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A Practical Guide to the Hong Kong Quality Migrant Admission Scheme

Author Syahirah Aiman AbbasSyahirah Aiman Abbas

11 min read
Better Business

Looking to hire specialised individuals from overseas to work for you in your Hong Kong company? Then you’ll need to get acquainted with this scheme.

A Practical Guide to the Hong Kong Quality Migrant Admission Scheme

You might want to hire specialised individuals to work for you when you register a Hong Kong company. If so, you might want to take a look at the Hong Kong Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS). Understand it so you know what the process and requirements are.

What Is the Hong Kong Quality Migrant Admission Scheme?

A quota-based entrant scheme introduced in 2006, the Hong Kong Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS) invites visa applications from skilled individuals and entrepreneurs who intend to live in Hong Kong to embark on their professional careers or start up their own businesses here.

With a highly coveted visa, applicants need to fulfil the QMAS’ prerequisites before being eligible to apply and, thereafter, pass a points-based test. They may choose to be assessed either under the General Points Test or the Achievement-based Points Test. A minimum passing mark (80 points out of a maximum of 225) is set under the General Points Test. Applicants choosing the Achievement-based Points Test must ensure that they have an outstanding profile since it is an all-or-nothing test.

Finally, they compete for quota allocation (read, luck). Yes, really. From the Immigration Department’s website, “Meeting the minimum passing mark or high-scoring applications do not necessarily secure quota allotment”. Successful applicants selected under QMAS’ General Points Test will usually be issued a 24-month visa, while those chosen under the Achievement-based Points Test will normally be granted a stay of eight years.

What Are the Benefits of the QMAS Visa?

The QMAS visa in Hong Kong is designed to attract highly skilled or talented individuals to settle in Hong Kong. Here are some of the key benefits of the QMAS visa:

  1. No Prior Job Offer Required: Applicants do not need a job offer before applying, which allows for greater flexibility in planning their relocation.
  2. Residence in Hong Kong: Approved candidates can live in Hong Kong and enjoy the city’s high quality of life, healthcare, education, and infrastructure.
  3. Multiple Entry: The QMAS visa allows for multiple entries, enabling the holder to travel freely in and out of Hong Kong.
  4. Pathway to Permanent Residency: After living in Hong Kong for seven continuous years, QMAS visa holders can apply for permanent residency.
  5. Family Reunification: Visa holders can bring their immediate family members (spouse and dependent children) to Hong Kong, allowing for family reunification.
  6. Employment Flexibility: While the primary applicant is initially not required to have a job offer, they are free to seek employment or establish a business after arriving in Hong Kong.
  7. High Standard of Living: Hong Kong offers a high standard of living, including excellent public services, a low crime rate, and a vibrant cultural scene.
  8. Gateway to Asia: Hong Kong's strategic location makes it a convenient base for travel and business within Asia, particularly with its proximity to Mainland China.
  9. Networking Opportunities: Living in Hong Kong provides extensive networking opportunities in various industries, given its status as a global financial and business hub.
  10. Tax Benefits: Hong Kong has a simple and low taxation system, which is attractive for individuals looking to optimise their personal and business finances.
  11. High Quality of Education: The city offers a range of high-quality international schools and universities, making it a suitable place for families with children.
  12. Healthcare: Hong Kong has an excellent healthcare system, with both public and private healthcare options available to residents.

By leveraging these benefits, the QMAS visa can provide a valuable opportunity for skilled and talented individuals looking to advance their careers and improve their quality of life in one of the world’s leading cities.

2023 Suspension of Annual Quota and Revision of Scoring Scheme

The QMAS visa in Hong Kong admits up to 1,000 applicants annually. In 2019, the Immigration Department of Hong Kong approved 874 applications under this scheme, 2 845 in 2022 and 12 969 in 2023 according to the Immigration Department Review 2023. The breakdown by nationality for 2019 can be seen in the picture below.

