Why to apply for Hong Kong PAR well in advance

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Hong Kong Pre arrival registration denied

Why to apply for Hong Kong PAR well in advance

Note: This post is relevant only to Indian tourists travelling to HK.

All Indian tourists travelling to HK require a pre-arrival registration (PAR). This is not equivalent to visa but is mandatory for a visa free entry to Hong Kong. One can apply for PAR maximum 6 months before the travel date and at least a day before your travel.

Questions that I have tried answering in this post are:

Eligibility, procedure and cost for Hong Kong PAR:

  • Tourists holding Indian passport.
  • Tourists with trip planned for up to 14 days.
  • Should have return/onward ticket from HK.
  • Passport valid for at least 6 months from the date of return from HK.

All other Indian citizens travelling to Hong Kong need to apply for a paid stamped visa. Pre-Arrival registration can be done directly on Hong Kong government immigration site and can be done free of cost.

How much times does it take to get PAR approved?

PAR gets approved (or denied) instantly.

What happens if PAR is rejected?

PAR can be denied with a message that says “Pre-arrival Registration is unsuccessful. [If you wish to visit or transit the HKSAR (except in direct transit by air and not leaving the airport transit area), you must apply for a visa from the Immigration department direct.]

As the message says, in case of rejection one needs to apply for visa directly with the HK immigration.

How to apply for a Hong Kong visa? How much time does it take?

Unfortunately, Hong Kong does not have an embassy in India. All Indian citizens who need HK visa need to send their documents to HK immigration. It is easier if you have a family or friend in HK who can apply for you. However,the process still remains the same. In case you have time to apply for visa and would like to know the process, you can read this blog.

It takes 4-6 weeks to get HK visa. This is assuming 4 weeks for visa approval & 1-2 weeks for sending and receiving documents by airmail.

Why did my HK PAR get rejected?

The immigration authorities never give any reason for rejecting PAR or visa. Even if you contact the immigration department with the reference number and all your documents, they will reply back asking you to apply for a visa.

It is however mentioned in number of travel forums that it is not very uncommon for PAR to get rejected. It seems for Indian citizens whose passports have been issued in Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chandigarh and are in the age group of 18-50; HK immigration website rejects PAR blindly. This is mostly because tourists from these places have often been found over-staying or have been involved in illegal immigration. There could be other cities in the list too; so it is better to be safe than sorry.

This sounds bizarre – I know it does, and we learnt it the hard way. We were supposed to travel to Hong Kong on 12th Dec and applied for PAR on 5th November. The PAR application asks for passport details, last 5 countries that we have visited, details of friends/family in Hong Kong and our travel details. We have travelled to many countries; including Hong Kong 7 yrs back and never expected to get our PAR rejected. But there it was; and we did not have enough time to safely apply for visa. We needed to decide on a Plan B, rather than cross our fingers and wait for the visa to arrive on time.

Can I change some details in the PAR form and apply again?

You can apply for PAR as many times as you want. However, giving wrong information can lead to you being denied boarding/entry into Hong Kong. As all visa documents state, if any of the details are different from your passport; immigration authorities have all the right to deny entry. It does not help to misspell or change the place of issue of passport to get a PAR because it is illegal.

The only work-around that I know someone used was to get passport re-issued in a different city. This can be done if you are currently staying in a different city and have address proof for the same. It takes 2-3 days (max 1 week) to get passport re-issued in India these days and this can help you get PAR approved. However, fill up a dummy PAR form with that city to make sure passports issued in that city are also not getting rejected.

What can be done if PAR is denied?

There are few options if your PAR is unsuccessful:

First and foremost, make sure that you have filled all the details exactly as they are on your passport and try again. If your PAR still results in an unsuccessful registration, right away accept the fact that there is nothing that can be done to get a successful PAR done. It’ll be an unnecessary waste of your time trying to escalate your concern to the HK Immigration Dept through call / fax / email. You have to get down to business and evaluate what your most practical options are.

  • Is your departure to HK more than 8 weeks away?

If yes, you should right away get all your documents in order, fill the regular visa application form and submit your application to the HK immigration dept by fax. You should then send all the documents through courier. If you have a local contact in HK who can collect your visa stickers for you, there is no need to include a demand draft for your visa fees. Your local contact can pay the visa fees in cash, collect your stickers and courier them back to you. If you don’t have any local contact, you also need to include a demand draft for your visa fees. Please go through this link for more details on how you can apply for the HK tourist visa seamlessly.

  • Is your departure to Hong Kong between 6~8 weeks away?

You can still try to get your visa stickers in the same manner as above but you need to be extremely efficient in getting the application done and put in an additional request to process your application on a faster basis since you are scheduled to arrive into HK soon. In this case, having a local contact who can submit your application and also collect your visa stickers to send them to you by the fastest courier will make a difference. You’ll be cutting it fine as the normal process takes 4~5 weeks with everything going positive for you but may be you can take a calculated risk and hope that you’ll have your visa stickers before you are ready to fly to HK.

  • Is your departure less than 6 weeks away?

