Hong Kong is well established as a business and tourism hub — both internationally and regionally. In 2019 (before the impact of Covid-19 was felt), passenger arrivals and departures in Hong Kong clocked in at 301 million for the year.
In light of its popularity for both business and tourism, Hong Kong has long adopted an ‘open’ immigration policy. This means both a liberal visa-free policy, as well as a range of visas that are broadly supportive of business in Hong Kong.
Note, under the Basic Law that governs Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Government has full autonomy concerning immigration matters.
Note also that the focus here is on immigration from overseas. There are some schemes such as The ‘Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals’ which are available only to talent from mainland China.
Here we look at the key immigration and visa requirements for all those intending to do business or work in Hong Kong.
1. Entry for Investment as an Entrepreneur (the ‘entrepreneur visa’)
This is a special visa designed especially for entrepreneurs who intend to make a significant contribution to the Hong Kong economy. It is valid for an initial one-year period, is generally renewable, and can be used to eventually establish Hong Kong residency.
The core eligibility criteria are that the applicant:
- Has no criminal record, nor is subject to other security objections
- Possesses a suitable educational background. This may be evidenced by degrees, technical qualifications, or specific professional experience and achievements
- Provides 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
- Provides evidence of business registration and/or incorporation.
Applicants are looked at favorably where the application is from a start-up business and:
- The applicant has been approved for a Government-supported program relating to that business
- The applicant is the proprietor or a key business partner.
For more information read our Complete Guide to Applying for the Hong Kong Entrepreneurship Visa.
2. The Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS)
The QMAS is a quota-based scheme for skilled individuals who are exploring either employment or startup opportunities in Hong Kong. There are only a maximum of 1,000 people allowed in on this scheme per year.
The QMAS aims to attract highly skilled individuals from mainland China and overseas to Hong Kong. It is thought that this will further enhance Hong Kong's economic competitiveness globally. Crucially (unlike a regular Employment Visa), successful applicants do not need an offer of local employment before residing in Hong Kong under this visa.
The basic requirements include, that the individual is:
- 18 years or older
- Able to demonstrate that they are capable of supporting and accommodating themselves and their dependents on their financial resources
- Of good character (no criminal record or other penalties)
- Proficient in English or Chinese
- In possession of the right educational background (as with the entrepreneur visa, this could be a degree, technical qualifications, or equivalent experience).
Once those basic requirements are satisfied, the applicant must also pass one of the following tests:
- General Points Test: Here the individual is given several ‘points’ based on their age, professional qualifications and skills, language proficiency, family circumstances, and professional experience. To be considered, applicants must score at least 80 out of 165 points
- 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 of exceptional achievement (such as a Nobel Prize, Olympic medal, or equivalent achievement); or
- Having carried out work acknowledged by peers as contributing significantly to the development of the field they operate in.
3. The Employment Visa
Either those who run the business (through being employed officers of the company) or those at a more junior level, may enter Hong Kong through an employment visa.
To receive an employment visa, the following is required of applicants:
- That they do not have a criminal record, nor are there other security objections to their application
- That they have the right educational/professional background for the employment in question. This will be evidenced either by degrees, professional qualifications, or, in exceptional cases, professional working experience
- That they can show there a vacancy at the company in question
- An employment offer that matches the applicant’s qualifications and experience
- A total compensation/remuneration package that is in line with the market standard in Hong Kong.
4. The Technology Talent Admission Scheme
The Technology Talent Admission Scheme is a fast-track program for eligible technology companies, allowing them to admit foreign tech talent for research or development in Hong Kong, through an expedited process.
Eligible companies, after applying to the Innovation and Technology Commission, can be afforded a quota under this scheme, and subsequently, sponsor eligible individuals for employment visas.
It is worth observing that, due to Hong Kong’s pro-business immigration settings, a visa will not always be necessary.
While complicated by pandemic restrictions, nationals of around 170 countries and territories can enter Hong Kong as business visitors on a visa-free basis for a defined period, up to 180 days (depending on nationality).
Understanding Hong Kong’s Immigration Policies
Hong Kong’s liberal immigration policies provide a range of options for businesses and the employees of those businesses to operate in Hong Kong.
For every international business and employee in Hong Kong, it is essential to check that visa and immigration requirements are complied with.