State Department Documents and Publications
August 26, 2008
Hong Kong (SAR) Specific Information
SECTION: STATE DEPARTMENT PRESS RELEASE
LENGTH: 3299 words
August 26, 2008
Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China (PRC) since July 1, 1997, has a high degree of autonomy, except in the areas of defense and foreign policy, and retains its own currency, laws, and border controls. It is composed of three geographic areas: the New Territories, Kowloon Peninsula, and Hong Kong Island. Hong Kong SAR is cosmopolitan and highly developed. Tourist facilities and services are widely available. The Hong Kong SAR Government web site provides Hong Kong Fact Sheets on a comprehensive range of subjects at http://www.gov.hk/en/about/abouthk/factsheets/index.htm. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Hong Kong for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport with a minimum of one-month validity after the period of intended stay, adequate funds to cover stay without working and evidence of onward/return transportation are required. Because many neighboring areas require six months validity remaining on the passport, U.S. citizens planning travel beyond Hong Kong should ensure that their passports are valid for at least six months from the date of their proposed entry into such areas. A visa is not required for tourist visits of up to 90 days by U.S. citizens. An extension of stay may be granted upon application to the Hong Kong SAR Immigration Department. Visas are required to work or study in Hong Kong. Visit the Hong Kong SAR Immigration Department at http://www.immd.gov.hk/ehtml/home.htm or the Embassy of the People's Republic of China web site at http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/ for the most current visa information.
U.S. citizens should obtain all required visas prior to departing the U.S. Specifically, U.S. citizens wishing to travel to the PRC from Hong Kong require a PRC visa and should apply at the PRC Embassy or consulates in the U.S. Parents whose children hold U.S. passports should be aware that the PRC Visa Office may require certified birth certificates or other U.S. documents for these children. Persons applying in Hong Kong for PRC visas for U.S.-born children have been unable to obtain PRC visas without the certified U.S. birth certificate. Parents should consider bringing their children's certified birth certificates if applying for a PRC visa in Hong Kong. Further information on travel to and around the PRC is available in our China Country Specific Sheet.
Information about the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Although there have been no terrorist incidents in Hong Kong, the Department of State reminds Americans everywhere that U.S. citizens and interests are at a heightened risk of attack by terrorists. These individuals and groups have proven that they do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. Because security awareness has been elevated within the United States, terrorists may target U.S. interests overseas. Private Americans should be aware of the potential risks when making travel plans and should remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and exercise caution. The State Department will continue to develop information about potential threats.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs' web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: Hong Kong SAR has a low crime rate. Even so, travelers should exercise caution when in congested areas and pay particular attention to personal belongings while in crowded markets and while traveling on public transportation. Violent crime, though rare, does occur.
There have been a few reports of robberies involving the drug rohypnol, commonly known as the "date rape drug." Most reports have involved bar staff and/or prostitutes from bars and clubs in the popular Wanchai and Tsim Sha Tsui districts. The drug is administered via food or drink to unwitting victims, who later awake to find all of their valuables missing. The drug causes the victim to lose consciousness, sometimes for over 24 hours, and often induces short-term amnesia. Travelers are advised to avoid leaving drinks or food unattended, and should not accept food or drink from strangers or new acquaintances.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. Hong Kong has a crime victim compensation program available to U.S. citizens who are legal residents or tourists in Hong Kong. For more detailed information on the program and its requirements, please see the Hong Kong Social Welfare Department web page at http://www.swd.gov.hk/en/index/sitepubsvc/pagesocsecu/subcriminalan/.
The local equivalent to the "911" emergency line in Hong Kong is 999.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Good medical facilities are available, and there are many Western-trained physicians in Hong Kong. Prescription drugs are widely available although may have different names than those in the U.S. Emergency services response time is good. Doctors and hospitals require immediate cash payment for health services and generally do not accept credit cards. The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Hong Kong.
