Foreigners working in Hong Kong

Holder of Visit VISA to land in must not engage in work and employment in Hong Kong, receiving work or employment related training are also not allowed. You have to apply and obtain an Employment VISA prior to arriving at Hong Kong.

The application of Employment VISA is more complicated than Visit VISA since Hong Kong government has to ensure that every successful applicant can contribute to Hong Kong society by adding value. Therefore, applicant should expect a tighter assessment test and thus requirement of supporting proof from third parties to Hong Kong government.

Employment VISA

How to get approval?

The successful applicant must be able to fulfill the circumstances as follows:

  • no security objection and no known record of serious crime in both home country and Hong Kong.
  • solid educational background, technical qualification or proven professional abilities related to the field of Hong Kong employment.
  • proven employer in Hong Kong offering job vacancy
  • the vacant job unable to be taken up readily by local work force
  • confirmation of Hong Kong employment with employment contract package showing wages, accommodation, and benefits which commensurate with local labour market for the same abilities and experience

Assessment Test

Every applicant must pass this test during application, the officer examine the application on the aspect as follows:

  • the applicant should possess skills qualification, knowledge and experience value to Hong Kong society, and not readily available in local labour market.
  • the applicant’s employer should provide solid supporting that his business is justified employing non-local labour.

Therefore, local employer is crucial in passing the test. Let the employer be prepared is as important as that on the applicant.

Strategy to various employment scenario

Applicant should prepare for the strong argument before the application, various employment scenario needs different preparation. Here are the 3 scenario that is commonly seen in Hong Kong.

  1. Intra-company  transferee:
    When applicant’s overseas employer has offer him a role in a subsidiary company in Hong Kong (e.g. company incorporated in Hong Kong or Representative Office owned by the oversea company), the applicant and his employer can only focus on the eligibility requirement statued above. It is believed the simplest and fastest approval process.
  2. Local-recruited foreigner:
    Applicant’s has been offered new employment in Hong Kong by a different employer in Hong Kong in similar industries and job natures. If the applicant has been granted employment VISA to land in Hong Kong previously and a resident of Hong Kong for not less than 4 years, the applicant and his employer can only focus on the eligibility requirement statued above, the approval process seems to be quick and simple.
    However, if the applicant just landed in Hong Kong other than Student VISA and hopes to take up an offer of employment locally, he and his new employer should prepare deeper argument for the application.
  3. Overseas specialist recruited outside Hong Kong:
    Extra attention must be paid to this situation. Since the officer must examine the employer’s background such as year of establishment, organization size, scope and nature of hong Kong operation, thus the need of requiring the skills and knowledge from oversea recruitment rather than local labour market.
    The approval process may not be quick and the least administrative.

Applicant’s Argument

Although the applicant does not know how is the methods and calculation of the Department’s assessment, and we believe that the assessment is dynamic based on the latest market environment (e.g. labour market, nature of specific business), the applicant should focus on his specialty which bring value to Hong Kong and not readily available locally. Here is the general guideline to write an good argument for the application:

  1. “My personal quality is unique.”
    The applicant should possess very special skills, knowledge, and experience when comparing to local workforce. It is advised that supporting by 3rd parties can be provided (e.g. professional reference letter from previous employers)
  2. “My Hong Kong employment is valuable to Hong Kong.”
    Your new employment in Hong Kong brings benefits to Hong Kong. Benefits to various aspects of Hong Kong such as economy, society, and education is favorable. Actual benefits should vary according to the nature of work.
  3. “Required specialties is not immediately available here.”
    In the case that the applicant’s Hong Kong employment job seems like not special enough to recruit an oversea employer to take up, the final approach relays on the employer to show that the right candidate cannot be found locally at this moment, the fact that the employer may find a local candidate in someday but the employer just cannot find the right one to fit. The employer may have posted job advertisements and run recruitment but the candidates cannot fulfill the job requirement immediately.

To conclude, the employer’s supporting is the most important part.

Application Submission

Alike the application of Visit VISA, sponsorship (i.e. applicant’s employer in Employment VISA) is available. If the applicant is presently staying in Hong Kong by holding of visitor VISA, they can apply for the change of VISA to Employment VISA.

Processing lead time is usually 6-8 weeks. Most likely, further supporting and conversion to address the questions of the officers should be expected.

Extension of Employment VISA

The extension can be applied within 4 weeks before the approval limit of stay.

Since the objective of this VISA is for working in Hong Kong, the applicant should prepare for the income and related proof of his job activities, the latest Inland Revenue Department tax return of salaries tax (i.e. personal income tax), and profits tax when the applicant is the sole-director and shareholder of the an Hong Kong company.

