This is a general guide for expats, the people who are neither Hong Kong residents nor Mainland China residents, are thinking of seeking jobs or starting businesses in Hong Kong, and thus they need to obtain suitable work permits / visas to stay and make money in the city.
We have seen that Hong Kong work visa is a popular subject of enquiry from expats we received, it is no surprise because Hong Kong demands talents from worldwide to support its economy. In fact, Hong Kong is a developed economy which inclines to services industry and has a consistently high level of employment. By present, Hong Kong has achieved almost full employment for a decade, various industries are facing difficulty in huamn resource since they cannot find the right talents.
Visit visa is not Work permit
Expats can gain automatically visa/entry permit for travel or visit in Hong Kong as visitors depending on their nationality or type of travel document, the others need to apply for and be granted Visit Visa before arrival at Hong Kong from your nearest Chinese diplomatic and consular mission (*).
Read more: Visa-free passport on visiting Hong Kong
As a visitors in Hong Kong, you are not allowed to work, study, establish or join in any business or to take up residence in the city. However, visitors can take part in business activities like business meeting, conference, forum, and sign of business contracts. Visit visa is capable for expats to stay in Hong Kong for business development, but not providing goods and services (i.e. paid or unpaid employment), joining business registration (e.g. Sole Proprietor), and studying in school as students.
Hong Kong demands specific talents
Hong Kong SAR government has immigration and labour measures to attract necessary manpower of specific professional skills and talents to boost various industries. If you see information of Hong Kong work visa on discussion boards as well as immigration agency websites, and see some terminology of type of visa, we highly recommand that we should strickly follow the terms used by the Immigration Department.
Immigration Department is the only authority
It is noteworthy to notice that the Department states only the generally favorable conditions and basic requirement of any visa applications, and the Department owns all rights to make final decision of it. Even the officers, nobody can guarantee 100% successful application and processing time.
Visa programs for talented expats
Base on our experience and understanding of the immigration policy, we suggest 2 types of admission program for expats to go through:
General Employment Policy (GEP) – Professionals or Entrepreneurs
GEP has no sector restriction and quota-free admission scheme for expats who possess special skills, knowledge or experience of value to and not readily available in the HKSAR may apply to come to work in Hong Kong.
GEP – Professionals
Professionals from overseas who are interested to work in Hong Kong may apply under the GEP as professionals
Key requirements include:
- Secured a job relevant to applicant’s academic qualifications or work experience that cannot be readily taken up by the local workforce
- Remuneration package is commensurate with the prevailing market rate
- Good education background, technical qualifications or proven professional experience
The Department has launched some enhancement measures, including:
- Relax pattern of duration of stay from “1+2+2+3” years to “2+3+3” years
- Relax eligible top-tier entrants’ pattern of duration of stay from “1+2+2+3” years to “2+6” years; on time limitation with no other conditions of stay upon extension
Read more: General Employment Policy (GEP) for professionals – Immigration Department
GEP – Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs from overseas who plan to establish or join a business in Hong Kong may apply under the GEP as entrepreneurs. Key requirements include:
- Good education background, technical qualifications, or proven professional experience
- In a position to make a substantial contribution to the economy of the HKSAR
The government has introduced some criteria for consideration. The factors that must be assessed in every application of GEP – entrepreneurs are as follows:
- Business plan
- Business turnover
- Financial resources
- Investment sum
- Number of jobs created locally
- Introduction of new technology or skills
For start-up entrepreneurs who plan to establish or join in a start-up business supported by an eligible government-backed programme, the application will be favourably considered. You can obtain details of government supporting incentive and incubation programes from StartmeupHK, an initiatie by InvestHK:
- Incubators and accelerators in Hong Kong
- Business angels and Venture Capitalists
- Government funding
Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS)
For highly skilled or expats, they they apply to settle and work in Hong Kong under QMAS even they have not yet secured a job who have not yet secured a job offer in Hong Kong. QMAS has no sector and industry restriction. The programme has two points-based tests as follows:
- General Points Test (GPT) for highly skilled or talented persons
Assessment factors: age, academic/professional qualifications, work experience, language proficiency, family background
- Achievement-based Points Test (APT) for talent with outstanding achievements (e.g. recipients of Olympic medal, Nobel prize, national/international awards)
Again, Hong Kong government has put some measures to facilitate the applications and its attractiveness to applicants:
- Relax pattern of duration of stay from “1+2+2+3” years to “2+3+3” years for GPT entrants
- Relax eligible top-tier GPT entrants’ pattern of duration of stay to “2+6” years
- APT entrants may be granted 8 years of stay upon entry
- Bonus points for outstanding academic background and international work experience under GPT
Before applying – entry permit of your dependants
Under the GEP and QMAS, admitted applicants are allowed to bring their spouse and unmarried dependent children under the age of 18 to Hong Kong, reasonably the applicants are the sponsor of their accompanying dependants. The length of stay of such dependants will normally be linked to that of their sponsors. These dependants are not prohibited from taking up employment or studies in the HKSAR under the existing policy.
Difficulties for expats to work in Hong Kong
How to secure an employment in Hong Kong?
For expats who want to work in Hong Kong via GEP – professionals, a job in Hong Kong must be secure by the Hong Kong employers before visa applications. In most case, when a Hong Kong company has a job vacancy requiring knowledge and experience which are not found among local population, it usually seeks support from employment agency and personal network of its key persons. When a company is posing recruitment notice in local job marketplace, the applications are expected to be usually staying in Hong Kong and good command of English and even Chinese.
The government need people to know that Hong Kong is not a job marketplace for random job seeker around the world.
How to establish a visa-favorable business in Hong Kong?
For GEP- entrepreneur programme, expats face the difficulty as GEP- professionals which in turn requires applicants running the similar business in other place before they plan to start it up in Hong Kong. The Department considers all the basic business-wise factors before you can get the visa such as source of fund and size of business.
The government hopes expats can contribute to Hong Kong economy, the business to be established must be backed by the existing business in its originate region and it grows in a reasonable size. For startup company with technology background, they should first go for the government-backed incubation programmes, otherwise they are unlikely to make the visa done.
Solid proof of knowledge and experience
For QMAS, the applicants have been already well-known in the industry because they have won awards in honorable institutions, and they have strong connection to Hong Kong. It is a programme to attract very special talents to stay in Hong Kong, hopefully they will settle here for 7 year to become a permanent resident.
AsiaBC is a consultancy firm in Hong Kong to serve worldwide professionals, entrepreneur, and talents. Feel free to contact for comment or enquiry.