The H5N1 virus ("avian flu") has been found in poultry and wild birds in Hong Kong. While rare, human infection and death from H5N1 infection have been reported. Most reported cases of human infection with H5N1 viruses have occurred after contact with H5N1-infected poultry or birds, but a small number of cases may have occurred following close and prolonged contact with another person who is visibly ill from H5N1 infection. Further information about Avian Flu is available from the Centers for Disease Control's Avian Flu Traveler Information web page at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentAvianFluInformation.aspx. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Hong Kong is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
About 90 percent of the population in Hong Kong depends on public transport. Taxis, buses, and the mass transit railway (MTR) are readily available, inexpensive, and generally safe. The MTR is an underground railway network and is the most popular mode of public transport, carrying an average of 2.3 million passengers a day.
In Hong Kong, traffic moves on the left. During the daytime, traffic congests Hong Kong's urban areas. Each year, more than 19,000 drivers, passengers, and pedestrians are injured or killed in traffic accidents in Hong Kong. Speed limits are 50 kilometers per hour in urban areas, 80 kilometers per hour on highways and 110 kilometers per hour on expressways unless otherwise marked. The use of seat belts in vehicles, if so equipped, is mandatory both in the front and back seats. The maximum penalty for dangerous driving causing death can be a fine of $50,000 HK ($6,500 US), imprisonment for five years and disqualification from driving for not less than two years on first conviction. At the scene of a traffic accident, drivers are required to undergo alcohol level testing. Any driver found exceeding the prescribed limit of blood alcohol level may face prosecution under Hong Kong law. The use of hand-held cellular phones while driving in Hong Kong is strictly prohibited. A breach of this law can lead to a maximum fine of $2,000 HK ($260 US). However, motorists can use "hands-free devices," such as headphones and speakerphones. Hong Kong law requires that all registered vehicles carry valid third-party liability insurance.
A Hong Kong driver's license may be issued without a test to individuals who hold a valid U.S. driver's license, provided they have resided in the United States for not less than six months. U.S. citizen visitors who do not plan to stay in Hong Kong for more than twelve months can drive in Hong Kong on their valid U.S. driver's license. Visit the website of the Hong Kong Transport Department at http://www.td.gov.hk/home/index.htm for further details.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Hong Kong's Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Hong Kong's air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programsinitiatives/oversight/iasa.
Customs Regulations: Hong Kong SAR customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning controlled items carried while transiting Hong Kong (temporary importation or exportation) such as firearms and ammunition, counterfeit goods or illegally produced copies of copyright items, ivory, narcotics, medications, television decoders requiring a subscription, animals and plants, meat and poultry, textiles, and sensitive high technology or military products. Travelers bringing such goods into Hong Kong without a license may be prosecuted and the goods may be seized. The penalty for trafficking in dangerous drugs can be life imprisonment and a heavy fine. Among the other items that travelers must declare to customs officials are liquors, tobacco, cigarettes and cigars, methyl alcohol, and merchandise imported for commercial purposes. There are no currency restrictions for travelers.
Travelers are liable to prosecution and possible detention if they bring into/out of Hong Kong any firearm or ammunition. Unless otherwise exempted by laws, possession of an "imitation firearm" is also an offense. "Arms" means any firearm, air rifle/air gun/air pistol from which any shot, bullet or missile can be discharged with a muzzle energy greater than two joules, electric stunning device, gun/pistol or other propelling/releasing instrument from or by which a projectile containing any gas or chemical could be discharged, weapon for the discharge of any noxious liquid/gas/powder, and harpoon or spear gun. Paintball guns are included in this category.
Travelers are also liable to prosecution if they bring into/out of Hong Kong any "weapon," which includes Chinese-style throwing dart, gravity knife, gravity-operated steel baton, knuckleduster, Chinese-style fighting iron, spring-loaded steel baton, any knife the blade of which is exposed by a spring or other mechanical/electric device, and any bladed/pointed weapon. Please note that the fact that such items may be openly for sale in mainland China does not necessarily mean that they may be brought into Hong Kong.
Please visit the website of the Hong Kong Department of Customs and Excise at http://www.customs.gov.hk/eng/contente.html for specific information regarding Hong Kong customs requirements.
