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A Guide to Visa Types and Work Permits in Hong Kong

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Once you have decided to make the move, you will need to apply for a Hong Kong visa. Hong Kong visa requirements can be tough: it is not a point-based system and there is no medical exam, but you will need to demonstrate that you are well-qualified for the job and that it could not be done by a local. On a positive note, the Hong Kong visa application is cost free.

For those staying longer than six months, you will need to apply for a Hong Kong ID card within 30 days of arriving. The application and the process are relatively easy, and, once you have the card, it will allow you to do everything from flying through airport security by using biometric gates to borrowing library books.

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Work Permits and Employment Based Visas

Getting a job that allows you to move to Hong Kong is usually the trickiest part of getting a Hong Kong visa. However, once you have that settled, the bureaucratic side of getting a work permit or employment visa in Hong Kong is not too complicated. In addition to that, Hong Kong work visa costs are free of charge.

Hong Kong Work Visa Requirements

If you move to Hong Kong for job-related reasons, you need to apply for a work visa under the General Employment Policy (GEP). You can submit your Hong Kong work visa application form by mailing it or by presenting the documents in person.

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 as you need someone to sponsor you. (If you do not have an offer yet, visit our section on job opportunities in Hong Kong).

Required Documents

In your visa application, you have to 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 you meet the following requirements:

  • 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. Nevertheless, for most applications, the immigration authorities accept the proof they receive.

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.

Family Visa

Professionals that move to Hong Kong for work are allowed to bring dependents along with them. Qualifying dependents are:

  • Spouses (same or opposite sex)
  • Children under 18 years old

The application will be favored if:

  • There is reasonable proof of genuine relationship between the applicant and the sponsor.
  • There is no record to the detriment of the applicant.
  • The sponsor is able to support the applicant financially and provide accommodation for them.

When applying for a dependent visa, the applicant has to present the following documents:

  • Filled out application form (ID 997)
  • A recent photograph
  • A photocopy of their passport
  • A photocopy of proof of the applicant’s relationship with the sponsor (marriage or birth certificate)

If the applicant has to present a photocopy of Hong Kong, Macao, or Taiwan ID if he holds one.

The sponsor of the dependent has to present:

  • Filled out application form (ID 997, part B)
  • A photocopy of their passport
  • A photocopy of their Hong Kong ID
  • A photocopy of proof of the sponsors financial situation (bank statements, tax receipts, etc.)
  • A photocopy of proof of applicant’s housing situation (rental receipts)

If the documents presented are not in English or Chinese, they must come with a certified translation. Note that additional documents might be required depending on your situation.

Other Visa Options

Quality Migrant Admission Scheme is a great opportunity for expats of certain professions to relocate to Hong Kong. It offers 1,000 slots to IT, financial, legal, and creative professionals who do not need an existing job offer to be eligible for the visa. Find more information about it on the Working section of our guide.

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 Mainland China, foreign domestic helpers, and low-skilled workers. Special visa categories for training and working holidays may be of interest to younger expats.

How to Apply for a Visa

Fill out the appropriate application form and attach all the required documents. If your documents are in a language other than English or Chinese, you need to provide a translation. Also, please remember that you need a valid travel document from your home country in order to obtain a visa for Hong Kong.

You can submit your visa application either directly to the Hong Kong Immigration Department or through the nearest Chinese mission. If you are a foreign national and live on the Chinese Mainland, you can submit your visa application to the Immigration Division of the Office of the Hong Kong Government in Beijing.

Visa applications have to be mailed or handed in personally. Alternatively, you can file your application through a local sponsor, such as your prospective employer. Your application can take up to six weeks to process.

Hong Kong Visa Costs

Visa type HKD USD Ordinary visa 230 30 Transit visa 120 15 Change of conditions or an extension of stay 230 30

Is It Possible to Extend the Visa?

You can usually apply for an extension of your stay before your visa expires. Make sure that you apply at least four weeks before the expiration date. If you only have a visitor visa for Hong Kong though, it is usually enough to request an extension seven days in advance.

Expats with an employment visa usually get extensions following a 2-3-3-year pattern. If their job contract runs out before that, their visa extension will be shortened accordingly. If you are planning on getting married in Hong Kong to a resident with a valid visa, you can apply for a dependent visa that is tied to your spouse.