Osome HK Annual Report QMAS
Source: Annual Report on the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme for 2019

However, the annual quota for the QMAS has been suspended for a period of two years, starting from 2023. Additionally, the point-scoring scheme of the QMAS has been revised to place more importance on the applicants' work experience. Under the General Points Test (GPT), applicants with at least three years of work experience in multinational companies or reputable enterprises will be awarded 20 additional points.

The number of approved applications represents the number of applications that have passed the selection process by the Advisory Committee on Admission of Quality Migrants and Professionals. The Committee considers various factors such as Hong Kong’s socio-economic needs, the candidates’ backgrounds (including academic achievement, professional training/qualifications, work experience, global perspective, language skills, and future development plans in Hong Kong), and other relevant factors. After further assessment, the Committee then makes recommendations to the Director of Immigration on the best approach to allocate the quotas. What is the profile of successful applicants?

In May 2023, the government announced an expanded Talent List covering 51 professions, applicable to the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS), the General Employment Policy (GEP), and the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP). Approximately 50% of successful applicants in 2019 came from the Financial, Accounting Services, Information Technology, and Telecommunications sectors. Eligible QMAS applicants meeting professional requirements on the list will receive 30 bonus points, increasing their chance of approval. Employers hiring talent under GEP and ASMTP for professions on the list no longer need to provide proof of difficulties in local recruitment, shortening the time for recruiting outside talent.

Who Is Eligible to Apply?

Except for nationalities of these countries: Afghanistan, Cuba, Laos, Korea, Nepal and Vietnam, QMAS visa is open for all foreigners to apply if they fulfil these requirements:

Age

18 or above when applying for HK’s QMAS visa.

Financial requirement

Able to support and accommodate themselves and dependents, if any, on their own resources without relying on Hong Kong’s public assistance.

Good character

No criminal record or adverse immigration record in Hong Kong or elsewhere.

Language proficiency

Proficient in written and spoken Chinese (Putonghua or Cantonese) or English.

Basic educational qualification

Degree from a recognized university/tertiary institution.

Good technical qualifications, professional experiences and achievements supported by documentary evidence may also be considered.

Who Can Applicants Bring Along With Them?

Applicants under the QMAS visa have the opportunity to bring their immediate family members to Hong Kong. Specifically, they can sponsor their spouses and unmarried dependent children who are under the age of 18. When applying for the QMAS visa, applicants can submit the visa or entry permit applications for their accompanying family members alongside their own entry applications, ensuring a streamlined and coordinated process.

The duration of stay for the dependants is typically tied to the length of stay granted to the primary QMAS visa holder. This means that as long as the sponsor's visa remains valid, the dependants' visas will also remain active. Importantly, dependant visa holders enjoy considerable freedom in Hong Kong; they are permitted to work or pursue their studies, allowing them to integrate fully into the vibrant life and opportunities available in the city.

What Are the Documents Needed?

Here is a checklist of the documents you will need for your application. Don't worry, Osome is here to guide you through the process!

Completed Application Form: English or Chinese version.

Passport Documentation:

  • Personal particulars page of your passport.
  • Latest arrival stamp or extension of stay, if physically present in Hong Kong at the time of application.

Dependants Visa Application:

  • Completed application form for each accompanying family member.
  • Supporting documents for each family member.

Proof of Personal Net Worth:

  • Bank statements.
  • Investment statements.
  • Business statements.

Proof of Language Proficiency: Certificates demonstrating proficiency in Chinese or English.

Proof of Academic Qualifications: Graduation certificates and transcripts for both the applicant and accompanying spouse.

Proof of Professional Qualifications or Personal Achievements:

  • Graduate degrees.
  • Reference letters.
  • Employment contracts.

Additional Notes:

  • All documents must be written in English or Chinese, or officially translated into either of these languages.
  • The Immigration authorities might request additional documents.

What Is the Application Process?

