Hong Kong ranks as one of the most business-friendly jurisdictions facilitating foreign investment and talent attraction. One of the key contributing factors is its immigration policy, designed to accommodate investors, business entrepreneurs and working professionals alike. This contributes to making it
Any person without the right of abode requires an employment visa to work in Hong Kong. As we have highlighted in our previous article “Visas, Entry Permits and Conditions of Stay”, foreign nationals can enter Hong Kong as a visitor but are not permitted to undertake work of any kind until they have obtained an employment visa (or have been granted other visa status that allows them to work).
Hong Kong has a special work permit scheme for hiring skilled foreign employees of most nationalities under the General Employment Policy (“GEP”) called Employment for Professionals or Employment for Investment.
It must be noted that the GEP does not apply to a same number of countries, most importantly it does not apply to mainland China. Nationals of mainland China must apply under the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talent and Professionals (“ASMTP”).
Eligible applicants must have good educational qualifications and possess special skills, knowledge or experience of value to and not readily available in Hong Kong. There is no quota system limiting the number of work visas under these schemes and each application is evaluated based on the qualifications of the applicant and the employer.
In order to apply for work permit under the GEP and ASMTP, the following eligibility requirements apply:
- Not having any criminal records or security objections.
- Possessing a good educational background – usually at least an undergraduate degree in the relevant field. However, in the absence of a degree, technical qualifications, relevant professional abilities, achievements and experience may be sufficient.
- A genuine job vacancy.
- The job cannot be readily taken up by the local work force.
- The remuneration package – including income, accommodation, medical and other fringe benefits – is in line with the prevailing market standards in Hong Kong.
- From the work permit applicant:
I. Completed Employment Visa Application Form
II. A copy of the personal particulars page of your passport
III. Latest arrival stamp/extension of stay label in Hong Kong (if in Hong Kong at the time of the application).
IV. Copy of the Hong Kong identity card (if any)
V. Copy of proof of the overseas residence
VI. Copy of proof of academic qualifications and relevant working experience
- From the employing company:
I. Application for Employing Professionals in Hong Kong
II. Copy of the company’s employment contract or letter of appointment containing information about the post, salaries, other fringe benefits and employment periods
III. Copy of the company’s Business Registration Certificate
IV. Copy of proof of financial standing of the company, e.g. latest audited financial report, trading profit and loss account, or profit tax return
V. Documents detailing the company’s background such as business activities, mode of operation, background/ connection of company, product ranges, sources and markets, membership of Chamber of Commerce (if any), etc. with documentary evidence such as catalogues, brochures, etc. (this is not required if the company is sponsoring a non-local graduate).
VI. Additional documentation is required for applicants under the ASMTP.
If the employing company is a newly setup company, it will also be necessary to provide a detailed business plan which includes information on source of funds, estimated capital injection, nature/mode of business activities, expected turnover, sales volume, gross and net profit in the coming years, and proposed creation of local job posts, etc.
The above mentioned company documents (except for the application form for employing professionals) do not need to be submitted by the employing company if it had successfully obtained an employment or training visa/entry permit for a non-local staff in the past 18 months immediately before submission of the application.
All documents submitted must be in English or Chinese or translated into English or Chinese by a certified translation body. The Immigration authorities reserve the right to demand further documents from the applicant or employing company as and when necessary.
Once both the applicant and the employer have prepared the necessary documents required for the work permit application, the application must be submitted to the Hong Kong Immigration Department via post or in person.
While it is stated that the processing time is 4 – 6 weeks, this is counted from the time all documentation is submitted. Since it is often the case that the Immigration Department will ask for follow up information and documentation (especially in the case of start-ups or employees in unusual fields of work) we generally advise clients that application under the GEP take around 8 weeks and application under the ASMTP take around 12-16 weeks.
If the application is successful, the Immigration Department will issue a Visa/Entry Permit label. The Visa/Entry Permit label must be affixed on a blank visa page of the applicant’s passport and presented to the Immigration Officer upon arrival in Hong Kong. In this regard, for applicants already in Hong Kong when the visa label is issued, the applicant will take a day trip to neighbouring Macau or Shenzhen.
Investment Visa Scheme
The Investment Visa is a form of Employment Visa meant for foreign entrepreneurs who wish to relocate to Hong Kong to start their own business. Under the Investment Visa, foreign entrepreneurs can stay in Hong Kong on employment status under their own company. There is no minimum investment amount stipulated by the authorities when applying for the Investment Visa.
Duration and Change of Employment
GEP and ASMTP visas are usually issued for a two-year period initially and renewable thereafter for three further years (or the duration of the contract if it is for a fixed term).
If a visa holder receives taxable income of HK$2million or more during the previous assessment year, that individual can apply for a ‘top tier’ visa which will grant them a 6-year visa.
Holders of top tier visas can change employment by giving notice to the Immigration Department. All other GEP and ASMTP visa holders must seek permission from the Immigration Department to change employer.
Dependant visa for family
Applicants under these work permit schemes are eligible to bring their family members (spouse and unmarried dependent children under 18 years of age to Hong Kong) with them to Hong Kong. A dependant visa application must be filed for each family member for this purpose. The dependant’s length of stay is tied to the applicant’s length of stay in Hong Kong and dependant visa holders are free to take up employment or study in Hong Kong, as applicable.
Our team at Hugill & Ip has extensive experience in dealing with Immigration issues – so if you need further advice on this subject, get in touch with us.
This article is for information purposes only. Its contents do not constitute legal advice and readers should not regard this article as a substitute for detailed advice in individual instances.