Despite recent alarmist, melodramatic headlines regarding Hong Kong’s future, we are seeing renewed interest in expatriate immigration to Hong Kong. Our offices are receiving quite a lot of enquiries about the Hong Kong immigration visa application process, so this guide will serve to expedite our visa services for those interested.
Why do people want to live in Hong Kong?
Although it may seem surprising that there is more interest in applying for Hong Kong Permanent Residency now than during the previous two years, an objective view of the facts indicates that Hong Kong, for all its ups and downs, is still an exceptionally safe, stable and prosperous society where people’s lives change for the better.
Although political polarization certainly divides local society now more than ever, these issues are neither unique to Hong Kong in 2020, nor do they define everyday life in the city. Social polarization is pervasive in many other countries, as seen with the Catalan independence movement in Spain, and the scandals surrounding the Trump administration in the US. Polarization in society seems to have become a norm across the world.
Perhaps more than any other factor, it is the relative normalcy of everyday life in Hong Kong- something unheard of in most places in the world this year- that appeals to those that have had their lives, careers and children’s education indefinitely disrupted due to strict lockdowns and severe social distancing measures. With one of the lowest case rates in the world and never having imposed a complete lockdown, Hong Kong absolutely offers the best quality of life among major international cities this year. Meanwhile, there are more elite international schools opening locally as the private education market continues to expand.
What is the best way to obtain a Hong Kong Visa and Permanent Residence?
There are 5 visa categories that we consider the most suitable pathway to a Hong Kong residence.
- Professional Employment in Hong Kong
- Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals
- Entry for Investment as Entrepreneurs
- Quality Migrant Admission
- Entry for Training
- Employment as Professionals in Hong Kong:
Hong Kong’s General Employment Policy is applicable to individuals from any country, with the exception of Afghanistan, Laos, North Korea, Cuba, Nepal and Vietnam. Chinese citizens from the Mainland are covered under the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals. The General Employment Policy does not have any quotas and is not restricted to any specific industry.
Successful applicants should have at least an undergraduate degree in their field of employment, although in exceptional cases technical certifications or evidence of professional experience and ability would be acceptable. To obtain a professional working visa in Hong Kong, applicants should fill a genuine employment position that cannot be handled by the local workforce. The compensation and benefits of the job should be equivalent to the local standard for professionals.
The initial visa would generally be valid for a 24-month period, and can be extended 4 weeks before its expiration date. Extensions are granted for 3 years if the applicant still meets the requirements under which they initially applied. After residing in Hong Kong under a work visa for seven years, foreigners may apply for Permanent Residence.
- Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals:
Chinese citizens from Mainland China that meet the conditions of the General Employment Scheme (Educational background, professional experience and ability, filling a job vacancy, salary and benefits equivalent to local professional standards) may apply through the same process as overseas professionals relocating to Hong Kong, under the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals.
Successful applicants should obtain a travel permit for Hong Kong and Macao (Exit-Entry Permit) and an endorsement from their local Public Security Bureau. Chinese citizens holding People’s Republic of China passports may apply under the General Employment Program if they hold permanent residence abroad or if they have resided in another country for at least one year prior to applying. The Hong Kong Immigration Department’s application processing time is usually 4 to 6 weeks.
- Investment Visa for Entrepreneurs
Foreigners, with the exception of citizens of Afghanistan, Cuba, Laos, North Korea, Vietnam and Nepal, may apply for an investment visa if they have a good background, hold at least an undergraduate university degree (or exceptional professional ability and experience) and can show that they are capable of extensively contributing to the local economy.
Applicants for a Hong Kong investment visa must provide a substantial 2-year business plan outlining their business objectives, market analysis, sales targets and marketing approach, along with a two-year projection of profits and losses, turnover, and cash flow. Applicants should also submit account statements if they run an overseas business or participate in a local business, disclosing both turnover and profit for the previous fiscal year. Applicants should also submit documentation of their financial resources, including bank statements and details of funding, while specifying a total investment sum.
The business plan should also include an estimate of the number of local jobs that the investment would create, with specific details about staffing and job duties. If the business plan includes the introduction of new technology or skills to the region, the applicant should explain in detail how these innovations will contribute to Hong Kong’s services sector over the long term.
Entrepreneurs establishing a startup business may also submit applications if they are supported by one of the following government programs:
- StartmeupHK Venture Program from InvestHK
- Incu-App, Incu-Bio and Incu-Tech from Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks
- Small Entrepreneur Research Assistance Program
- Design Incubation Program from Hong Kong Design Center
In some cases, the applicant can fulfill the published criteria of both the Professional Scheme and Entrepreneurship Scheme and will have to decide between the two pathways to Hong Kong residence. In our experience, the Professional scheme places more emphasis on the individual qualifications and capabilities of the applicant, while the Entrepreneurship Scheme weighs the business side more strongly, considering what overall benefit the applicant’s business project would bring to the Hong Kong economy as a whole.
We can advise clients on the entire application process, and given that individual merits vary from person to person, we always establish an in-depth understanding of our clients’ background when handling such cases.
- Quality Migrant Admission Scheme
The Quality Migration Admission Scheme (QMAS) enables skilled professionals from Mainland China to apply for a special visa to settle in Hong Kong. The visa must be renewed once every year in most cases, and the program is highly selective, based on a points system that considers age, education, language proficiency and work experience, with a quota of 1,000 visas issued every year.
We can assist clients with a preliminary assessment to ascertain whether they satisfy enough of the basic criteria to consider the QMAS scheme a suitable visa program.
- Entry For Training in Hong Kong
Foreigners, other than citizens of Afghanistan, Cuba, Laos, North Korea, Vietnam and Nepal, may apply for a visa to stay in Hong Kong for year in order to learn special skills training unavailable in their country of origin or domicile. Applicants should be sponsored by an established company that can provide the relevant training and knowledge. Companies sponsoring training visa applicants should do so under a contract, and will have to guarantee the trainee’s adherence to immigration laws
The advantage of applying for the Hong Kong training visa is that it is comparatively easier to obtain, given that the requirements are much lower than the professional employment schemes. The downside, however, is that it tends to be quite difficult to renew over the long term, or reapply for another visa under the General Employment Scheme. Applicants should therefore consider whether the training visa is the best route if staying in Hong Kong in the long-term is their objective.
What about dependents like spouse and children?
Anyone who obtains a visa to reside in Hong Kong for employment or training purposes may apply for a dependent visa for their spouse or partner in a legally recognized civil partnership or civil union, as well as their dependent children under the age of 18. Hong Kong Permanent Residents may also apply to bring their elderly parents (aged 60 or above) to Hong Kong.
Non-permanent residents of Hong Kong and their dependents may apply to extend their visa 4 weeks before the expiration date. The success of visa extension applications generally depends on whether the conditions under which the visa was issued still apply. The processing time is usually 2 to 3 weeks and applicants are encouraged to take early action with submitting their renewal applications since once their visa expires, they may need to temporarily leave Hong Kong until the visa renewal application is completed and approved by the HK Immigration Department.
Here to Help:
The application process can be quite challenging for individuals and entrepreneurs to handle on their own, particularly under the investment program. Having helped many people start a new life and business in Hong Kong over the years, we are confident that we can make the difference for our clients and secure a Hong Kong visa, from advising on the appropriate application route to helping develop a holistic business plan for a thriving enterprise and planning out an effective budget , we have extensive experience in handling all visa applications renewals and appeals. Our success rate is over 95% and we are fully confident that we can help start a new life in Hong Kong for you and your family. Feel free to contact us for a free consultation anytime.