Timeline Process
Within 1 week from receipt of application

Step 1: Application

You can submit the application form and required documents by post or in-person by at the Hong Kong Immigration Department (HKID), who would notify when they receive your application.

Regular basis, normally quarterly

Step 2: Selection

Your application would be ranked against others according to the points-based test. HKID’s decision of quota allocation would be based on the socio-economic needs of Hong Kong, the sectoral mix of candidates, among other factors. If your field of expertise is much needed in Hong Kong, your chances are much greater.

Published on the Immigration Dept’s website within 15 working days of selection result

Step 3: Selection Result

The outcome of each selection exercise, including the quota allotment, would be published on HKID’s website.

Within 3 months from the result, successful applicant invited to HK for interview

Step 4: Approval-in-Principle

When you successfully secure a quota, you will receive an Approval-in-Principle Letter, allowing you to travel into Hong Kong to attend a face-to-face interview.

Within 1 week of verification of original documents

Step 5: Documents Verification and Issuing of Visa/Entry Permit

Once all of the procedures are completed, the last hurdle is to prove that these documents are genuine and verified. And finally, the QMAS visa would be yours!

  • From application form submission until Approval-in-Principle, it could approximately take 8-12 months
  • No fee is charged for document submission
  • HK$260 is charged for a grant of visa or entry permit

What Are the QMAS Timelines?

The initial application review process takes approximately 3 to 6 months. If your application passes this stage, you will receive an Approval-in-Principle (AIP) letter. You must then attend an in-person interview in Hong Kong within 3 months of receiving the AIP letter. After the interview, the final approval process typically takes around 2 to 4 weeks, after which you will receive your entry visa or permit.

What Are the Fees?

There is no official application fee for the QMAS itself. However, you may incur costs for translation and notarisation of documents, travel expenses for the in-person interview in Hong Kong, and professional fees if you choose to use an immigration consultant or lawyer.

Understanding these timelines and fees will help you plan and manage your QMAS application process effectively.

QMAS Visa Renewal Process in Hong Kong

Renewing a Quality Migrant Admission Scheme visa in Hong Kong involves several steps to ensure continued compliance with immigration regulations and to demonstrate that the applicant has been contributing to the local economy. Here is an outline of the renewal process:

Eligibility Check

Ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria for renewal. This includes demonstrating continuous residence in Hong Kong and active participation in the local economy through employment or business activities.

Application Submission

Gather the required documents, which typically include:

  • A completed application form (ID 91).
  • A copy of your current QMAS visa.
  • Proof of residence in Hong Kong (e.g., rental agreements, utility bills).
  • Proof of employment or business activities (e.g., employment contract, company registration documents, tax returns).
  • A recent passport-sized photograph.
  • Submit the application form and supporting documents to the Hong Kong Immigration Department. This can be done online, by mail, or in person.

Supporting Documents

Prepare additional documents that may be required to demonstrate your contributions to Hong Kong’s economy and society. These could include:

  • A detailed resume or CV.
  • Academic and professional qualifications.
  • Letters of reference or employment confirmation.
  • Business performance reports (if applicable).

Payment of Fees

Pay the applicable renewal fee. The fee is typically around HKD 1,890 (approximately USD 240), though this amount can vary, so it is advisable to check the latest fee structure on the Immigration Department’s website.

Processing Time

The processing time for a renewal application can vary, but it generally takes several weeks to a few months. The Immigration Department may request additional information or documentation during this period.

Notification of Decision

Once the Immigration Department has reviewed your application, you will be notified of the decision. If approved, you will be issued a renewed QMAS visa, typically valid for an additional two to three years.

Collection of Visa

Upon approval, collect your renewed visa. You may need to visit the Immigration Department office in person to receive the visa sticker to be affixed in your passport.

Continued Compliance

After renewal, continue to comply with the terms and conditions of your QMAS visa. This includes maintaining residence in Hong Kong, actively participating in the local economy, and adhering to any other stipulations set by the Immigration Department.

