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Settlement, Residence and Citizenship for Expats in Hong Kong

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: July 2013

Hong Kong is renowned for being exciting, fast-paced and unlike pretty much anywhere else on earth, containing as it does such an intriguing combination of British and Chinese cultures. However, the territory is also famous for vast numbers of densely-packed skyscrapers; Hong Kong is the fourth most densely-populated territory in the world. Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that while you are generally free to visit the territory, and welcome to stay in the short-term if you possess the right qualities, as you move from settlement towards citizenship in Hong Kong things may become rather more difficult.

If you have been granted a visa that allows you to stay in Hong Kong for any period longer than 180 days, you will need to apply for a Hong Kong Identity card within 30 days of your arrival, using form ROP1. This application is free of charge. Children aged 11 or older will also need ID cards. For more information on how to apply for identity cards, see this page:


Compromise may be needed when it comes to accommodation. Thanks both to its population density and its success, Hong Kong has a high cost of living, and living space is at a premium. If you have your mind set on a central location on Hong Kong Island, your accommodation will be expensive, at around HK$15,000-20,000 for a cramped one-bedroom flat. Accommodation in the other areas, Kowloon and the New Territories, is significantly cheaper and you will probably get more space for your money.

Chinese citizens who were born in Hong Kong qualify for permanent residence, or ‘right of abode’, as it is commonly known as in Hong Kong. Other Chinese citizens and non-Chinese citizens need to have been ordinarily resident in the territory for a period of seven years in order to qualify. Gaining permanent residence is normally quite straightforward for non-Chinese. However, many domestic foreign workers have experienced difficulties in doing so. Once you have permanent residence, you gain the right to vote in council elections, and may consider applying for citizenship.

As mentioned previously, Hong Kong is a territory that belongs to the People’s Republic of China rather than an independent country, and Hongkongers, despite having their own passports, and in many ways a separate identity, are still considered Chinese citizens. While Hong Kong is politically more liberal and considerably more ethnically diverse than mainland China, some of its laws. including those for citizenship, are subsumed under general Chinese laws. Whether or not you can gain Chinese citizenship often depends on your ancestry, not the place where you were born. In other words, it is often easier to become a Chinese citizen if you are ethnically Chinese.

Your application for naturalisation depends on several factors. Besides being Chinese or having Chinese relatives, the following may also be taken into consideration:

You need to send the application form, fee and any supporting documents to the following address:

Nationality Sub-section
Travel Documents and Nationality (Application) Section
Immigration Department
4th Floor
Immigration Tower
7 Gloucester Road
Wan Chai
Hong Kong




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