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How an Entrepreneur Can Move to Hong Kong and Bring Along Their Team

Author Natalia AsaulNatalia Asaul

9 min read
Better Business

Hong Kong employment visas can be pretty hard to get, so we created this quick guide to help you understand how to apply for one and assess your chances before you make the move. We break down the rules and describe the application process.

How an Entrepreneur Can Move to Hong Kong and Bring Along Their Team

If you have already incorporated a company in Hong Kong and want to attract overseas talent or move here yourself, this article is for you.

There are two types of long-term working visas most relevant for SMEs: the one for a foreign entrepreneur and the one for professionals employed by a Hong Kong company.

Now let’s figure out what the Hong Kong visa requirements are and how to get it!

Hong Kong work visas

Both visas are a part of the so-called General Employment Policy (GEP).

The visas are managed by the Immigration Department of Hong Kong.

Both GEP visas are for foreigners from all countries but:

  • Mainland China (different rules apply);
  • Afghanistan;
  • Cuba;
  • Laos;
  • North Korea;
  • Nepal;
  • Vietnam.

People from mainland China who are permanent residents of a different country and who apply from there are eligible for the GEP visas.  

Osome note

We don’t provide support in getting GEP visas for entrepreneurs, and recommend turning to a firm specializing in Hong Kong Visa immigration services instead. However, we’ll be happy to help you bring your employees with GEP visas for professionals to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong visa for entrepreneurs

The one for business owners is called GEP — Entrepreneurs, and what people use this visa for is “entry for investment as entrepreneurs”.

This visa is both for entrepreneurs who will join an existing business and who plan to found a new one.

The GEP — Entrepreneurs visa is notoriously hard to get, but nothing is impossible for an entrepreneur, right?

Who can get such a visa

An ideal candidate is a qualified person with an excellent track record who is able to benefit Hong Kong’s economy and who has a viable strategy to do so.

Let’s unpack this set of criteria one by one.

A qualified person is someone who has a good chance of not messing up when doing business in Hong Kong. You can prove you are this kind of person by providing your degree and financial documents showing how successful your overseas business is or was.

An excellent track record. This means you haven’t committed any serious crimes, or at least you haven’t gotten caught (just kidding, please don’t commit crimes).

The ability to benefit Hong Kong’s economy. This is something the government will determine based on the documents you provide. The Immigration Department consults 0fficials who oversee businesses, so be sure to put your best foot forward.

There are some industries that Hong Kong sees as a priority, so applicants seeking to work in these are the most welcome. These economic sectors are:

  • trading;
  • logistics;
  • tourism;
  • financial services;
  • transportation;
  • trade convention and exhibition industry;
  • manufacturing;
  • IT;
  • culture;
  • professional services.

Hong Kong prides itself on its knowledge-based economy, so showing that you will bring some know-how with you will give you extra points.

Besides contributing to the right sector, you are expected to create jobs; thousands and thousands of jobs. Or at least some jobs. That’s why the Immigration Department will ask you to show the organisational structure of your business and estimate how many locals will get jobs in your company.  

A viable strategy. This means you have a detailed business plan, know where the money will come from, and can explain why your company will survive in the competitive market of Hong Kong.

If your business is a startup and it’s hard to prove its viability, you will need support from a government-backed programme to get a visa. Such programmes are hard to enter, and if you manage to do so, you will be seen as a reliable businessman. Here are some examples of such programmes:

  • StartmeupHK Venture Programme;
  • Incu-App, Incu-Bio and Incu-Tech programmes (the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation);
  • Cyberport Incubation Programme;
  • Small Entrepreneur Research Assistance Programme and Enterprise Support Scheme;
  • Design Incubation Programme administered by the Hong Kong Design Centre.

What documents you need for the application

Not-so-fun fact

It is an offence to provide false information to an immigration officer.

Let’s start with the basic things:

An application form ID 999A. Note that this PDF can be completed online, just click on a field and start typing.

A recent photograph. Put it on page 2 of the application form.

A photocopy of a valid travel document. Make sure that your personal information, the date of issue and the date of expiry can be clearly seen.

