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« October 2008 | Main

Question of "Marital Status" when dealing with Hong Kong's Immigration Department

Following is a reply by the Acting Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, to a question by the Dr Hon Margaret Ng in the Legislative Council on Wednesday, June 15, 201

If immigration officers suspect that the information on marital status provided by the applicant is incorrect while processing an application under relevant legal provisions, they will allow the applicant to give an explanation. If the explanation furnished is both reasonable and satisfactory, the Immigration Department (ImmD) will proceed with the application according to procedures for processing the applications. However, if the immigration officers have reasonable grounds to suspect that the applicant has furnished false information, further investigations will then be made. The investigations made and possible prosecution action taken by the ImmD will certainly be based on facts and evidence.


(a) As regards marriage registration, in respect of cases in which prosecution was instituted against those who had made a false declaration for the purpose of procuring a marriage and in contravention of the Crimes Ordinance, there were 68 in total for the period between 2008 and 2010, 65 of which were convicted.

During the same period, there were 678 prosecutions for conspiracy of defraud by means of false marriage (or commonly referred to as "bogus marriage"), with 624 convicted. Among them, three cases involved visa applications or extensions of stay.

(b) Under the law of Hong Kong, "marriages" include those entered into in Hong Kong under the Marriage Ordinance (Cap 181), which means the voluntary union for life of one man with one woman, and that a rite of marriage recognised by law has been performed in accordance with law.  Furthermore, in accordance with the Matrimonial Causes Ordinance (Cap 179) and the Married Persons Status Ordinance (Cap 182), a monogamous marriage contracted outside Hong Kong in accordance with law will also be recognised as a legal marriage. Any person who is a party to the above "marriage" is considered "married".

Under the Matrimonial Causes Ordinance, "married" persons may file a petition or an application for divorce to the court in Hong Kong. The "divorce" will become effective upon conclusion of proceedings and granting of a divorce certificate by the court. Divorces obtained outside Hong Kong are also recognised under Hong Kong law.

 In accordance with the Matrimonial Causes Ordinance, a husband and a wife may enter into a separation agreement or, in other cases, either party may apply to the court for separation under the ordinance. Under the common law, apart from considering whether the applicant is living with his/her spouse, factors such as whether the applicant is still maintaining husband-and-wife relationship with his/her spouse (e.g. whether they have ceased to recognise the existence of their marriage and whether he/she intends to reconcile with his/her spouse, etc.) will be taken into account before judging whether they have been "separated".

(c) Immigration officers will provide appropriate assistance to applicants in case they raise any doubt when filling in their marital status. Meanwhile, they may also request applicants to provide supporting documents as appropriate in relation to their marital status, such as marriage certificates, divorce certificates, deeds of separation or other relevant legal documents.