Hong Kong Work Visa: A Fuss-Free Guide to Apply for One

4 min read

Hong Kong. A hub of talent and trade. Economically strong. Low tax rates. It’s no secret that it’s one of the most business-friendly jurisdictions when it comes to setting up a foreign company in Hong Kong. But why exactly is that? One of the biggest contributors is its immigration policy. If you’re planning on relocating, you’ll need to apply for a Hong Kong work visa. Time to get to know how the application works.

The list below is what this article will cover so if you have something specific on your mind, you can jump straight to that section. If you can’t find what you’re after, click that speech bubble you see bottom left and shoot us a message.

The HKSAR & Working Visa Terms
Wait, There’s More Than One Kind Of Visa?
How Long Are Work Visas Valid?
Investment Visa: Criteria Entrepreneurs Should Meet
My Hong Kong Work Visa Application Is Complete, Now What?
How Long Does My Application Take to Process?

The HKSAR & Working Visa Terms

Unless a quota system applies, these work visa applications are assessed and issued at the discretion of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, which we’ll refer to as HKSAR or just “Hong Kong”. You may have seen these visas referred to as “schemes” or “permits” but we’ll stick to “visa” in this article to keep it simple. We love simple.

Wait, There’s More Than One Kind Of Work Visa?

That’s right. There are a few. The one that you apply for comes down to the motivation that got you thinking of making the move to Hong Kong. It could be seeking an investment opportunity, to live out that dream job or to take the leap and start a business in Hong Kong. We know you’re looking for details that are relevant to the “start a business” bit so we’ll get into more about that but for now, here’s a quick view of the different types of Hong Kong visas that fall under the General Employment Policy (GEP), and who they’re suited to:

  1. Investment Visa
    Foreigner? Entrepreneur? Ready to relocate and start or join a Hong Kong business as a proprietor or partner? An investment visa is what you’re after (and if your application is successful you can apply for dependents, too).
  2. Employment Visa
    Landed the job you were after? If you’re making a career move to Hong Kong after graduating, or you are a foreigner relocating to work for a company there, this is the visa that will get you on your way. You’ll need to prove your experience or skills are sought after or in short supply (and can’t be fulfilled by a local) and the salary needs to be aligned to local professionals.
  3. Quality Migrant Admission Scheme
    Also known as a QMAS visa, this applies to foreigners who don’t have a job secured but plan to seek job opportunities in Hong Kong. Unlike the visas above, a quota system applies in this case. 1,000 slots per year are assigned.
  4. Permanent Residence Visa
    Want to make it official and call Hong Kong home sweet home? To make that happen, you’ll need to have stayed for at least 7 consecutive years. After that, you’ll be eligible to apply for a permanent residence visa. So you could start with any of the visas above and then if all goes to plan, this will be the next step.

How Long Are Work Visas Valid?

Visa Type Average Validity Option to Renew Visa Category
Investment Visa 1 - 2 years Yes (if eligibility criteria are met) General Employment Policy (GEP)
Employment Visa 1 - 2 years Yes (if eligibility criteria are met and the employee remains with the company) General Employment Policy (GEP)
QMAS Visa 1 year Yes (for an additional year) General Employment Policy (GEP)

Investment Visa: Criteria Entrepreneurs Should Meet

Of course, you’ll want to put your best foot forward when applying for a Hong Kong work visa. To help this along, the government introduced what is referred to as “enhancement measures” which serve as guidelines to ultimately improve the quality of the work visa applications they receive.

Let’s start with the key requirements:

●   Proof of experience in your field: either a relevant degree (which is preferable) technical qualifications, specific skills or any other certified or well-documented educational achievements.

●   Proof your business is primed to make a substantial contribution to Hong Kong’s economy.

Here are some of the things that help when your application is being assessed, especially when it comes to proving the economic impact your startup may have:

  • Business plan (at least 2 years)
  • Business turnover
  • Financial resources
  • Sum of investment (though there’s no minimum amount stipulated)
  • Potential to create local jobs
  • Contribution of new technology or skills

Did you know?

If your startup business is supported by one of Hong Kong’s government-backed programmes, that will also count in favour of your work visa application.

My Hong Kong Work Visa Application Is Complete, Now What?

Now you have a few options; send along your forms and all the supporting documents by post, deliver them directly to the Hong Kong Immigration Department or have your soon-to-be employer submit them on your behalf. Before you send them off, check they’re all been completed and signed. Then check them again. Your application process won’t begin until all requirements are met. There’s also a fee of HK$230.

How Long Does My Application Take to Process?

This could take between 4 - 8 weeks, subject all the requirements and documents are fulfilled, from the day you submit your visa application. Be patient, be prepared (and of course, be positive).

Leave the next steps to us

Sure, most people scoff at the thought of the administrative hassle that goes into a process like this. But we love taking over it so you can focus on your business. So while you stay put, we can help you get the application process for a work visa started to open up your company in Hong Kong, help you understand your tax obligations and get the cogs of that relocation in motion. Our professional bookkeepers and accountants are ready to answer all your questions.

Looking for an official resource?

The HKSAR compiled this handy PDF: Guidebook for Entry for Investment as Entrepreneurs in Hong Kong

  • E27
  • Entrepreneur
  • foundr
  • Tech in Asia
  • Vulcan post
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