Hong Kong immigration guide

A business overview of work visas and permanent residence options

Recognised for its business-friendly environment, Hong Kong is an attractive destination for businesses, entrepreneurs, and investors seeking international opportunities.  

One of the key contributing factors is its flexible immigration policy that accommodates different applicants, including spouses and children. This, coupled with its strategic position and ease of access to neighbouring countries, has seen Hong Kong establish itself as a first-choice gateway for conducting business in Asia.  

This guide provides an in-depth look into Hong Kong’s immigration policies and the options it offers. 

Visas for entrepreneurs and investors

As an entrepreneur or business owner, you can benefit from specific visas designed to facilitate your move to Hong Kong. 

Top Talent Pass Scheme

The Top Talent Pass Scheme (TTPS) aims to attract high income individuals with substantial work experience or graduates from top universities around the globe.  

If you earned an annual income of HK$2.5 million or more in the year prior to your application, you may consider applying under the TTPS. It is not mandatory to have a job secured in Hong Kong at the time of your application. 

Alternatively, the TTPS is also available to individuals who graduated from top universities and who have either at least three years of work experience over the past five years immediately preceding the date of application. Graduates with less than three years of work experience may be approved subject to an annual quota.  

Successful TTPS applicants are typically granted a 24-month stay, with extensions available. If you have started or joined a business in Hong Kong during this period, you will need to present proof of your operations when extending your stay.  

New Capital Investment Entrant Scheme 

If you are interested in investing in Hong Kong, you may explore the New Capital Investment Entrant Scheme (New CIES). Broadening the scope of permissible investment assets, you must: 

  • Apply for net asset assessment with Invest Hong Kong (InvestHK), showing ownership of net assets or equity worth at least HK$30 million throughout the two years before the application date 
  • Invest a minimum of HK$30 million in permissible investment assets, proving full beneficial ownership 
  • Demonstrate the ability to support yourself and your dependants 

You will need to get verification from InvestHK to proceed with your application. This includes the Certifying Proof for Fulfilment of Net Asset Requirement and Certifying Proof for Fulfilment of Investment Requirements. Upon approval, you may stay in Hong Kong for up to 24 months, with extensions available. 

Quality Migrant Admission Scheme

The Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS) is a quota-based entrant scheme designed for skilled individuals, with up to 1,000 applicants selected per year. You will not need to secure employment in Hong Kong before relocating.  

Among the requirements, you must: 

  • Have a strong educational background 
  • Be proficient in written and spoken English or Chinese (Putonghua or Cantonese) 
  • Demonstrate the ability to financially support yourself and any dependants  
  • Pass either the General Points Test or Achievement-based Points Test 

The length of stay will vary depending on the test that you take, with extensions available. If you are selected under the General Points Test, you will usually be issued a 36-month visa. On the other hand, you may stay in Hong Kong for up to eight years if you are chosen under the Achievement-based Points Test. 

General Employment Policy for entrepreneurs 

Entrepreneurs planning to start or join a business in Hong Kong, may apply under the General Employment Policy (GEP). Key criteria include having a strong educational background, technical qualifications or proven professional experience, and being in a position to contribute significantly to Hong Kong’s economy.  

If your startup is backed by a government programme with a stringent selection process, you may also submit an application. The Immigration Department may consider your application if you are a proprietor, partner, or key researcher. 

This type of visa is valid for multiple years, with extensions available. Your application will be considered based on whether you still meet the investment entry criteria.  

Admission scheme for the second generation of Chinese Hong Kong permanent residents

This scheme is designed to attract professionals who are the second generation of emigrated Chinese Hong Kong permanent residents, encouraging them to return and work in Hong Kong.  

To qualify, you must: 

  • Be born overseas 
  • Be aged between 18 and 40 at the time of application 
  • Have at least one parent with a valid Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card who was a Chinese national settled overseas at the time of your birth 
  • Possess a strong educational background, generally holding a first degree 
  • Be proficient in written and spoken English or Chinese (Putonghua or Cantonese) 
  • Have the financial resources to support yourself and any dependants without relying on public assistance 

Successful applicants are typically granted a 24-month stay, with the opportunity to extend. If you have started or joined a business in Hong Kong during this time, you will need to submit proof of your operations when applying for an extension. 

Visas for employees

Moving your workforce to Hong Kong will require careful planning, especially around visa requirements. If your employees are not Hong Kong residents, you will need to secure the necessary visas for them.  

Training visas

If you are keen to send your employees for upskilling in Hong Kong, there is a visa for training purposes. Key criteria include: 

  • The authenticity of the applicant and sponsoring company must be verified 
  • The sponsoring company is reputable and equipped to provide the training 
  • A contract must be signed between the applicant and sponsoring company 
  • The sponsoring company must provide a written guarantee for the applicant’s maintenance and repatriation 
  • The proposed training programme’s content and duration must be justified 

Once the visa is issued, your staff may stay in Hong Kong for a period of no more than 12 months to complete their training. 

