An Overview of Hong Kong's Immigration Policies

There is a reason why expats call it “Home” Kong. Find more about the Immigration Policy to move to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is a preferred choice for expats relocations in Asia. 

Hong Kong is a well-established business hub and a popular spot for international and regional tourists. Before the impact of Covid-19, passenger arrivals and departures in Hong Kong reached a peak of 301 million visitors in 2019.

Being attractive for both business and tourism, Hong Kong has adopted a “talent attraction” immigration policy for a long time. With an almost visa-free policy approach, as well as a range of visas that are broadly supportive of a business-friendly environment, Hong Kong is a magnet to make business and attract international talent.

As the Basic Law governs Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Government has full autonomy concerning immigration matters, separated from Mainland China. Although there is the “Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals”, which is only available to mainland residents.

In this article, we will focus on immigration from overseas coming into Hong Kong. Here we look at the key immigration and visa requirements for all those intending to do business or work to even become Hong Kong residents. 

Entry for Investment as an Entrepreneur

This is a specially designed visa for entrepreneurs that can make a significant contribution to the Hong Kong economy.

It is valid for a one-year period, it can be renewed, and it can be used to obtain a Hong Kong residency card in the long term. 

Some of the most important aspects to qualify as an applicant for a visa are the following: 

  • Criminal record check: A clean criminal record should be proved. Additionally, not being subject to other security objections or blacklists is required.
  • Educational background: this may be evidenced by degrees, technical qualifications, or specific professional experience and achievements.
  • Substantial contribution to Hong Kong: there is a need to provide evidence that their presence will make a substantial contribution to the economy of Hong Kong. This might be evidenced by showing that they will create local jobs, utilize local service providers, or they will make a relevant contribution to the specific market that they intend on entering. A business plan covering the next two years should be submitted supporting the applicant’s case.
  • Business for the long term: the intention to facilitate this visa is to generate business registration and/or incorporation in order to benefit Hong Kong.

Other relevant factors that benefit the application of a potential candidate, are when it comes from a start-up business and these conditions are met: 

  • The applicant has been approved for a government-supported program related to that business;
  • The applicant is the owner or a key business partner. 

For more information, read our Complete Guide to Applying for the Hong Kong Entrepreneurship Visa.

The Quality Migrants Admission Scheme (QMAS)

This scheme works on a quota basis for skilled individuals who are exploring either employment or startup opportunities in Hong Kong. The advisory committee only allows a maximum of 1,000 on this scheme per year.

Additionally, this scheme attracts highly skilled individuals from all over the world to Hong Kong. The goal of the program will further enhance Hong Kong's economic competitiveness globally. Unlike the regular Employment Visa, successful applicants do not need an offer of local employment, before residing in Hong Kong. 

Some of the basic requirements that the applicants need to meet are:  

  • To be at least 18 years old.
  • Being able to demonstrate that they are capable of supporting and accommodating themselves, and their family members or their dependents, with their own financial resources.
  • Proof of non-criminal record or other penalties.
  • English or Chinese proficiency proof. 
  • Exceptional educational background. For example, a degree, technical qualifications, or relevant working experience.

Once those basic requirements are satisfied, the applicant must also pass one of the following tests: 

  • General points test: the individual is given several points based on their age, professional qualifications and skills, language proficiency, family circumstances, and professional experience. Applicants must score a minimum of 80 out of 165 points to be considered. 
  • Achievement-based points test: this test is available for those with exceptional skills or talents. This score out of 165 is determined by:
    ○ Having received an award for exceptional achievements, such as a Nobel Prize, Olympic medal, or equivalent achievement.
    ○ Being recognized by peers as contributing significantly to the development of the field they operate in. 

The Employment Visa

Individuals who run or are part of a business, from occupying a junior-level position to being directors of a company, can apply for an employment visa in Hong Kong.

The requirements for the applicants are the following: 

  • Not having a criminal record, nor having other security objections to their application.
  • Having an outstanding educational/professional background related to the job position. This will be justified by having degrees, professional qualifications, or, in exceptional cases, professional working experience.
  • There is a vacancy that cannot be fulfilled by any Hong Kong permanent residents.
  • An employment offer that matches the applicant’s qualifications and experience.
  • A total compensation/remuneration package that is in line with the market standards in Hong Kong. 

It is important to mention that the Hong Kong Immigration Department is in charge of visa processing, while the Hong Kong Labour Department oversees the laws and regulations related to work disputes, benefits, and rights of workers in Hong Kong. 

The Technology Talent Admission Scheme 

It is a program for eligible technology companies that allows them to admit foreign tech talents in Hong Kong with the purpose of generating technological research or development in Hong Kong with an expedited process.

For example, the area of green technology, artificial intelligence, digital entertainment, and financial technologies, have a high demand for talent.

After applying to the Innovation and Technology Commission, eligible companies can sponsor eligible individuals for employment visas within the quota of the scheme.

Visitors

It is worth observing that, due to Hong Kong’s pro-business immigration programs, a visa will not always be necessary.

Now that the pandemic restrictions are becoming more and more flexible, nationals of around 170 countries and territories can enter Hong Kong as business visitors on a visa-free basis for up to 180 days. However, these regulations change from country to country.

Other programs that are no longer available

The following program or scheme is no longer valid. However, for informational purposes, we will briefly explain it. 

Capital Investment Entrant Scheme

The objective of the scheme was to attract wealthy individuals that would facilitate capital investment in Hong Kong. However, these individuals would not be engaging in the running of any business in Hong Kong. Additionally, they would be free to choose the investment of their choice, without having to open a company in Hong Kong.

In January 2015, the government announced that this scheme would be suspended indefinitely. For more information, the page of the Immigration Department can be consulted.

Conclusion

The immigration policy provides a range of options for businesses and their employees to operate in Hong Kong, according to their specific needs. As a general recommendation, it is essential to check previous and procedural requirements in order to avoid any situation of illegal immigration and improper use of visas or schemes. 

In some cases, the candidates are unaware of the specific schemes that facilitate the immigration process. It is always advisable to consult experts to handle immigration processes and applications to avoid any problems for the candidates. 

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