Visitors to Hong Kong should be aware that the importation into the United States of counterfeit, brand-name items, such as watches, compact discs, computer software, and clothing, is prohibited by U.S. law.
U.S. Customs officials encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. For additional information, please or visit the U.S. Council for International Business web site for details at http://www.uscib.org/index.asp'documentID=718.
Dogs and cats may be brought into Hong Kong only with a special permit issued in advance. Dogs and cats imported from the United States may be exempted from quarantine when they have valid health and vaccination certificates and the pets have been in the United States for at least six months. Additional information on importing pets is available on the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department web site at http://www.afcd.gov.hk/english/quarantine/quaie/quaieipab/quaieipab.htm l
Dual Nationality: Under PRC nationality law, persons who are of Chinese descent and who were born in the mainland of China or Hong Kong are PRC citizens. However, under an agreement between the United States and the PRC, all U.S. citizens entering Hong Kong on their U.S. passports, including such persons as may be considered PRC nationals by the PRC authorities, are considered U.S. citizens by the Hong Kong SAR authorities for purposes of ensuring consular access and protection.
Dual nationals, who are or previously were Hong Kong residents, and who wish to ensure U.S. consular access and protection after the initial 90-day period of admission into Hong Kong, must declare their U.S. nationality by presenting their U.S. passports to the Hong Kong Immigration Department and completing an application for declaration of change of nationality. This declaration of change of nationality will ensure U.S. consular protection and may also result in loss of one's Chinese nationality (but not necessarily one's right of abode). Although such individuals' failure to declare U.S. nationality may jeopardize U.S. consular protection, such failure will not jeopardize their U.S. citizenship. Dual national residents of Hong Kong who enter Hong Kong on their Hong Kong identity cards rather than their U.S. passports and who desire to guarantee U.S. consular protection should declare their U.S. nationality to the Hong Kong Immigration Department as soon as possible after entry.
Dual nationals contemplating onward travel to PRC should be especially attentive to use of their U.S. passports, as the PRC authorities may require them to use the same document for entry into the PRC as they used to enter Hong Kong. The Nationality Law of the PRC does not recognize dual nationality. U.S. citizens, including such persons as may be considered Chinese nationals by the PRC authorities, who enter and depart the PRC using a U.S. passport and a valid PRC visa retain the right of U.S. consular access and protection under the U.S.-PRC Consular Convention. The ability of the U.S. Embassy or consulates general in the PRC to provide normal consular services would be extremely limited should a dual national enter the PRC on a non-U.S. passport. Therefore, travelers should carefully consider whether or not to use a passport or travel document other than their U.S. passport.
For further information on consular protection and dual nationality please refer to our information on dual nationality. Information on Hong Kong permanent residence may be obtained from the Hong Kong Immigration Department's right of abode web page at http://www.immd.gov.hk/ehtml/hksarvepid.htm.
Typhoons: During the storm season (July through September), the Hong Kong Observatory issues typhoon warnings on an average of six times a year and heavy rainstorm alerts more frequently. The Hong Kong Observatory has a good notification and monitoring system in place. Please consult the Hong Kong Observatory web site for further information at http://www.hko.gov.hk/contente.htm. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available at the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) web site at http://www.fema.gov/. Please be advised that if Typhoon Signal 8 or above or Black Rainstorm Warning is announced by the Hong Kong Government, the Consulate General will be closed.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Hong Kong laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Hong Kong are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information see our Office of Children's Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Hong Kong are encouraged to register with the U.S. Consulate through the State Department's travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Hong Kong. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Consulate is located at 26 Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong, 24-hour telephone number (852) 2523-9011. Direct lines to American Citizen Services are (852) 2841-2211, 2841-2323, 2841-2225, fax (852) 2845-4845, email: firstname.lastname@example.org The U.S. mailing address is PSC 461, Box 5, FPO, AP 96521-0006. Please check the U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong web site for current office hours at http://hongkong.usconsulate.gov/.
* * * This replaces the Specific Information for Hong Kong dated December 3, 2007 to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Special Circumstances and Registration.