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Hong Kong Visas for Expatriates
Once you have decided to start working in Hong Kong as an expat, you should have a close look at the city’s visa regulations. All other preparations will seem a lot less troublesome when you finally hold this document in your hand, which states that you and your family can legally enter the city.
Make sure to apply for a visa well in advance of your planned departure. Depending on your nationality, you may be able to visit Hong Kong without a visa. However, you definitely need one if you want to live, work, or study there. While getting a visa for employment is not as easy as it used to be, it is by no means impossible. In this article, we will also provide information on visa regulations for traveling spouses and children, as well as for student and transit visas.
Visa Exemptions for Visitors
As a general rule, foreign citizens need a visa to enter Hong Kong. The only exceptions to these regulations are for temporary visitors from various countries. Nationals of some countries (e.g. Angola, Iran, or Laos) always require a visa for legal entry. The citizens of many other countries, however, are allowed to stay without a visa, but only for a limited period of time, ranging from seven days to six months. The latter again depends on a person's specific nationality and type of travel document.
For example, nationals of the United States, Canada, and Australia may come to visit without a visa for up to 90 days; citizens of, say, Russia or India are only allowed a maximum visit of 14 days. Hong Kong’s ties to the United Kingdom are still visible here: As a British national with a UK passport, you are eligible to stay for half a year. To see what applies to your own country of origin, please check the entry permit requirements provided by the Immigration Department.
As a visitor without a visa, you are not allowed to work or go to school in Hong Kong. Moreover, you have to prove that you have sufficient funds to cover your stay without working and that you have a valid return ticket. You also need a valid travel document from your home country. From some countries, only certain kinds of documents are accepted. Please check the aforementioned list for details.
If you would like to work, study, or reside in Hong Kong, you need a visa before entering the country. For most expats, the one for employment is most relevant.
If you move to Hong Kong for job-related reasons, you need to apply for a visa under the General Employment Policy.
A visa under the GEP scheme is usually issued only for a specified period of time. In order to be eligible, you must already have a confirmed job offer. (If you do not have an offer yet, check out our article on job opportunities in Hong Kong.)
In your visa application, you’ll include a statement by your potential employer describing the open position. When assessing your application, the Immigration Department is likely to rule in your favor if the following criteria apply:
- You have a graduate degree as well as the necessary professional experience for the position.
- Your salary and other working conditions are comparable to local standards.
- You will contribute to the local economy in general.
- The company can prove that they have found no local to fill this particular position.
The last criterion is usually the most difficult to prove, especially if you are recruited directly by a Hong Kong company. (It’s obviously easier for intra-company transfers.) Nevertheless, for most applications, the immigration authorities accept the proof they receive. It’s getting the job offer in the first place which can be difficult.
Once you have been approved for a work visa under the GEP scheme, you are allowed to bring your spouse as well as unmarried dependent children under the age of 18. For this purpose, you should be able to prove that your marriage is genuine. You must also be able to support your family financially and guarantee them a certain standard of living and suitable accommodation. Your spouse may also get a job there without an extra work permit.
If you have obtained a degree in Hong Kong, you fall under the so-called Immigration Arrangements for Non-Local Graduates. With this program, you can apply to stay in the city within six months of your graduation. Then your stay will be extended for up to one year, and you can look for local employment.
Additionally, there are other employment schemes for citizens from the Chinese mainland, foreign domestic helpers, and low-skilled workers. Special visa categories for training and working holidays may be of interest to younger expats.
We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.