British expat lesbian in HK wins ‘landmark’ spousal visa ruling

A British lesbian currently living in Hong Kong has today won what is being described as a “landmark” case in her years-long efforts to obtain a spousal visa in Hong Kong.

The ruling, issued by Hong Kong’s Court of Appeals, pitted the expatriate identified only as QT against Hong Kong’s Immigration Department – represented in court by the director of immigration – over the department’s refusal to grant her a spousal visa, on grounds that Hong Kong doesn’t recognise same-sex unions.

It is seen as potentially significant for multi-national companies that employ lesbian, gay, bi- and trans-sexual staff, by making Hong Kong a more welcoming jurisdiction for them to be posted to than it has been previously.

According to the court documents, which may be viewed on the Hong Kong judiciary’s website, the couple met in 2004 in the UK,and entered into a “stable” civil partnership there. In mid-2011, QT’s partner, SS, a dual national of South Africa and Great Britain, was offered employment by a company in Hong Kong, and continues to live there on an employment visa “extended from time to time”.

QT first applied for a dependent visa with SS as her sponsor in January of 2014, and was ultimately rejected six months later, on the ground, the court document says, “that she was not a ‘spouse’ within the meaning of the policy”, meaning that in effect, she “did not meet the Eligibility Requirement” for such a visa.

According to the Immigration Department, a dependent visa may be granted to a spouse, unmarried dependant, children under 18 or parents aged 60 or over of a sponsor who is a Hong Kong resident who is not subject to a limit of stay.

In its ruling today, however, the court ruled that the Immigration Department had “failed to justify the indirect discrimination on account of sexual orientation that QT suffers from the Eligibility Requirement”. It ordered both parties to work out a proposed arrangement together, to be submitted within the next 28 days, or failing that, “submit their respective proposed draft orders” within the same time period, after which a final order would be issued.

As reported here last year, countries around the world are in varying stages of adapting to the growing clamour on the part of the LGBT community for equal rights, including in the area of financial products and regulations governing such matters as inheritance and pensions.

LGBT Capital, a Hong Kong-based financial services specialist, has estimated that the LGBT population may account for as much as 5% to 10% of the population, and have a global aggregated spending power of more than US$3trn.

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