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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Hong Kong

Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region of China) - Consular Information Sheet
November 30, 2000

DESCRIPTION: Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China since July 1, 1997, continues to enjoy 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.

ENTRY AND EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Passports and evidence of onward/return transportation by sea/air are required. A visa is not required for tourist visits by U.S. citizens of up to 90 days. An extension of stay may be granted upon application to the Hong Kong SAR Immigration Department. U.S. citizens must have passports with at least four months’ validity for entry into Hong Kong. A departure tax of 50 Hong Kong dollars (approximately $6.50 U.S. dollars), unless included in the airfare, must be paid at the airport. Visas are required to work or study. Public transportation from Hong Kong’s International Airport at Chek Lap Kok to Central Hong Kong (about 25 miles) is readily available, as are taxis. Travelers should exchange sufficient money for transportation at the airport exchange facility located immediately outside the baggage claim area. For the most current information concerning entry and exit requirements, travelers can consult the Hong Kong SAR Immigration Department, Immigration Tower, 7 Gloucester Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong, tel. (852) 2829-3001, fax (852) 2824-1133, Internet home page: http://www.info.gov.hk/immd/), or the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, 2300 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington D.C. 20008, tel. (202) 328-2500 or the Chinese consulates general in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, and Houston. Overseas inquires may be made at the nearest Chinese embassy or consulate.

CONSULAR PROTECTION IN HONG KONG SAR AND DUAL NATIONALITY: Under Chinese nationality law, persons who are of Chinese descent and who were born in the mainland of China or Hong Kong are Chinese citizens. However, under an agreement between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, all U.S. citizens entering Hong Kong on their U.S. passports, including such persons who may be considered Chinese nationals by the Chinese authorities, are considered U.S. citizens by the Hong Kong SAR authorities for purposes of ensuring consular access and protection.

However, dual nationals, who are or previously were Hong Kong residents, 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 and completing an application for declaration of change of nationality with the Hong Kong Immigration Department. This declaration of change of nationality will ensure U.S. consular protection and will also result in loss of one’s Chinese nationality (but not necessarily one’s right of abode). Whereas their failure to declare U.S. nationality may jeopardize U.S. consular protection, such failure will not jeopardize the U.S. citizenship itself. 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 after entry as possible.

Dual nationals contemplating onward travel into mainland China should be especially attentive to use of their U.S. passports, because the mainland authorities may require them to use the same document for entry into China that they used to enter Hong Kong. China does not recognize dual nationality. Dual nationals who enter and depart China 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 Consulate General to provide normal consular services would be extremely limited should a dual national enter China on a Chinese or other non-U.S. passport.

Further information on consular protection and dual nationality is available on the Department of State Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov. Information can also be obtained from the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the Department of State at 2201 C Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20520, or call tel. (202) 647-6769 or (202) 647-5226, or the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong SAR at tel. (852) 2841-2211. Information on the right of abode in Hong Kong may be obtained from the Hong Kong Immigration Department at tel. (852) 2824-4055, fax (852) 2598-8388, or via the Internet: http://www.info.gov.hk/immd/, or via e-mail: roa@immd.gcn.gov.hk.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Good medical facilities are available, and there are many Western-trained physicians. Doctors and hospitals generally do not accept credit cards and require immediate cash payment for health services. U.S. medical insurance is generally not valid outside the United States. The Medicare/Medicaid program does not provide payment for medical services outside the United States.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. The U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties. Please check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, and whether it provides for medical evacuation. Please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor, or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death. Senior citizens may wish to contact the American Association of Retired Persons for information about foreign medical care coverage with Medicare supplement plans. A traveler going abroad with any preexisting medical problems should carry a letter from the attending physician, describing the medical condition and any prescription medications. Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available on the Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/medical.html and via our autofax service at (202) 647-3000.

For additional health information, travelers may call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s international travelers’ hotline at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747), use the CDC autofax service at 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or access the CDC home page on the Internet at http://www.cdc.gov/.

