Indians will have to do a pre-arrival registration for travelling to Hong Kong from Monday as the administration scraps visa-free facility for Indian nationals. However, those directly transiting the region by air will not require the registration, provided you do not leave the airport transit area. Those with diplomatic passports or a Hong Kong Travel Pass, and those who have successfully enrolled for the e-Channel service will still be able to visit Hong Kong with just a valid passport.
“The Pre-arrival Registration for Indian Nationals will be implemented on January 23. The online service for Pre-arrival Registration for Indian Nationals is now open,” the Hong Kong immigration department said on its official website. The registration will be valid for six months. Earlier, Indian nationals could visit Hong Kong with a valid passport and stay for up to 14 days without a prior visa.
Hong Kong’s decision to scrap visa-free travel for Indians was first reported in December 2016. There has been speculation that the decision was taken as the number of Indian asylum seekers was on the rise, according to PTI. However, Indian officials believe that Hong Kong is using the asylum seekers as a pretext to deny visa-free entry to Indians. There are also concerns that the move has been triggered by China.
Among the current backlog of 10,335 refugee applications in Hong Kong, 80% are from India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Indonesia. Hong Kong’s Immigration Department Assistant Director Ma Chi-ming said that it was a pilot project and would be reviewed once it was launched. “We picked India as a testing point as it was one of the major source countries.”
The new rules will affect hundreds of thousands of Indians who visit the former British colony every year for both tourism and trade. According to Hindustan Times, as many as 561,625 Indian tourists visited Hong Kong in 2015.