Working Holiday

Your employees can also take up short training courses in Hong Kong with a Working Holiday visa. Designed to promote cultural and educational exchange between Hong Kong and participating countries, this quota-based scheme allows eligible participants to stay in Hong Kong for up to 12 months. Extensions are typically not permitted. 

To qualify, your employees must:  

  • Be between 18 and 30 years old 
  • Possess a valid national passport from the participating country and be originally residing there 
  • Have the primary intention to holiday in Hong Kong 
  • Provide proof of sufficient financial resources to support themselves during their stay in Hong Kong 
  • Hold a return air ticket or provide proof of having sufficient funds to purchase one 
  • Agree to carry medical, healthcare, repatriation and liability insurance for the duration of their stay in Hong Kong 

Participating countries include Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and more. Do note that the availability of Working Holiday visas is limited with annual quotas imposed. Applications are also processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Early applications may therefore be required to secure the Working Holiday visas for your employees. 

General Employment Policy for professionals

For long-term employment, you may consider the General Employment Policy (GEP). This scheme is quota-free and applicable across all sectors.  

Among the requirements, your employee must: 

  • Have a job that aligns with their academic qualifications or work experience, which the local workforce cannot easily fill 
  • Have a remuneration package that matches the prevailing market rate 
  • Have a strong educational background, technical qualifications, or demonstrated professional experience 

This type of visa is valid for multiple years, with extensions available. The application will be considered based on whether your employee still meets the employment criteria. 

There are separate schemes available for recruiting Chinese residents of the Mainland and non-local graduates.

Technology Talent Admission Scheme

If you are looking to quickly bring in non-locals for research and development (R&D) work in Hong Kong, you can benefit from a fast-track process under the Technology Talent Admission Scheme (TechTAS).  

To participate, you must first apply for a quota with the Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC). Once received, you can then sponsor an eligible individual to get an employment visa, valid for 24 months.  

Among the requirements, the individual must: 

  • Be employed full-time with your company in Hong Kong 
  • Be offered a salary at or above the prevailing market level in Hong Kong 
  • Primarily conduct R&D in innovative areas such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, cybersecurity, data analytics and financial technologies etc. 
  • Hold a Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) degree from a top 100 university 
  • Meet the job requirements specified in the quota allotment letter from the ITC 

Once approved, they will be able to stay for up to 36 months or for the duration of their employment contract, if it is shorter. Extensions are possible, should the employee need to continue working in Hong Kong.  

Visas for family members

If you are thinking about bringing members of your family to Hong Kong, it’s important to understand the requirements to ensure a successful transition. 

Dependant visa

The dependant visa allows your family members to relocate to Hong Kong if you hold a valid visa for employment, investment, training or study in Hong Kong, or if you are a permanent resident. This applies to visas such as the TTPS, New CIES, QMAS and the admission scheme for the second generation of Chinese Hong Kong permanent residents. 

The application must fulfil the following conditions: 

  • There must be reasonable proof of a genuine relationship between you and your dependant 
  • There should be no known record that is detrimental to your dependant 
  • You must demonstrate that you can support your dependant and provide suitable accommodation during their stay in Hong Kong 

Upon approval, your family members may reside in Hong Kong for the same duration as your authorised stay.  

Becoming a Hong Kong resident

If Hong Kong is a place you want to call home for the long term, pursuing permanent residency will be your next step.  

Permanent resident 

As a permanent resident or someone with the right of abode in Hong Kong, you can enjoy the freedom of living and working indefinitely without the need for additional visas. Take note that Hong Kong does not have its own citizenship.  

In brief, you can apply for a permanent identity card with the Immigration Department and gain permanent resident status if you fall under any of the following groups: 

  • Foreigners who have lawfully resided in Hong Kong for seven years and have established Hong Kong as their place of permanent residence 
  • Foreigners under the age of 21, born in Hong Kong to a permanent resident parent (above the age of 21, they will need to establish their own permanent resident status to maintain it) 
  • Chinese nationals born in Hong Kong 
  • Chinese nationals who have lived lawfully in Hong Kong for seven years 
  • Chinese nationals born outside of Hong Kong to parents who were Hong Kong permanent residents at the time of their birth 
  • Individuals who had no right of abode in any place other than Hong Kong 

It’s worth noting that it is possible to lose your permanent resident status if you have been away from Hong Kong for a continuous period of 36 months or longer.  

Certificate of Entitlement

If you are of Chinese nationality and were born outside of Hong Kong, you do not need to apply for a permanent identity card. Instead, you can apply for a Certificate of Entitlement if your parent, at the time of your birth, was: 

  • A Chinese citizen born in Hong Kong 
  • A Chinese citizen who had resided in Hong Kong continuously for at least seven years 

Next steps

At Hawksford, we are committed to supporting you with your relocation journey. Our experienced team of multilingual professionals can deliver a range of comprehensive services in Hong Kong – from immigration support to permanent residence applications – all designed to meet your specific needs.  

Partner with us to manage the requirements of moving to Hong Kong and achieve your business objectives with confidence. 

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