Again, the support of the employer plays a crucial part in the application of extension.

Training VISA (Employment-related)

Holders of Visit VISA to land in Hong Kong are not allowed to take part in occupational training to acquire special skills and knowledge not available in the applicant’s country/territory.

Moreover, the allowed period of stay by Visit VISA is usually short and may not be adequate for learning of skills for occupation.

If the applicant’s need to land in Hong Kong for this need, then Training VISA is the correct choice. An successful applicant can enter Hong Kong for normally not more than 12 months to attend that kind of training.

Who can apply for?

  • Applicant should be no security objection and record of serious crime
  • The sponsoring organization must be present and this body must be well-established with genuine background in the related industry (solid experience in offering such training is preferable.)
  • Applicant and his sponsoring organization should have formally signed contract as confirmation of this training.
  • The sponsoring organization offers training schedule for the applicant which list the exact training activities and write down their objective, duration, and location.
  • The applicant’s bona fides should be no doubt.

Assessment Test

The officers justify the application according to the aspects as follows:

  • the bona fides of sponsoring organization should be no doubt
  • the availability of acquiring specific skills and knowledge in applicant’s country is less than that in Hong Kong.
  • the training schedule and its scope should be reasonable.

Application Submission

The submission method as well as the consideration process are almost the same as Employment VISA submission.

Arrangement for Non-local Graduates

If you are an “non-local student”, the non-Hong Kong permanent resident obtained Student VISA and are studying in Hong Kong qualified educational institution, and hope to stay at Hong Kong for employment after graduation in Hong Kong (i.e. you are stay in Hong Kong as an “non-local graduate” at that moment), there is a kind of VISA for staying in Hong Kong for employment.

Who are apply for?

There are 2 type of non-local graduate based on the period between VISA application submission and the date of applicant’s graduation, eligibility varies:

  • Non-local fresh graduate:
    is the non-local graduates who submit applications to within six months after the date of their graduation. On submission, they can lack offer of employment.
  • Returning non-local graduate:
    is the non-local graduates who submit applications to within six months after the date of their graduation, regardless of when they obtained the requisite qualification (i.e. they may have left Hong Kong after their graduation and re-entry Hong Kong for employment). On submission, they should have confirmed employment by local employer and get paid at the market level for their jobs which are usually taken up by local degree holders.

A non-local graduate is able to apply for re-enter Hong Kong by “non-local graduate VISA” unlimited time after stay and leave Hong Kong as  “returning non-local graduate”.

The classification, eligibility and conditition of person allowed to stay and work in Hong Kong are stated under Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates (IANG).

Condition of Stay

Persons allowed to stay and work under the IANG are free to take up and change employment during their allowed period of stay without prior approval from the department.

Alike Employment VISA, the person are free to leave and return to Hong Kong  within the validity period (provided that their condition to obtain the VISA remain unchanged.)

Assessment of Application

For each application, the officers accesses the eligibility requirement that a job is at a level commonly taken up by degree holders, the assessment is done on its own merit regarding to the skills and knowledges needed for the job, complexity of the duties, and reference from the current labour market and qualification requirement in the industries.

For returning graduate, the applicant’s employing company should support the application by providing their financial background such as Profit Tax return, and sometimes its business plan. It should help to address officers’ inquiry if needed.

Usually, the successful applicants will be granted 12-month of stay, regardless of the term of employment.

Unlike Employment VISA which officers focus on justification of the applicant’s ability is special and unique to local workforce, the aim of IANG is to encourage non-local graduate to stay and contribute to Hong Kong society after acquiring higher education qualifications and exposure to Hong Kong society. As a result, non-local fresh graduate should usually pass the approval administratively; returning non-local graduate should also able get the VISA provided that their employment does not undermine the employment opportunities of the local graduate.

Application submission

The same as employment VISA. Government processing lead time is around 4-6 weeks.

For non-local flash graduate, your ex-education institution are always welcome to help.

Extension of VISA

As the non-local graduate are free to change job during the validity period of their stay, it is not required to submit the application of extension with information of your original employer.

The extension period will be granted to successful applicants for 2-years as 1st and 2nd extension.


Related Fact: Employment VISAs for British citizens

During the colonial era (until June 30th, 1997), British citizens from the United Kingdom were permitted to enter Hong Kong with few restrictions. They were also entitled to work without employment VISAs. In line with the transfer of sovereignty, these privileges were abolished in 1997. British citizens are now required to seek permission to take up employment in Hong Kong unless, through long-term residence, they have acquired a legal right of residence (i.e. Hong Kong permanent resident).

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