCMs so as to render better immediate support and practical assistance to Hong Kong residents in distress overseas.
 
     In light of the growing number of Hong Kong residents travelling and operating business overseas, while secondary school students often participate in exchange programmes abroad, in order to ensure Hong Kong residents in distress would receive practical assistance, the department plans to organise seminars for interested secondary schools and various groups with topics including preparation before travels, special situations to pay attention to prior to making a trip and the channels for seeking assistance. The objective is to disseminate information on outbound travel safety and consular protection work to persons from all walks of life in Hong Kong.
 
The Third Information Systems Strategy (ISS-3) Review
 
     Acting on the recommendations of the report on the ISS-3, the department has been gradually replacing the existing information systems. Among them, the two Data Centres and the infrastructure platform under the New Information Technology Infrastructure project and the New Immigration Control System project have already been completed.
 
     Regarding the Next Generation Electronic Passport System, the tendering exercise has been completed, while the design and development of the system are under way.

The new system is planned to be implemented in phases starting from early 2019. Moreover, the funding application for the implementation of the Next Generation Application and Investigation Easy System, formerly known as systems related to Visa Automation; Assistance to Hong Kong Residents, Births, Deaths and Marriage, and Right of Abode Decision Support; and Enforcement Case Processing, will be tabled to the Panel on Security and the Finance Committee of the LegCo in the first and second quarters of 2018 respectively for approval.
 
Next Generation Smart Identity Card Replacement Exercise
 
     A territory-wide identity card replacement exercise will be launched by the end of 2018 for the public to receive the new smart HKIC in phases through a call-up programme in accordance with their year of birth. It is estimated that the number of smart HKICs to be replaced in the upcoming replacement exercise will be about 8.8 million, and the exercise is anticipated to last until 2022.
 
     The new smart HKIC will make use of the latest polycarbonate materials, and on top of the current contact chip interface the new smart HKIC will also support a contactless chip interface, hence reducing damage to the chip and making the HKIC more durable.

A number of new state-of-the-art security features and other sophisticated security designs will be introduced. Coupled with a more complex background with multiple patterns and specific colour printing features, the new smart HKIC has strong protection against photo substitution and counterfeiting.
 
     In view of the changes in demographics of Hong Kong, the department will adopt facilitation measures in the territory-wide identity card replacement exercise by allowing the smart HKIC holders being invited in phases to bring along their family members aged 65 or above for replacing their existing smart HKICs in the same trip. Moreover, the department will introduce on-site identity card replacement services at residential care homes for elderly persons and persons with disabilities, thereby saving their time to travel to the smart identity card centres.
 
     In addition, the department will make better use of information technology.

Self-service measures will be introduced for registration and collection of HKICs to provide more convenient services to the public, including appointment booking for card replacement and form-prefilling to be made on the Internet or through a mobile application and installation of self-service registration kiosks and self-service collection kiosks.

     To facilitate the implementation of the territory-wide identity card replacement exercise, the department will launch a comprehensive publicity programme to introduce the new smart HKIC and promulgate the details of the identity card replacement exercise for residents living in Hong Kong, in the Mainland and overseas. 
 



Published on: 2018-02-13

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