How not to renew a work visa

It’s taken me a while to get round to writing this post. As I’ve mentioned previously, as an imported worker, I need a work visa to be able to work here, and last year the immigration department gave me a one year visa. This is pretty much the norm, despite me requesting a two year visa. Normally, I’d be reminded by our office manager/admin prior to the expiry of the visa to start putting the paperwork together. Unfortunately, she had been made redundant towards the end of last year. As a result I never got a reminder, and continued in complete ignorance … right up until departure time for a hockey tour to Bangkok, whereupon trying to exit Hong Kong via the ID card controlled electronic gates, the gates wouldn’t open. An official from immigration arrives and starts typing away on a computer, and the gate opens to release me, and I’m directed down a corridor to the immigration department.

They’re not all that impressed that my visa has expired, and ask for my passport and boarding card, which I hand over, and then begin to panic ever so slightly. After a few awkward questions about expired visas, and submitting visa extension applications, I’m told that I can pay for an extension to the current day for HK$160. I’m pretty sure that’s the fastest I’ve reached for my wallet and am thrusting the money at the immigration officer as quickly as possible. After another 10 minutes or so my boarding card and passport are returned to me, and I’m told to go on my way, with a lot of relief. The beer at the airport bar is most welcome – as well as trying to explain my interview with immigration to the rest of the team …

On arrival back I need to enter on a visitor visa, where I’m told I can’t work. In fact this is a similar situation as to when I first arrived. The first thing I do when I get home is access the immigration website and start downloading extension of stay forms, and getting in touch with the office to get my letter of employment drafted. This all takes a bit of time to oragnise and collate, and in between I have another hockey tour which I exit for and return on my touist visa with no problems whatsoever, thankfully.

Back in Hong Kong the form requires a letter from my employer and the employer’s business registration number. Realising on the day of my appointment, I don’t know this number I quickly IM the office finance guy who says he’ll have it to hand and we agree I’ll drop into the office in about half an hour. Twenty minutes later I’m in the office and there’s no sign of anyone as they’ve all cleared off for lunch. Not helpful. As time ticks onwards towards my appointment time I realise he’s not coming back in time, and am about to give up with a view to phoning the office on my way to immigration when I notice the stupid registration certificate is framed on the wall. Number printed clearly. Smack forehead a bit, but overall a result! Upon reaching immigration with the various paperwork ready, I wait in the seated area for my interview for the extension of stay application, when an immigration officer comes up to the seats near where I’m sitting and starts barking at a lady ‘why you overstay your visa?’. I’m almost tempted to stand up and say he has the wrong person, and he probably means me, but decide to sit tight and see if I get called to one of the booths instead. This proves to be the correct action, and I’m called to a booth to be informed that my visa has expired and I’m currently in on a tourist visa. Well, duh! Apparently, what I need is a change of status not a visa extension. I’m also asked if I’m working for the same employer as before. This is awkward, as technically, I believe I am not allowed to work. Unapid leave is agreed with the immigration authorities, but that work will recommence with the same employer. I’m in the wrong office however, and can apply for the change of status back on Hong Kong island.

I get back to Hong Kong island (from Kowloon Bay) as quickly as possible and push through the usual crowds that walk slowly in both directions to immigration in Wanchai, and start the process of applying for a change of status. This seems to be pretty straightforward, until they notice that my employment letter is not the original, but a print out. It’s a pretty good print out – in my rush from the office I’d not noticed. My worry is that this is only going to delay matters further, but it turns out that my application is processed and I’m told to return three weeks later, with passport, HK$140, and the original employment letter and that it will all be sorted.

Fast forward three weeks, and true to their word, the visa is completed – I now have a new sticker in my passport, and everything is legal again. I think it goes without saying that the next time I need a visa extension, I’ll make sure I get it sorted in plenty of time before it expires though. Plenty of uncomfortable minutes spent trying to get this sorted out. It’s a definite relief to be legal again!

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One Response to “How not to renew a work visa”

  1. Joel Says:

    Well said mate.
    To be true to you, I stumbled on this looking for info on HK work visas.

    Quite some interesting diary you’ve put up here and I hope you keep sharing your perspective of HK.

    Cheers mate!

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