When working in Hong Kong, or setting up a business there, it is crucial that you have the right visa in place: Visa and immigration policy is a key power of the Hong Kong Government under the ‘Basic Law’ of Hong Kong.
In this guide, we look at the main Hong Kong work visa schemes, for business operators, investors, and employees alike.
Here we interpret ‘work visa’ liberally to include all visas that an individual could use to conduct business or work for a business — not just visas that allow employment.
The key visa and immigration arrangements we will consider are:
- Employment Visas. The standard visas for foreign individuals relocating to Hong Kong to be employed by a Hong Kong company
- The Technology Talent Admission Scheme. A fast-tracked employment visa available for those in certain research and development roles
- Investment Visas. The visa for foreign business owners or entrepreneurs who seek to open a company, or otherwise start a business based in Hong Kong
- The Quality Migrant Admission Scheme Visa (QMAS). An employment visa for individuals who can pass one of two key tests with a certain number of points
- The Immigration Arrangements for Non-Local Graduates. For recent non-local graduates of a Hong Kong university
- The Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals. This is a scheme for applicants from mainland China (who do not otherwise have a right to work in Hong Kong)
- Business Visit Visa. A short-term travel visa available to applicants who are not eligible for a visa-waiver
- Travel Pass. A scheme allowing expedited entry through passport controls, which may be appropriate for some international entrepreneurs.
1. Employment Visas
The Hong Kong employment visa is only available for individuals who already have sponsorship (and an offer of employment) from a Hong Kong company. This visa is issued initially for one year, but is generally renewable
Those who hold this visa are generally eligible to apply for permanent residency after seven years of residing in Hong Kong.
When applying for this visa, applicants must provide:
- Proof that the applicant has no criminal record, nor that they are subject to other security objections
- Documentation showing that the applicant possesses relevant degrees or professional certifications (or, in some cases, professional work experience), to support their work
- Evidence that a vacancy exists at the company, and an employment offer matching the applicant’s suitability for the role
- Proof that the job has a compensation package in line with market rates in Hong Kong.
2. The Technology Talent Admission Scheme
This expedited Technology Talent Admission Scheme is a special path for applying for the employment visa. It is usually processed, and either approved or denied, within two weeks of application.
In order to be eligible for the scheme, technology companies must first apply to the Innovation and Technology Commission for approval. If approved the company will receive a quota for hiring foreign individuals as research and development staff in Hong Kong.
3. Investment Visas
Investment visas are available for foreign entrepreneurs who wish to set up a business in Hong Kong. Note there is no minimum required investment amount for this visa. As with the regular employment visa, this visa is available for one year, renewable.
Applicants must possess the right qualifications, abilities, achievements or experiences to run a business of the type they intend to run.
All applicants must demonstrate that their business will make a “substantial contribution” to Hong Kong’s economy.
As with the employment visa, holding the investment visa and residing in Hong Kong for seven years or more can mean an individual is eligible for permanent residence.
4. Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS)
The QMAS is a form of employment or business visa that does not rely on sponsorship/an offer of employment. It is a quota-based scheme (1,000 entrants per year) and assesses the applicant on a ‘points’ basis to determine whether they are eligible.
Applicants must demonstrate that they are:
- Financially self-sufficient and able to provide for dependents
- Capable of proficiently speaking in Chinese or English
- Free of criminal convictions, or other administrative penalties
- Between 18 and 51 years old
- In possession of the right educational qualifications
- At the right ‘point level’ according to the test they have applied under.
5. The Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates Scheme
This policy initiative was introduced for those who have degrees or other higher qualifications from a locally-accredited Hong Kong program. This scheme allows graduates to stay in Hong Kong for 12 months.
If the graduate is within 6 months of graduation, they can apply for the scheme without an offer of employment. After 6 months, an offer of employment (at market competitive rates) is required.
6. Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP)
This admission scheme is available for highly qualified individuals from mainland China to allow them to work in Hong Kong. The applicants must possess skills or knowledge that is not readily available, or for which there is a shortage locally.
Applicants must be able to demonstrate that their employment will contribute to the ongoing economic development of Hong Kong.
7. Business Visit Visa
Individuals who are ineligible for a visa waiver, but wish to engage in business on a short-term basis in Hong Kong, can apply for a General Visitor Visa, in the ‘Business Visit’ category. The visa will last between 7 and 180 days, depending on the country of origin.
Note, that this is not an employment visa and does not allow the applicant to work as an employee for a Hong Kong company. Applicants will have to provide proof relating to the business reasons for their visit as part of the application.
8. Travel Pass
The Travel Pass allows holders a streamlined immigration process when arriving and departing from Hong Kong. Holders of the Travel Pass are eligible for multiple entries, and can stay for up to two months on each visit.
Applicants will need to demonstrate that they have a genuine need to regularly visit Hong Kong and that they have done so three or more times in the prior 12 months.
It is valid for up to three years. Note, entrance via this path will not contribute to an individual’s permanent residence eligibility.
Apply for the Right Hong Kong Work Visa Scheme
Hong Kong has a variety of work visas and related schemes available, depending on the needs of the foreigner applicant. Entrepreneurs should ensure that they apply for the correct visa for working in Hong Kong. Applicants should pay particular attention to whether the visa will help count towards their permanent residence eligibility period.