Issuing Stop Immigration Orders in China and Hong Kong

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Getting tough with China debt recovery and civil litigation issues

Sept. 30 – One of the lesser known, but highly effective and valuable tools that can be deployed when faced with dealing with bad debt or related civil issues against errant individuals in China is the issuance of stop orders.

These require a petition to a judge (a locally qualified lawyer is best to handle this) who can then, on determining evidence set before them, issue an order to customs and immigration to prevent the named individual from leaving the country. This can be a useful tactic when having to deal with people who are considered a flight risk, and who can be demonstrated to have left behind debts, have serious litigation civil cases to answer, or may be attempting to leave with a minor unauthorized by their legal guardian or spouse to do so. From the order being issued to the Immigration Department being alerted is typically only a matter of three to four hours.

In accordance with the Law on Foreign Entry and Exit from China’s territory, foreign individuals may be prevented from leaving China under the following circumstances:

  1. They are suspects in a criminal case;
  2. They are involved in civil cases that have yet to be determined;
  3. They have committed violations of Chinese laws and regulations.

The most common situation used for stop immigration orders involves bad debt, where there is a likelihood that the suspect may attempt to flee. Other situations can include when a suspect is required to attend court as a defendant in a civil case, although this is typically much harder to prove. Hong Kong also maintains similar stop immigration orders, which may be applied for in civil court, providing the evidence is compelling enough.

Interestingly, stop immigration orders can be issued against individuals prior to them actually entering either China or Hong Kong. This means that they can arrive in either, but may then be prevented from departing until the outstanding matter is cleared up to the courts satisfaction, or a case is made to discharge the order.

Stop immigration orders are typically valid for 30 days, so advance preparation for the targets arrival is usually recommended. However, they may also be extended indefinitely, a month at a time, for a small fee. The other advantage of issuing stop orders is to inconvenience the target individual’s international movements, which if they are aware of the stop order, will prohibit their arrival in China or Hong Kong until such time they are prepared to face up to the matter in hand. In large, high profile cases, this can go on for months or years, leaving the individual no choice other than not to return.

Stop immigration orders are, needless to say, an aggressive tactic. However, if it can be shown that all other reasonable measures have been taken to resolve the dispute without satisfaction, they can be extremely effective methods to obtain debt recovery.

Dezan Shira & Associates can assist with the obtaining of stop immigration orders in China and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm at for details.