A lesbian expatriate on Monday won a landmark appeal against the Hong Kong Immigration Department’s refusal to grant her a spousal visa, in a ruling that could pave the way for other gay partners to join their loved ones in the city.

The Court of Appeal’s decision means that the woman, known as QT, who initiated the judicial review after failing to secure a dependant visa through her same-sex partner, will now be able to get the same immigration documents previously only granted to heterosexual couples.

In their 68-page judgment, reached unanimously, three appeal court judges said the department had failed to demonstrate the visa scheme had been put in place rationally.

“The director has therefore failed to justify the indirect discrimination on account of sexual orientation that QT suffers,” Justice of Appeal Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor wrote. Chief Judge of the High Court Andrew Cheung Kui-nung and the vice-president of the appeal court, Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon, agreed.

QT moved to Hong Kong in late 2011 with her same-sex partner, known as SS, who works in the city.

She applied for judicial review after the Immigration Department rejected her application for a dependent visa, saying it did not recognise same-sex marriage.

The judges asked both QT and the department to work out an arrangement in accordance with the judgment and submit a proposal within 28 days.