Filipino maid takes fight for permanent residency to Hong Kong’s top court

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Hong Kong: foreign residents other than domestic workers can apply for permanent residency after seven years. Photograph: Jerome Favre/EPA

Evangeline Banao Vallejos wins right to appeal against ruling upholding denial of residency to foreign domestic workers

Associated Press in Hong Kong

A Filipino domestic worker has won permission to take her fight for permanent residency in Hong Kong to its top court, hoping for a landmark ruling that would let thousands of other foreign maids settle in the southern Chinese financial centre.

The lawyer Mark Daly said a three-member panel of high court judges had allowed his client, Evangeline Banao Vallejos, to appeal against their decision in March upholding Hong Kong’s denial of permanent residency for foreign domestic workers. Other foreign residents can apply to settle permanently after seven years.

The judges said the court of final appeal would have to decide whether immigration law was inconsistent with Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

“We’re quite happy,” said Daly. “The show goes on.”

Vallejos, who has worked as a maid in Hong Kong since 1986, launched the case after her bid for permanent residency was rejected.

Last year, in a ruling that surprised many, a lower court decided in her favour. But the high court judges overturned that decision.

Nearly 300,000 foreign maids, mainly from south-east Asian countries, work for Hong Kong families. By the end of 2010, 117,000 had been resident for seven years or more.

The case has split the city. Some argue that barring maids from settling permanently amounts to ethnic discrimination. Others fear letting them stay would result in a massive influx of their relatives, straining the city’s social services and resources.

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. Permanent residency is the closest thing it has to citizenship and allows those who have it to vote and work without a visa.

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