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Filipino couple granted "unconditional stay" in HK
« on: December 11, 2007, 11:08:57 PM »

DAISY C.L. MANDAP, The Sun-HK
12/11/2007 | 09:19 PM

 HONG KONG - A Filipino couple appears to have made history by becoming the first foreign domestic helpers to have been granted unconditional stay here.

Friends of Daniel and Irene Domingo say the much-coveted change in status was stamped on the couple's passports last month, after a protracted battle with the Immigration Department to have their status changed.

The visa is valid for one year, and no longer carries the condition that either of the couple should remain employed as a domestic helper by a designated HK resident.

It's understood the couple were granted the change in status as dependants of their two older children, Dariel, 14 and Darlene, 12, who in February last year became the first children of FDH parents to have received right of abode (ROA) in HK.

Both children were born in HK, and have always lived here with their parents. Daniel himself would not comment on the report, saying he and his wife still have to hurdle another problem: that of bringing back their youngest child who, though born in Hong Kong, had to stay behind in Philippines when Irene's work contract was prematurely terminated about three years ago.

They have been unable to bring him back because HK authorities refused to grant him a dependant's visa like his two older siblings.

Daniel also confessed to not being entirely clear as to what the change in their status meant, except that he is no longer required to work as a domestic helper.

"Pero siguro hindi muna ako aalis sa employer ko," said Daniel, whose expatriate employer has generously provided shelter for his family in his Lamma home.

Daniel also credits prominent human rights lawyer Mark Daly for getting the Immigration Department to reconsider its decision against granting residency to his family.

On his own, Daniel began the quest for ROA for his two children in May 2003, when Dariel was about to turn 11, the age when children of resident parents are able to apply for a HK ID card. Immigration rejected the application after one year.

Undaunted, Daniel explored other options, including taking his case to the Registration of Persons Tribunal. With help from The Sun, Daniel then met Daly, who lost no time in informing Immigration of his interest in the case.

Within a month, Immigration had a change of heart, and notified the Domingo family that the children could already have their permanent HK ID cards.

With that out of the way, the Domingo couple, helped by Daly, took the bolder attempt of acquiring the same status for themselves, in line with Basic Law provision allowing permanent residency to those who have lived in Hong Kong "for a continuous period of not less than seven years." Daniel has been working and living in HK for the past 22 years; his wife has been here since 1982.

The move was trickier as the Immigration Ordinance also provides that "a domestic helper who is not from Hong Kong is not "ordinarily resident" for the purpose of this provision.

A Court of Appeal decision on Aug. 3 was not of much help, either. In that case, the three-panel appellate judges used the Immigration Ordinance provision in rejecting a former FDH's application to get ROA.

The couple's application was rejected at the first instance, but they decided to appeal their case.

Things began to get even more complicated when Irene's work contract was terminated about a year ago, and Immigration sought to send her back to the Philippines, potentially jeopardizing her claim to continuous residency in HK.

But with Daly taking up the cudgels again for them, the Domingos were able to get "unconditional stay" status which though not as permanent as ROA, still gives them greater flexibility in providing for the growing needs of their family. - The Sun- HK


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