CRIME: Hong Kong SAR has a low crime rate. Petty crime such as pick-pocketing is common, however, and occurs mainly at the airport and tourist shopping areas. Bags and other personal items left unattended at the airport or in crowded restaurants are likely to be taken. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the U.S. Consulate General. Useful information on guarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad is provided in the Department of State pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, which is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

CRIMINAL AND DRUG PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens are subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and do 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 the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, and trafficking in illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences and fines.

U.S. CUSTOMS RESTRICTIONS: 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. 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. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information, please call (212) 354-4480, or send an e-mail to atacarnet@uscib.org or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.

HONG KONG CUSTOMS AND CURRENCY REGULATIONS: Hong Kong SAR customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Hong Kong of controlled items such as narcotics, medications, firearms and munitions, ivory, animals and plants, meat and poultry, textiles, and sensitive high-technology or military products. Travelers are liable to prosecution and possible seizure of goods, if they bring in these items without a license. The penalty for trafficking in dangerous drugs can be life imprisonment and a heavy fine. Other items which 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. For specific information regarding Hong Kong’s customs regulations and licensing requirements, please see the web site of the Hong Kong Department of Customs and Excise: http://www.info.gov.hk/customs/.

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.

Traffic moves on the left in Hong Kong, where it is congested in urban areas during the daytime. Each year, some 14,000 drivers, passengers, and pedestrians are injured or killed in traffic accidents in Hong Kong. Speed limits are 50 kilometers per hour in urban areas and 80 kilometers per hour on highways unless otherwise marked. The use of seat belts in vehicles, if fitted, is mandatory both in the front and back seats. The maximum penalty for dangerous driving causing death can be a fine of 50,000 Hong Kong dollars (USD 6,500) and 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 go through a simple test for possible influence of alcohol. 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 Hong Kong dollars (U.S. dollars 260). However, motorists can still use "hand-free devices" such as headphones and speakerphones. Hong Kong law requires that all registered vehicles carry valid third-party liability insurance. The emergency number for local emergency assistance is 999 (equivalent to 911).

About 90 percent of the population in Hong Kong depends on public transport. Taxis, busses, and the mass transit railway (MTR) are readily available, inexpensive, and safe. The MRT is an underground railway network and is the most popular mode of public transport, carrying over an average of 2.2 million passengers a week.

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 U.S. for not less than six months. American visitors who do not plan to stay in Hong Kong for more than twelve months can drive in Hong Kong on the strength of their valid U.S. driver’s license. They need not obtain an international driving permit (IDP). IDPs are a legal identification document that translate driving license information into eleven languages including English, and should only be used as a supplement to a valid driving license.


Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Availability of Roadside/Ambulance Assistance: Good

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Hong Kong driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, please visit the Hong Kong Transport Department web site at http://www.info.gov.hk/td/, or contact the Transport Department at tel. (852) 2829-5248, fax (852) 2824-0433, e-mail: tdenq@td.gcn.gov.hk, or the Hong Kong Tourist Association Office in New York by e-mail at hktanyc@hkta.org, or via the Internet at http://www.hkta.org/usa/.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Civil Aviation Authority of Hong Kong SAR as Category 1 - in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Hong Kong’s air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at tel. 1-618-229-4801.

QUARANTINE FOR PETS: Dogs and cats may be brought into Hong Kong only with a special permit issued in advance by the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department. Dogs and cats imported from the United States may be exempted from quarantine when there are valid health (vaccination) certificates and when the pets have been in the U.S. for at least six months. Information on quarantine for pets can be obtained from the Livestock Import Control Office of the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department at tel. (852) 2150-7070, fax (852) 2375-3563, e-mail: icpafd@netvigator.com, or via the Internet at http://www.info.gov.hk/afcd/.

CHILDREN’S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children, international parental child abduction, and international child support enforcement issues, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html, or telephone the Office of Children’s Issues at (202) 736-7000, fax: (202) 663-2674.

REGISTRATION INFORMATION/LOCATION OF THE AMERICAN CONSULATE GENERAL: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the U.S. Consulate General and obtain updated information on travel and security conditions within the Hong Kong SAR. The U.S. Consulate General is located at 26 Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong. The mailing address is PSC 464, Box 30, FPO AP 96522-0002; tel. (852) 2523-9011, fax (852) 2845-4845; Internet: http://www.usconsulate.org.hk/.

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