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LGBT expatriate rights on the rise: 7 APAC destinations examined

For various reasons (moral, cultural and political), when compared to other regions in the world, Asia has been less tolerant of LGBT(Q&I) rights movements than North America, Europe and Latin America, but more tolerant than the Middle East and Africa. According to this article by Newland Chase, of the 25 countries in the world that currently recognize same-sex marriage, none are in Asia and New Zealand is the only country in the greater APAC region. Because of this non-recognition of same-sex marriages and partner rights, many gay couples have been prevented or deterred from living and working within many locations across the region. Without access to dependent visas for their partners, such employees and their companies have in the past often been forced into complicated “work-around” solutions by getting the accompanying partner employment and an independent visa; but even those work-arounds are not always possible when the partner’s skill set does not match an available position.

However, more recently, there seems to be greater discussion across the region regarding possibly changing these policies. "A recent landmark Hong Kong court ruling granting visas to spouses of gay expatriate workers has helped fuel LGBT groups pressuring countries like Singapore and Japan to change their policies as the global financial hubs vie for business and talent." The changes being considered would benefit those that identify as LGBT(Q&I) and the companies that desire to bring them in for talent needs within their organizations. Seven APAC countries are re-opening the discussion and re-evaluating their restrictions as the reconsider what businesses need. Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines are all reconsidering. Many are pointing at this as a sign of things to come for the region.

Last week’s announcement by Hong Kong’s highest court affirming the 2017 lower court decision granting immigration rights to a UK foreign national to accompany her wife on a dependent visa was welcome news to foreign nationals with same-sex partners looking to live and work in Hong Kong. While most western nations have made great strides in recent years toward legal recognition of same-sex marriages and civil partnerships, and companies have made concerted efforts towards greater diversity and inclusion, the Asia-Pacific region lags significantly behind the rest of the world in recognizing same-sex partnerships both for citizens and for foreign nationals residing in the region. Of the 25 countries that currently recognize same-sex marriage, none are in Asia and only New Zealand in the greater APAC region.