For decades, working in Hong Kong has been popular among those seeking new challenges abroad. Since the start of its economic boom in the 1960s, the smallest of the “Asian Tigers” has not only been a major destination for foreign investments — it has also attracted many international specialists.
Due to its location, free port status, well-developed infrastructure and low taxation, the city continues to be a regional investment hub and financial center. The number of expats working in Hong Kong remains high. However, recent economic downturns and increasing numbers of well-qualified local graduates have led to a competitive job market. Finding employment in Hong Kong has become increasingly difficult for expats. Particularly those expats trying to find a job without an intra-company transfer have to jump some hurdles.
The developments described above are also reflected in visa policies regarding expats working in Hong Kong. To apply for an “Employment for Professionals” visa, you need to have a confirmed job offer and your potential employer has to sponsor your application. Moreover, they have to prove that the position in question cannot be filled by a local, which makes the process of acquiring a visa even more difficult.
As you can imagine, finding an employer willing to sponsor your visa so you can work in Hong Kong is not easy. Self-made expats can try to find a company from home via an online job search through websites like Jobsin Hong Kong, for example. Others actually travel to Hong Kong on a temporary visa to search for a job opportunity. However, even if you succeed, remember that you are not allowed to start working in Hong Kong on a temporary visa. Instead, you have to leave and re-enter the country on a visa which actually allows you to take up employment.
If you would like to have more information on Hong Kong visa, please take a look at our in-depth article on Hong Kong Visa for Expatriates.
So, in which fields can you find employment opportunities? It is mostly multinational companies that provide vacancies. Expertise and professional experience in the banking and IT sectors are especially sought after.
Additionally, hard skills in accounting and finance or in the legal sector greatly increase one’s chances in Hong Kong’s job market. However, there has been a recent expansion of low-skilled employment. This is in part due to the decrease in the financial sector and to the growth in the retail sector. As of 2013, recruitment agencies have reported a decrease in middle-management jobs, notably in financial services. Remember that at Hong Kong’s workplaces, even those at multinational companies, require some command of Cantonese or Mandarin from you. The easiest way to start working in Hong Kong as an expat is via transfer by your current employer to the company’s branch in Hong Kong. This doesn’t only save you the difficult task of an overseas job search; it also increases your chances of receiving a work visa.
When transferred to a branch of your current company, you fall under the so-called Intra-Company Transfer Arrangement. In this case, in order to get you a work visa, your company only needs to prove that you have been working for them for over a year and that your salary and benefits will be comparable to local standards.
There are a couple of things expats working in Hong Kong should be aware of when it comes to their contract and mandatory social security contributions. Although remuneration packages with specific “expat allowances”, including extended benefits for experts from abroad, are becoming increasingly rare, there are some issues you should pay attention to when negotiating your contract.
Carefully check what the company offers you in terms of a housing allowance and private healthcare coverage. These are the largest parts of an expat family’s annual budget and deserve special attention. Expats working in Hong Kong with kids should clarify beforehand if the employer holds a debenture for one of Hong Kong’s expensive international schools or is willing to purchase one.
Read up at length on jobs and business in Hong Kong in our Extended Guide for Hong Kong.
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