Hong Kong was handed back to China on July 1st, 1997, after 150 years of British rule. While Hong Kong is now a part of China, it is governed as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), under the One Country, Two Systems approach. This can make a difference when sponsoring your Hong Kong partner to come to Canada due to a number of factors:
- Hong Kong natives and long-time residents are far more familiar with English than mainland Chinese for example, having lived under English rule for generations.
- Canada and Hong Kong have enjoyed long-standing ties in commerce, politics, and even on the individual level over the years. That means Hong Kong natives enjoy a familiarity with a British-based legal system, for example, and are well versed in a thriving competitive capitalist system that is world class.
- Canada and Hong Kong are partners in several forums, like APEC and the WTO.
- Both Hong Kong residents with a Canadian passport (around 300,000) and Canadian residents with ties to Hong Kong (around 500,000) are among the largest and perhaps wealthiest groups of immigrants in Canada, and have a substantial presence in Hong Kong. The Canadian University Association in Hong Kong, for example, is an umbrella group for Hong Kong graduates of approximately 20 Canadian universities.
- Hong Kong has an advanced, service-based economy that has been First World for several generations. Whether it’s a highly developed financial sector, or first-class infrastructure, the Hong Kong economy consistently tops world rankings. There are extensive trade relations between Canada and Hong Kong, and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong is the largest outside of Canada.
What all this means is that if you are sponsoring your Hong Kong partner to Canada, it is likely although by no means certain, that he or she is a skilled professional, perhaps with property holdings in Hong Kong, who sees Canada as an opportunity to improve his or her skills and experience as well as enjoy world class cities like Vancouver and Toronto. Because they tend to be highly skilled and well educated, the likelihood of a Hongkonger being accepted as a Permanent Resident of Canada is fairly good.
That’s the good news. The other side of the coin is that more and more Hong Kong natives are returning to their city and leaving cities like Vancouver as the feared domination of Hong Kong by the Chinese authorities in Beijing has not materialized, at least not the extent feared back in the 90’s when many immigrated to Canada due to the uncertainty over the post-handover environment. They return for job reasons and because of family ties as well. Unlike most other immigrants to Canada who tend to stay, it appears that Hong Kong residents look at life in Canada as a temporary stage in their career and life paths. As mobile upper middle class professionals, they have the luxury of being able to move more easily between Canada and Hong Kong, as well as other countries, like Australia and the USA for example. This means that after successfully settling in Canada – the cliché is that Vancouver is for older and richer retirees while Toronto is for those who are still working and want good job opportunities in a less expensive city – and living with you for several years, you may find your partner suddenly thinking of moving back to Hong Kong. If you are a mobile skilled professional who doesn’t mind pulling up and moving to the Far East, that’s fine. If you had planned on staying in Canada, then it can be an issue.
Getting Married in Hong Kong
In Hong Kong there are no residency requirements for getting married and any nationalities can be married as well. You must be at least 16 years old, and if you are less than 21 years old, you will require the written consent of your father or legal guardian. Same sex marriages are not allowed at the current time. You will also have to submit evidence of your marital status to the authorities: for example a sealed copy of the court’s final divorce decree if you are divorced. If you are a military personnel you apparently will also need permission from your commanding officer to get married. What you must do is register your marriage with the civil authorities. The process is as follows:
- The first step is to give a Notice of Intended Marriage to the Registrar of Marriages in Hong Kong. One or both you and your partner can do this directly at the marriage registry or, if unable to attend due to travel for example, you can do it through a civil celebrant of marriages. You can also fill out the required information (form MR 21B) online before going to the marriage registry to speed up the process. If you are divorce, widowed, or under 21 years of age, you will need to submit additional documentation.
- Once your Notice of Intended Marriage is posted at the Registrar, your marriage can take place after the notice has been exhibited for 15 working or “clear” days, which means 17 days in total to account for Sundays when the offices are closed. It must also take place within 3 months of the giving of the Notice. During those 15 “clear” days, those authorized by law can object to the marriage by writing “forbidden” on the posted copy of the Notice. This right essentially applies to parents of a minor between the ages of 16 and 21, and is a rare event nowadays. It is essential, therefore, to give your Notice of Intention 17 days before, but not more than 3 months before, the planned date of your wedding.
- Once the 15 “clear” day requirement is met, the Registrar will issue you a Certificate of Registrar of Marriages that will allow you to be married within 3 months of the giving of Notice. If the 3 month period expires the Notice will be voided and you will have to register again with a new Notice of Intended Marriage.
- You can also give Notice from outside of Hong Kong, if both of you are living in Canada or elsewhere, by writing directly to the Marriage Registration and Records Office and requesting a Notice of Intended Marriage form. Go here for information on where to write.
There are 3 possible types of locations where you can be married in Hong Kong:
- A marriage registry where the Registrar will perform the marriage.
- A licenced place of worship where a competent minister will perform the marriage.
- Any other location in Hong Kong where a civil celebrant of marriages is contracted to perform the marriage ceremony.
Marriage in Canada
As we have covered marriage in Canada in various other articles go here for an overview of the marriage process in Ontario.
Whether to sponsor inland or overseas, what to do about dependent children, threats to your sponsorship application, and the process itself are all covered in our article on sponsoring a Chinese citizen. There are no differences for Hongkongers from this point on.