Also, if you have any re-entry visas, photocopy them. If you are in Hong Kong, include a photocopy of the page with the latest arrival stamp/landing slip/extension of stay label.

A photocopy of your Hong Kong ID (if any).

The next batch of documents must prove you are a professional and you know what you are doing:

Proof of academic qualifications & relevant work experience. In other words, copies of your diplomas and certificates plus an up-to-date CV. It’s also recommended to add copies of prior employment references and testimonials.

Proof of your financial standing, i. e. photocopies of bank statements and the like.

👑A Detailed 2-year investment plan. It must describe your company’s future business activities, how much is or will be invested, how many local jobs you will create or have created and what non-residential properties you will rent or are already renting (an office, a warehouse, etc.).

Next, let’s look at the documents needed from the company which wants to employ you or which you will invest in:

Business registration papers: Business Registration Certificate.

Documents filed with the Companies Registry: photocopies of the Certificate of Incorporation, the latest annual return (if there is one), Incorporation Form, the Memorandum of Association/Articles of Association.

Photocopy of licenses or certificates the business needs to function (if there are any). This is relevant for money service providers, recruitment agencies, etc.

Photocopy of the employment contract & the letter of appointment (if you will have a job in the company). Make sure there’s information about your post, salary, benefits, and employment periods.

Proof of the company’s business activities (if the company who is sponsoring your move to Hong Kong is already up and running). Photocopies of contracts, invoices, and proof of business deals under negotiation are just what you need.

Proof of the company’s financial standing means photocopies of the latest audited financial report, trading P&L account, or tax return. These are only needed if the company has been functioning for a while.

Documents with information about the company’s background. These include papers on the company’s business activities, its product range, the markets it operates in, etc. Be sure to enclose catalogues and brochures.

Documents proving that the company leases an office, such as photocopies of the tenancy agreement and other supporting documents.

Proof of jobs created for local employees including copies of monthly contributions to MPF (it’s only applicable if the company already has employees).

For subsidiaries of overseas companies:

  • Certificate of Incorporation of the parent company;
  • the parent company’s audited financial statements;
  • the parent company’s profile or brochure.

For startups: a letter indicating valid support by a government-backed programme (we explained this requirement above).

Find the same list in a different font on the Immigration Department website.

Hong Kong visa for professionals

The one for foreign employees is called GEP — Professionals.

This visa is for experts whose skill set is not readily available in Hong Kong. It means the applicant must prove that their ability, knowledge, and experience are unique.

There is no quota for this visa.

Who can get such a visa

To be eligible, an applicant must:

  • have no criminal record;
  • be a well-educated professional in any field;
  • possess unique skills, experience, and knowledge that can’t be found on Hong Kong’s labour market;
  • have a real job in Hong Kong;
  • have a standard remuneration package that is not unusual for the Hong Kong market.  

Let's look at every criterion in detail.

Having no criminal record means you have not been convicted of any serious crime.

Being a well-educated professional is something that can be proven by having received your first degree in the field you will be working in. In some cases, however, good technical qualifications and evidence of your professional abilities and relevant experience may be enough even without a diploma.

Being a unique professional means there are no experts in Hong Kong who could fill the position and this justifies your working in Hong Kong. To prove you are uniquely qualified, enclose as much evidence of your competence and relevant professional experience as possible.

Having a job in Hong Kong means you have confirmed the offer of employment.

A real job means the position you are filling wasn’t made up as an excuse for you to move to Hong Kong.

A standard remuneration package means you won’t be earning $20,000 more than people holding similar posts in Hong Kong. The Immigration Department will also consider your accommodation, medical and other fringe benefits to make sure your employment terms are not suspiciously beneficial.

What documents to submit

First and foremost are the basic documents that the employee provides.

An application form ID 990A. This PDF is easy to complete, just click on a field and start typing.

A recent photograph. It must be affixed to page 2 of the form.

Passport photocopies. If you are in Hong Kong, enclose the page with current visa/period of stay (white visa slip).

Proof of relevant work experience consists of an up-to-date CV and copies of prior employment references and testimonials.

Proof of academic qualifications. These are copies of your graduation certificates.