If You Want to Change Jobs while in Hong Kong

Keep in mind that if you wish to change jobs while you are residing in Hong Kong, you will need to restart the whole visa process under a new sponsor. Your former employer will need to inform the authorities about your departure, and you will not be able to start another job (full- or part-time) until you get your new visa processed. The applying procedures in this case do not differ from the usual ones for a working visa.

What Are the Visa Exemptions for Visitors?

As a general rule, foreign citizens need a visa to enter Hong Kong. However, if you wish to visit the country only for a short while, and you are not planning on studying or conducting business, you might be able to avoid the hassle. All you need to do to qualify for this visa exemption is have a valid document, a ticket back home, and proof that you have sufficient funds for your stay.

The length of the visit can vary — from seven days to whole six months — depending on where you are from.

Self-Employed Visas

There is an extra category of Hong Kong visas granting entry to international investors who want to join a company or establish their own business in Hong Kong. The main requirement to obtain one is proof that your business makes a substantial contribution to the economy. This visa does not include residents from Mainland China and nationals of Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cuba, Laos, Nepal, North Korea, and Vietnam.

The Process of Getting a Self-Employment Visa

For your application, you have to fulfill the usual criteria of having good educational and professional qualifications. Additionally, you should not have a police record with any serious crimes.

As with the standard work visa, you require a sponsor to set up a business in Hong Kong. Your sponsor can be a company or an individual who fits the following requirements:

  • at least 18 years of age;
  • a Hong Kong resident;
  • acquainted with you.

You can download the application forms for you (ID 999A) and your sponsor (ID 999B) from the Immigration Department, or you can obtain them at any Chinese mission.

Required Documents

In order to support your visa application for a business in Hong Kong, you also have to hand in a number of documents that might include:

  • a recent passport photograph
  • a copy of your passport
  • proof of academic qualifications and professional experience
  • detailed two-year business plan
  • copy of business registration (investors)
  • background information on business activities (investors)

You can also enter the country under the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme. The eligibility criteria for this visa includes high investments (at least 6.5 M HKD (830,000 USD)) in the country’s market prior or right after the visa is granted.

Issuance of the self-employment visa costs as much as a business visa, 230 HKD (30 USD).

Residency Permits: Temporary and Permanent

If you are wondering how to apply for a temporary residence permit or how to become a permanent resident in Hong Kong further down the line, the answer to both of these questions is the same – Hong Kong ID card.

Temporary Residence Hong Kong ID

Once you have entered Hong Kong on a valid visa, if you want to stay for longer than 180 days, you must apply for your own non-resident Hong Kong Identity Card. Expats can get this micro-chipped card without much bureaucratic hassle after their arrival to Hong Kong.

There are no specific requirements or fees you need to pay when applying for a Hong Kong ID card. In order to obtain it, you have to register for it within 30 days of your arrival. Your Hong Kong ID card will be issued to you for free.

Your personal information is stored on the card’s chip. While it mainly serves as an identification document, it can also be used for fast-lane immigration clearance at Hong Kong’s borders and, if you wish, even as a library card for Hong Kong’s public libraries.

Learn more about the application and processes involved in obtaining the temporary residence permit in Hong Kong by reading our article on how to get a Hong Kong ID.

Permanent Residence Hong Kong ID

If you are planning on staying in Hong Kong indefinitely, the Permanent Residence Hong Kong ID card is for you. It is a variation of the Hong Kong ID that grants you the so-called “right to abode” that gives you permanent resident’s benefits. That means you have the right to vote in local elections and permission to remain in the country indefinitely without being deported.

The only requirement in order to obtain the permanent visa in Hong Kong is to have lived in the territories for a continuous period of at least seven years. When applying for permanent residence in Hong Kong, you will also need to prove that you have a sufficient amount of income and that your family (spouse and minor children) resides in the territories.

How to Apply

You can apply for the card at the Hong Kong Immigration Department by post or online. However you choose to apply, you must be in the country when submitting your Hong Kong permanent resident ID application, otherwise your request for permanent residency will not be processed.

More information about how to obtain permanent residency in Hong Kong can be found in our article on getting Hong Kong ID.

The permanent resident application is cost free.

Hong Kong Family Visa

Dependents that wish to join permanent resident family members in Hong Kong have to meet the same eligibility requirements as the ones joining temporary residents. The application process is also the same. The main difference is that permanent residents are also allowed to bring their parents (over 60 years old) with them as well.

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