What has changed?
Under the previous UK adoption law, if you were on the "Designated List", your overseas adoption would be recognised and nationality granted automatically. Hong Kong appeared on the Designated List.
This adoption law was amended in early 2014 and replaced the "Designated List" with a "Schedule". Panic and confusion ensued because Hong Kong no longer appeared in this new Schedule. Things looked even more bleak when the British Consulate, at the same time, stripped back their consular assistance to British families in Hong Kong.
What made the situation strange was that China appeared both on the Designated List and on the new Schedule. Why remove Hong Kong and not China? Was this a simple act of cleaning up countries on the list since the 1997 handover, or something more sinister by the UK legislature?
What AFHK have done
Steering Committee member, Arya Hashemi and his family, acted as a test case for applications for Biritish citizenship of their adopted child in Hong Kong.
In July 2015, their daughter was granted British nationality and we believe they were the first successful nationality application under the new UK adoption law. However, despite repeated requests, the basis for which the application was approved was not given by the Home Office.
We continued dialogue with the UK Home Office, and we are very pleased to note that on 17 December 2015, the Home Office (after many enquiries) finally gave us the answer we were looking (hoping, and praying) for.
The Home Office stated that their "understanding is that Hong Kong is covered by the inclusion of China on the [Schedule]". This means that Hong Kong adoptions are currently automatically recognised by the UK.
This will come as a massive relief to British families - both those who have adopted and those who are planning to adopt.
Are British adoptive families out of the woods?
The short answer is "no". The fact is that Hong Kong has been omitted from the Schedule. The Home Office have not committed the inclusion of Hong Kong into a formal policy or law, and they could always revise their "understanding" at any time. However, given that the Home Office has accepted applications on this basis already, it would be a difficult proposition for them to amend this policy without formal consultation. Whilst we consider the risk to be low, families should realise that a risk does still remain.
Applying for British nationality for your child
One other point of contention is the lack of consular assistance in Hong Kong. The Home Office also confirmed that, pursuant to their new guidance issued 9 December 2015 (which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/application-to-register-child-under-18-as-british-citizen-form-mn1), applications for nationality for adopted children in Hong Kong are to be made directly to them in the UK.
The Home Office requires many originals in its consideration of nationality applications including the passports of the adoptive parents. Since the Home Office is likely to retain these originals for in excess of 6 months, this may not be feasible for Hong Kong expats because work visas need to be renewed and people may need to travel for work.
As a result, with some persuasion, the Nationality Checking Services (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nationality-checking-service-england/england-nationality-checking-services) may allow you to apply in person and take copies of all your documents.
The Hashemi family used the Newcastle upon Tyne branch for their application. It did mean a trip to the UK, but also it meant they could retain all their vital original documentation.
Disclaimer: This post is provided for information purposes only and readers should not make any reliance on the information therein. Adoptive families should consider the impact of their home countries' laws very carefully and seek legal assistance where appropriate.