Second are corporate documents which the company must supply.

An application form ID 990B.

The Letter of Engagement or the Contract of Employment. The Immigration Department needs information about your post, the emolument and the term (a copy).

The Business Registration Certificate (a copy).

The latest audited financial report and/or management accounts (a copy).

The latest profits tax return (a copy).

The most recent Annual Return (a copy of FORM NAR1).

The Return of Allotments (a copy of FORM NSC1).

If you will be employed as a company director or a company secretary: Notification of Changes of Secretary and Directors (a copy of FORM ND2A).

Office tenancy agreement copy.

For subsidiaries of overseas companies:

  • Certificate of Incorporation of the parent company
  • the parent company’s audited financial statements;
  • the parent company’s profile or brochure.

Third are documents explaining what the company does and how well it is doing.

A letter introducing the company. The letter must describe the business and provide a list of staff.

Promotional materials. A company brochure, sales publications, and press articles are good examples of this. They are needed to verify the business type of the company.

General Proof of Business. These could be, for instance, trading documentation, shipping documents, invoices, contracts, agency and distribution agreements etc.

Find the same list in a different font on the Immigration Department website.

Employment visa application

The procedures are common for both visas, GEP — Entrepreneurs and GEP — Professionals.

The Immigration Department only needs copies of the supporting documents, but the application form must be personally signed by you  and have a company chop , i.e. company stamp,  on it.

Although it makes preparing and filing documents more complicated,  it’s possible to apply for a visa without coming to Hong Kong.

How to submit the forms

There are 4 ways you can file such a form:

  1. Send it by post.
  2. Hand it in personally.
  3. DHL the form to an intermediary company and have them forward it to the Immigration Department.

To sign the application filled out by the company, you may appoint an authorized person to sign it, e.g. the Corporate Secretary in Hong Kong.

There are several ways you can submit the application for Hong Kong Visa and all the documents:

  1. You can stamp and post them to the Immigration Department (check the postal address on the official website)
  2. You can submit them via an intermediary. For example, Osome collects your documents for Hong Kong visa online, prepares the application form, sends it over for you to scan and sign (the authorities need the original). Then you DHL the form to them and they file all the papers with the Immigration Department.
  3. You can submit the papers to the nearest Chinese diplomatic and consular mission. Be sure to check with them first as some of the missions hand the application over to the Chinese Visa Application Service Centers.
  4. Foreigners living in the Mainland of China can submit the papers to the Office of the Government of the HKSAR in Beijing or to the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Shanghai. If this is your option, enclose your valid travel documents so that the office can issue a visa or an entry permit for you once if the application is approved.

How to pay the fees

Every applicant must pay a fee. Depending on how you submit the application there are several ways to pay:

  1. If you submit the documents to the Immigration Department directly or hire an intermediary to do so, you must pay upon collecting your visa. You can pay in cash, by EPS, or by cheque made payable to "The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region”.
  2. If you send your application to the nearest Chinese diplomatic and consular mission, you pay them, not the Immigration Department. For payment options, consult the mission where you applied.
  3. If you send your application to the Office of the Government of the HKSAR in Beijing or to the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, the fee should be paid to them. For payment options, consult the office where you applied.

How long it will take

It normally takes 4 weeks to process a visa application.

The Immigration Department approves or declines applications at its own discretion. Put simply, the authorities do not explain their decisions.

Hong Kong Visa Renewal

As a rule, visitors must leave Hong Kong before their limit of stay expires. If for some reasons you need to be in the country for a longer period, you may apply for a Hong Kong Visa extension. You must do it within 7 days before your stay limit expires. The application is usually finalised on the same day.

Key takeaways

  • Both skilled professionals and entrepreneurs can come to work in Hong Kong thanks to the GEP visas managed by the Immigration Department.
  • They must prove they are qualified and want to do some real and concrete work in Hong Kong.
  • The employing company  must prove that they have a real business and that it is doing well.
  • They can apply by post, by submitting their applications to Chinese diplomatic and consular missions or to Hong Kong offices in the Mainland of China.
  • The application review takes about a month.
  • The Immigration Department can turn down any application without an explanation.

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