By following these steps and ensuring that all requirements are met, you can successfully renew your QMAS visa and continue to enjoy the benefits of living and working in Hong Kong.

General Points Test

Under the General Points Test, there are six point-scoring factors relating to age, academic/professional qualifications, work experience, language proficiency, profession sector, and family background. The minimum passing mark is 80 out of a maximum of 225 Points.

According to HK’s Talent List 2020, these 11 professions would earn applicants an extra 30 points:

  1. Waste Treatment Specialists
  2. Asset Management Professionals
  3. Marine Insurance Professionals
  4. Actuaries
  5. Fintech Professionals
  6. Data Scientists & Cyber Security Specialists
  7. Innovation and Technology Experts
  8. Naval Architects
  9. Marine Engineers & Superintendents of Ships
  10. Creative Industries Professionals
  11. Dispute Resolution Professionals & Transactional Lawyers

In May 2023, the Government announced an expansion of the Talent List, increasing its scope from 13 to 51 professions. This updated list now applies to the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS), the General Employment Policy (GEP), and the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP). For the QMAS, eligible applicants who fulfil the criteria for the listed professions receive an additional 30 bonus points under the General Points Test (GPT), enhancing their chances of approval. Additionally, employers hiring under the GEP and ASMTP for positions in these professions no longer need to prove difficulties in local recruitment. They can now apply for visas directly, expediting the process of hiring foreign talent.

Achievement-based Points Test

Individuals with exceptional talent or skill with outstanding achievements will be awarded 225 points, e.g. Olympic medalists, Nobel prize winners, or lifetime-achievement award recipients from their industries.

Let us consider the profiles of these two applicants:

  1. Lee, 35 (+30 points), a Chinese national, is married (+5) with one child, aged 1 (+5). He has a Masters’ Degree from Peking University (+20), and he has been working as a Senior Cybersecurity Engineer (+30) for 5 years (+15). He is fluent in both Cantonese and English (+20). He wants to work and live in HK with his family. Under the General Points test, Lee would have earned 125 points.
  2. Hypothetically, Michael Phelps, aged 35, a US citizen, wants to migrate to Hong Kong. As a 28 times Olympic medalist, he would be awarded all 225 points.

If you are thinking of applying to Hong Kong’s Quality Migrant Admission Scheme or exploring ways to be a more permanent resident and open your company in Hong Kong, do reach out to us! We will point you in the right direction.


FAQ

What is a Quality Migrant Admission Visa?

The QMAS visa is a points-based immigration visa program in Hong Kong designed to attract highly skilled or talented individuals from around the world to settle in the city without the need for a prior job offer. It aims to enhance Hong Kong's economic competitiveness by inviting professionals who can contribute to the local economy and society. Applicants are assessed on factors such as age, education, work experience, language proficiency, and family background.

How long does it take to get a Quality Migrant Admission Scheme in Hong Kong?

The processing time for the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme in Hong Kong typically takes around six to twelve months from the submission of the application to receiving a decision. This duration can vary based on the completeness of the application, the demand for the scheme, and the specific circumstances of each applicant. Regular updates and communication with the Immigration Department can help in tracking the application status.

What is the success rate of the QMAS visa?

The success rate of the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme visa varies each year, depending on the number of applicants and their qualifications. Generally, the success rate has been reported to be around 10-20%, reflecting the scheme's competitive nature. The points-based assessment and the allocation of quotas influence these rates, with a preference for candidates who possess exceptional qualifications and can significantly contribute to Hong Kong's development.

How much is the QMAS visa fee for Hong Kong?

The application fee for the QMAS visa in Hong Kong is HKD 1,890 (approximately USD 240) as of the latest update. This fee is non-refundable and must be paid upon submission of the application. Additional costs may be incurred for document notarisation, translation, and other administrative processes during the application procedure.

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