In this case, my recommendation is to start working on a plan B. Here’s what you can try to do:

Check with your airline to see if you can postpone your trip by a few weeks to buy yourself adequate time to get your visas. This might incur some cost as the airline may charge you a change fee + fare difference for your new dates of travel, depending on the fare class of your bookings.

You should even consider the possibility of altering the destination on your ticket. For example – in my own case, I got stuck with a situation where plan B was imperative for us. I had my tickets from HYD to HK via SIN on Singapore Airlines. When I contacted Singapore Airlines to alter my bookings, my options came out to be as follows:

  • Reschedule dates and incur change fee + service charges by Singapore Airlines (no fare difference for some dates in the future)
  • Terminate my trip at SIN itself instead of flying all the way to HK (turns out, this would have costed me a little more than just postponing my trip to HK!)
  • Change my destination from HK to KUL / DPS / REP / BKK / other cities in South-east (same dates and/or different dates – was costing me almost as much as making new bookings to these destinations – so this didn’t make much sense actually)

If you are able to get your flight booking rescheduled, work on the hotel reservations, if any, that you made. If your hotel bookings are refundable, you might want to cancel your reservation (or sit tight until such date that you can cancel without penalty) and figure this out later again once you have the visa approved.

If your bookings are non-refundable and/or it is proving too expensive to reschedule; you might want to salvage the trip costs already incurred by traveling to an alternate destination through HK (which is what we finally did and travelled to Cambodia) and your approach should taken into account several aspects before you decide on this:

  • Can your airline add a new sector to your existing booking on their own network or on a codeshare partner airline or an airline with which they have an interline agreement? Check this first with your airline and it is quite possible that adding a new leg on your current PNR may come out to be cheaper than modifying the existing reservation. Assuming that they can add new legs in the same reservation and give you a quote, you might even check the best fare for these new sectors directly and make a completely new reservation.
  • If you do a new reservation (and hence have 2 PNR tickets with you now) – you’ll have to do some working with your airline to make them understand and note in their system that you are traveling onward to another final destination from HK but have a different ticket for the same. Make sure that you have the required visa for the new destination to choose or the destination doesn’t need you to have a visa prior to arrival. This could be tricky because airline desks and immigration in India check for PAR for all tourists going to Hong Kong. You need to prove that there is no reason for you to leave the Hong Kong airport and you are only transiting via HK. We could do it because we had no check-in bags and were carrying boarding pass for our next flight. While boarding the flight from Siem Reap (Cambodia); Hong Kong express looked for every possible reason to deny us boarding passes. We showed us our boarding pass from HK to Singapore and even showed all boarding passes from India to Siem Reap (HYD-SG on Singapore Airlines, SG-HK on Singapore Airlines and HK-Siem Reap on Hong Kong Express). Despite that,they made us sign indemnity forms that they were not responsible if we are denied entry to Hong Kong.

Make Macau your alternate destination. This seems to be the most recommended fall back for travelers caught in this situation. There are some general pros and cons though.

  • The HKIA – Macau ferry transfer via skypier is the most convenient way for you to transit out of HK airport without having to cross immigration. The ferry services staff will be happy to collect your bags from the baggage carousel and load them on to your ferry. For this to be possible, you must be arriving into HK during the hours that the ferry staff is around at the Macau ferry counters and there is a ferry departure to Macau within a few hours of your arrival. So if your flight arrives into HK after the last Macau ferry has departed for the day, you will not be able to get your bags retrieved. As of now, the HK Skypier to Macau ferries are departing only at 11:00 (Turbojet), 16:15 (Cotaijet) and 18:00 (Turbojet). Both ferry operators have a clause that you must be arriving on a flight on the “same date” to be able to get onto the ferry to Macau. So technically, if your flight lands after 18:00 you can’t wait it out in the arrivals area the whole night to catch the next morning 11:00 ferry as per this clause! Just for your info, in our case – our flight was arriving into HKIA at 23:40 hrs and yet both the ferry operators were unwilling to commit to us that we are good to book the next day ferry tickets since the date on the ferry ticket is not the “same date” of our flight arrival into HK!! However, we’ve seen quite a few people lounging / sleeping in front of the ferry counters when we arrived into HK that night, so not sure if there are passengers who actually wait it out in the arrival area till next morning when they can catch the Macau ferry from Skypier. After all the searching around and talking to Cotai jet & Turbo jet customer care staff, we decided that it would be a risky option for us to rely on the next morning ferry to Macau, especially with a kid in tow.
  • The other factor to weigh is that most tourists visiting HK would have invariably planned for a day or two in Macau anyway! Even with the most leisurely kill of your time, you can do about 3 nights in Macau. It is as expensive as HK, if not more. If your original trip was planned for a week or more, what would you do for so many nights in Macau alone? Is it worth all the cost of your trip? You need to make an informed choice based on all the factors.

Have you been in a situation where your PAR was rejected by Hong Kong? How did you manage the trip? Do post your comments. If you think the post can help someone, do share it.

 

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