Hong Kong company to offer employees rare chance to marry

Written by Staff Writer

Hong Kong : More than 250 employees at a prestigious property management company will fly to Hong Kong later this month after being told their relationships with their spouses and children might not be considered official when they apply for citizenship.

The staff members at Poole International properties, a subsidiary of Hong Kong property developer Poole Group , will fly to the city to see their families following a campaign by the company’s chairman and CEO, Ma Teck Tan.

Tan told CNN that he saw the move as a way to “incentivize” employees to take up citizenship instead of simply working in Hong Kong — and that there was not enough communication between employers and employees on the issue.

“People should talk to each other, if a couple is on a good relationship then they will be motivated to apply for citizenship,” he said.

Ma stressed that no charges will be levied against employees whose relationships are not official but said the compensation he’s offering will be “significant” for employees from poor immigrant backgrounds, who he says have a hard time finding work or actually enjoying the city’s benefits.

Tan said he has had talks with the government to discuss the issue but said he was not sure when their new immigration laws would be implemented.

Chan Jai-sheng, the group’s head of human resources, says in the short term it is uncertain whether employees will be required to hold passports, and said the compensation paid will probably be their full salary for a week.

He added that staff at the company, which has properties in Singapore, Australia and Malaysia, had not suffered from recent immigration changes.

Under Hong Kong’s law, non-local couples must wait three years from applying for citizenship after tying the knot to get their partner to give up their nationality — and there are many opportunities to change your marital status in the intervening time, he added.

Ma said he himself is a British passport holder but can’t afford to marry a Hong Kong woman and bring her to the city because the cost of a marriage certificate in the territory is prohibitive, and has discussed bringing in a non-local resident to marry his wife.

Ma estimated the figure needed to be “as much as $700,000” for a foreign couple to get a marriage certificate in Hong Kong but declined to provide a figure.

Hong Kong’s colonial government announced the introduction of immigration laws in September last year.

The law “forces most people who are eligible to apply for passport from abroad (to) exercise the right of citizenship,” it said in a statement at the time.

Any British and French citizens born in Hong Kong must move to the city and claim permanent residency to qualify for a Hong Kong passport.

The other groups affected by the changes are Singaporeans, Indians, Malaysians, Chinese and South Koreans.

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