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Visas for relocating to Hong Kong

Before you consider making the move to Hong Kong, it’s wise to check out the visa and immigration guidance.

At present, if you hold a UK passport you can stay in Hong Kong for up to six months. Different rules apply for other nationalities so it’s always important that you confirm entry requirements. If you want to exchange your visitor’s visa for a work visa you will have to leave Hong Kong and apply for a work visa and then, if successful you’ll be able to re-enter the territory. If you’re committed to your move abroad, you can apply for a work visa before you travel.

Increasingly, companies must prove to the Immigration Department that they have advertised in Hong Kong and that a lack of suitable applicants means that they have to recruit overseas. They may even have to submit a local job advertisement to demonstrate that they have tried to attract a local resident for the position.

Getting the right visa

Most expats arrange their work visa through the company that will be employing them. The employer submits your application to the authorities, together with proof of a job, salary and any other benefits, including accommodation and health insurance cover. The entire process can take up to six weeks. A work visa is generally valid for two years, though it’s quite common for your sponsoring company to extend it. The visa is only valid once it is stuck into your passport and stamped on your point of entry into Hong Kong.

Your family can come too

Once you have successfully obtained your work visa, you can then apply for a dependant visa for family members under 18, your parents if they are over 60, and your spouse. Despite a court ruling in 2017 that deemed same-sex marriages be placed on the same legal footing as heterosexual marriages, same-sex partners are not classed as dependants. Common-law partnerships also aren’t recognised under Hong Kong immigration laws.

You’ll have to prove that you’ll be able to support your dependents, and that none of them has a criminal record. If your spouse receives an offer of employment in Hong Kong, they will be able to work with a dependant visa.

It is important to realise that should your employment be terminated by your sponsoring company, your existing work visa will no longer be valid, though there’s nothing to stop you applying for a new work visa through a different sponsoring company. This is known as a change of sponsorship application — even though you have already held an employment visa, you’ll still have to undergo the whole application process again.

After seven years’ employment you will be eligible for Hong Kong residency status, which means that any future work can be carried out without a work visa.

Other types of Hong Kong visas

If you wish to study in the region, you will have to apply for a student visa through your educational facility. There are also working holiday visas. The Working Holiday admission scheme operates under the bilateral working holiday scheme — 12 participating countries receive a number of the region’s citizens in return for their own citizens working in Hong Kong. For more information click here to see if your country is part of this scheme (quota figures are up to date as of January 2018). You will also have to prove that you have sufficient funds to support yourself while on the scheme.

Self-employment in Hong Kong

The visa that you’ll need if you want to start a company in Hong Kong is an investment visa. The application process is arduous, and you’ll need to fill in reams of paperwork. InvestHK is a useful source for more information. On the upside, once you have set up your company you’ll find that you’ll be eligible for support and start-up finance. Hong Kong wants to encourage more small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to use the region as their base, especially in the fields of science and technology.

Working out which visa you are eligible for can take time, so it is always sensible to plan your trip in advance. Check out our pre-planning tips for more helpful advice.1

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