Increased penalties for employing overstayers in Hong Kong after changes to Immigration Ordinance

The Immigration (Amendment) Bill 2020, which came into effect on 1 August 2021, imposes increased penalties for employers who employ individuals not lawfully employable.

Previously under the Immigration Ordinance, a person who enters Hong Kong illegally or is subject to a removal or deportation order may be prosecuted if he/she takes up employment in Hong Kong.

However, a person who has entered Hong Kong legally on a visa, but has overstayed and who takes up employment, can only be prosecuted for breaching his/her conditions of stay and will not be liable for the more serious offence of taking up unlawful employment.

Whereas previously, such employers were subject to a maximum fine of HKD350,000 and imprisonment for up to 3 years, the recent changes impose harsher punishment for employers who employ such illegal workers (and overstayers).

The main changes for employers to note under the changes are:

  • the offence of taking up of unlawful employment now also includes overstayers
  • the maximum penalty for employers who employ illegal workers is increased to a maximum fine of HKD500,000 and imprisonment for up to 10 years, and
  • the imposition of the same liability on a director, manager, secretary or other officer of an employer which is a body corporate if it can be proved that the unlawful employment was committed with his/her consent or connivance, or was attributable to his/her negligence.

Employers should therefore ensure that their foreign employees who require visas to work in Hong Kong do not breach their conditions of stay by overstaying and that they successfully obtain extensions in good time before their limit of stay expires.

For information about Marbury’s Visa Services, please contact here or reach out to your usual contact.