Hong Kong Visa
The most common way a Western executive will work in Hong Kong is through an internal company transfer. Arranging a Hong Kong work visa not a formality. The Hong Kong Immigration Department will still want to know why an expat is being granted a Hong Kong visa in at the expense of offering a local resident employment. Whether you are being transferred to Hong Kong or are an overseas hire, the employer will have to submit a Hong Kong work visa application and supporting documents, including the CV of the person being transferred. They may also need to show a copy of the local job advertisement and the CVs of the local candidates who were rejected for the advertised position.
Should you be transferring to, or joining a company that is already established in Hong Kong please see our Orientation page for assistance in making your Hong Kong work visa application.
Hong Kong Work Visa
Companies opening an office in Hong Kong and those already trading here attract many foreign workers. Hence, the Immigration authorities tend to exercise some discretion in awarding approvals for a Hong Kong work visa. Many visitors holding a foreign passport can enjoy a Visa-free visit of 14 to 180 days, but visitors are not allowed by law to take up employment (paid or unpaid), to establish or join in any business, or to enter school as a student.
All non-Hong Kong residents wanting to work in Hong Kong will require a Hong Kong work visa. Whilst there are no documented qualifying criteria, when considering an application, the Immigration Department will usually examine several key areas:
- Higher level educational background: a graduate degree and above would be preferable.
- Relevant experience that is deemed to be in short supply in Hong Kong.
- Reasonable salary level; a guide of US$40,000 per year is considered reasonable.
- How beneficial the individual is to Hong Kong’s economy, trade and industry.
- That a local or resident worker could not fill the position.
- How the expatriate can benefit the local workforce (e.g. training).
Don’t work in Hong Kong without a working visa!
If an individual is not permitted to work in Hong Kong (by virtue of being a permanent resident, for example), the employer has to apply for a work permit for the individual. If the employer gives employment without first obtaining a working visa for that individual, the employer commits an offense and may be liable to a maximum fine of HK$350,000 and three years’ imprisonment. If the worker arrives as a Visitor (even with an application for a work visa pending) they are still a visitor. If they start work, the Visitor is breaching their conditions of stay. Working (paid or unpaid) in Hong Kong without approval from the Immigration Department, where such approval is required may result in the offender being liable to a maximum fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for 2 years.
From the submission of a Hong Kong visa the application can take 6-8 weeks to process. If Immigration needs to make further inquiries it may take longer. Those inquiries may be about you or the sponsoring company, if for example they are newly incorporated or have a high proportion of their workforce as sponsored workers. Once your Hong Kong visa is granted, Immigration will send you a sticker to put into your passport which needs to be validated on entry to Hong Kong. It is that validation that activates your Hong Kong visa. If you are already in Hong Kong you will need to take a ferry to Macau for the day so you can re-enter Hong Kong and validate your Hong Kong visa.
A Hong Kong work visa is typically granted for a period of 6-12 months. Extensions are typically given in 2-year increments up to the point where the worker has accrued seven consecutive years of employment. The worker can then apply for Permanent Residency (a Permanent ID Card), which means you no longer need to be sponsored for a Hong Kong visa.
If a worker leaves the employment of their sponsor, the new employer will re-sponsor the worker whilst they are working out their notice. This usually takes 2-3 weeks. If Immigration needs to make further inquiries it may take longer.
Hong Kong Dependent Visa
Whilst workers are sponsored by their employer, dependents are sponsored by the worker. A worker can sponsor their spouse and their children, up to the age of 18 for a Hong Kong Dependent visa. As holders of a Hong Kong Dependent visa, spouses are currently allowed to take up work when sponsored by their legal spouse, although these arrangements are changeable.
Please see our Orientation page for assistance in applying for Hong Kong dependents visa for your married spouse and children.
Unmarried spouses may not be recognized as legal spouses by the Hong Kong Immigration Department. In these circumstances the spouse should consider obtaining a visa independently of their partner in another category, (e.g. quality migrant scheme, capital investor or student) or applying for a Prolonged Visitor Visa.
Working Holiday Visa
Young adults aged 18-30 from participating countries can apply for a Working Holiday Visa. Although there are a number of conditions and an annual quota, this is a good way to get your first foothold into the Hong Kong employment market.
Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates (IANG)
The government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has introduced a special scheme called Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates (IANG) to encourage non-local graduates to stay and work as professionals in Hong Kong.
Under the IANG, non-local students who have obtained a degree or higher qualification from a full-time, locally accredited local programme in Hong Kong can apply to stay (or return) and work in Hong Kong.
Graduating students who wish to apply for IANG but have not yet received the Graduation of Certificate may do so by filing an Application for Entry for Employment as Professionals in Hong Kong Form ID990A with the Immigration Department, together with your supporting documents which should include a Letter of Certification issued by the University. Potential graduates may apply for the Letter of Certification at Academic Regulations and Records Office (for undergraduates) or Chow Yei Ching School of Graduate Studies (for postgraduates).
Non-local graduates who apply for IANG within six months after the date of graduation (i.e. the date of graduation shown on the Letter of Certification or Graduation Certificate) are classified as fresh graduates. Fresh graduates may apply to stay and work in Hong Kong without having secured an offer of employment upon application. IANG applicants who meet the normal immigration requirements may be granted a 12-month stay with no conditions except for the time limitation, i.e. 12 months.
For graduates who apply for IANG beyond six months after the date of graduation (i.e. the date of graduation shown on the Letter of Certification or Graduation Certificate), they will be classified as returning non-local graduates. Returning non-local graduates who wish to work in Hong Kong must have secured an offer of employment when they apply for IANG. An application will be favourably considered so long as the job is at a level commonly occupied by degree holders and the pay package is set at market level.
Hong Kong ID Cards
Under the Registration of Persons Ordinance (Cap 177, Laws of Hong Kong), all Hong Kong residents (including children over 11) require a Hong Kong ID Card. Your Hong Kong ID card should be carried at all times and will be required when you wish to open accounts with utility companies, banks etc.
When you first attend the Immigration Department to apply for your Hong Kong ID card, you will first be issued with a paper copy. A plastic Hong Kong ID card will be available for collection about a month later.
Hong Kong visa
To apply for any type of Hong Kong visa Hong Kong Work Visa, Hong Kong Dependent Visa) or Hong Kong ID card you must make an appointment to attend the Hong Kong Immigration Department in person.
The address of the Hong Kong Immigration Department office is:
7 Gloucester Road,
Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Attending the Hong Kong Immigration Department can be daunting. To book an escorted visit, please see our Orientation page.
Please note that no liability is accepted for inaccuracies or omissions, pursuant to our terms.