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Getting a Hong Kong ID Card

Unfortunately, dealing with red tape isn’t over for expats who have finally arrived in Hong Kong. You still need to register for an ID card. Fortunately, though, obtaining a Hong Kong ID card is a fairly easy process. This InterNations guide tells you how it works.
Unlike local residents, expats can only apply for a permanent Hong Kong ID card after seven years.

Once you have arrived with a valid visa, only one small step separates you from becoming a legal non-permanent resident: You still have to register for a Hong Kong ID card. This procedure is mandatory for all residents aged 11 or older. Your ID card comes with an embedded microchip. It not only serves as an identification document, but it can also be used for services such as public libraries.

Getting a Hong Kong ID card is not a very complicated endeavor. For example, health examinations, as in mainland China, are not required. To obtain your ID card, simply follow the steps outlined in this article. However, it is important to note that there are two types of identity cards – one for temporary residents and one for permanent residents.

If you have lived in Hong Kong with a valid visa for seven years or more, you might be eligible for a permanent ID card. We will provide you with some additional information on the conditions for obtaining permanent residency and the special rights which come with it.

How to Register for an ID Card

Once you have arrived with a valid visa, registering for an ID card guarantees you the right to remain in the country. All of your dependent family members must apply for a card as well. Children do not need one if they are younger than 11 years of age. Make sure to complete the registration process for your residence permit within 30 days of your arrival. Short-term expats staying fewer than six months don’t need an ID, though.

Although registering for an ID card is required, you do not have to fear that it might turn into a serious obstacle to your becoming a legal resident. All you need to bring with you to register is your valid travel document and your visa. This proves that you have legally entered the country and are permitted to stay for a certain period of time. Children between 11 and 17 years of age also need to produce their birth certificate. You can apply for your identity card at any Registration of Persons Office in Hong Kong.

To make the process smoother, just download the application form for the Hong Kong Identity Card and fill it out beforehand. To avoid waiting times at the office, you can also book an appointment online. You do not have to pay a fee when you register for the first time. The only time you will be charged is if you need a replacement or if you want to change your personal data.

Usually, your ID card will be ready within ten working days of submitting your application. You can check the exact date on your Acknowledgement of Application for an Identity Card. You do not need an appointment for collecting your card. Simply bring along your acknowledgement document to the office. If you are unable to pick up the card in person, you can appoint an authorized representative to do so in your stead.

General Information 

Hong Kong ID cards are credit card-sized and are known as so-called “Smart Cards”, similar to the Octopus Card for public transport in Hong Kong. Each one has an integrated microchip which contains immigration-related data such as thumbprints. This enables you to enter and exit the country through automated fingerprint kiosks – no more waiting in line at border crossings! You may also choose to activate your card to be used for various non-immigration-related functions, for example, it can also serve as a library card.

Hong Kong law requires you to carry your new ID card with you at all times. From time to time, the police make spot checks. Therefore, if you are still waiting for your ID card, make sure to carry your passport as well as the document that shows you have applied for the ID card. If you plan to leave Hong Kong for three months or longer, you have to inform the Registration of Persons Office. You might be required to hand in your Hong Kong ID card before leaving.

The Hong Kong ID card for non-permanent residents only shows your right to reside in the city for a specific period. It does not grant you any rights reserved for citizens such as the right to vote, nor can it be used as a travel document. You need to have your valid passport from your home country to travel outside of Hong Kong!

Permanent Residency

If you have just arrived in Hong Kong, you are unlikely to qualify for permanent residence. You will thus get a temporary identity card. But once you have been living in Hong Kong for at least seven consecutive years, you can apply for permanent residence. In your application, you need to show that you have your habitual residence in Hong Kong, that your family is there with you and that you have sufficient income. (Fortunately, expats with stable jobs usually have a good income. You can read up on expat salaries as well as pensions and working conditions in our guide to social security in Hong Kong.)

The regulations for Chinese nationals are slightly different. The Hong Kong government provides detailed information on who is eligible for permanent residence.

If your application is successful, you will receive a permanent ID card. This gives you the right of abode in Hong Kong: You may stay in the country indefinitely and you cannot be removed or deported. Furthermore, as a resident with a permanent ID card, you have most of the rights which Hong Kong citizens enjoy, like the right to vote in local elections. 


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