Hong Kong Visa Types

Hong Kong Visa Types for Foreign Entrepreneurs and Startups

Are you planning to move to or expand your business in Hong Kong? If you are, I hope this article serves you well. We launched Talenox Hong Kong about a month ago and I thought I’d  share some pointers on how we got there. With this, we’re creating a series of blog posts on key things to look out for if you’re a foreign entrepreneur starting a new business in Hong Kong.

This article will be about one of the most fundamental things that allow you to first set foot into Hong Kong (literally) – visas.

 

The first visa you need

Although we’re a software and technically do not need to have a physical presence in Hong Kong to run a business there (i.e. a storefront or a sales team), we still needed to do our ground work – including meeting our very nice partners over there, who were crucial to our expansion as they paved the road for us.

My advice to you would be to take at least one trip to get acquainted with the environment of your target expansion country or city, and develop good relations with key people over there – you never know when you’ll need their help, whether or not you intend to be based there.

To do this, you can probably enter Hong Kong without actually applying for a visa. If your nationality/passport belongs to one of the 170 countries and territories eligible for visa-exclusion, you may enter Hong Kong as a temporary visitor for a period from 7 days to 180 days. Refer to the Immigration Department’s webpage to check your eligibility.

As long as you are not establishing a company there during that period, and you are simply meeting vendors and/or concluding contracts, you’ll be able to enter Hong Kong as a visitor with minimal or no problems.

 

The second visa you need

Depending on your business type, you may apply for any of these visas upon deciding to start your new venture in Hong Kong.

 

Investment as Entrepreneurs

This is for foreign entrepreneurs who want to start a business and relocate to Hong Kong. This visa usually grants you an initial stay of about 24 months.

In order to apply for this, a 2-year business plan, financial forecasts, and personal bank statements are required. The most important thing to show is the business’s ability to contribute substantially to the Hong Kong economy (e.g. by creating more local jobs).

Advantages

  1. Startups under a government-accredited incubator programme will be granted a leg-up. There are at least 5 programmes available.
  2. If you have lived in Hong Kong for at least 3 years and already hold an employment visa, it will be easier to obtain a business investment visa for your new venture.
  3. If you hold an employment visa and your employer consents to you running a side business, getting a business investment visa will be easier as well.
  4. This scheme allows a person’s spouse and child — the child must not be more than 18 years of age —  to go to Hong Kong with them on a dependent policy.

Disadvantages

  1. The most difficult to obtain amongst all visa types, with only about 300-400 granted each year.
  2. New businesses, which have little to show financially, may struggle to obtain this visa.
  3. This visa requires the most number of forms to be submitted, including annual returns, company registration, and sponsorship forms.
  4. Applicants need to show that they are sole-proprietors/partners/key personnel of the business.

 

The last visa you need

Or visas. If you’re planning to do some hiring, that is. If your team in Hong Kong consists of non-citizens and existing residents, you might need to apply for the relevant visas for your employees.

As a general rule, foreign citizens need a visa to enter Hong Kong, much less work and live in it. Though there are exceptions, always check the nationality of your employee to ensure that you are obtaining the right visa for them.

 

The General Employment Policy (GEP) – Professionals

Besides obtaining the GEP scheme (Entrepreneurs), you may apply for employment visas for your employees under this scheme. Similarly, this allows applicants to stay in Hong Kong for about 24 months.

However, top-tier GEP entrants may be granted a 6-year extension of stay on time limitation only without other conditions of stay if they meet the relevant eligibility criteria. This might be better if you intend to keep your employees around for a longer period of time, compared to the GEP scheme (Entrepreneurs), which only grants an extension of 3 months.

Employees who fulfill these conditions may apply for the GEP scheme:

  1. They must have a confirmed job offer.
  2. They should have a graduate degree and the necessary professional experience for the job.
  3. Their salary and other working conditions are comparable to local standards.
  4. They will contribute to the local economy in general.
  5. They are in replacement of a local, as no local can be found to do this particular job.

Advantages

  1. The GEP scheme allows for a person’s spouse and child — the child must not be more than 18 years of age —  to go to Hong Kong with them on a dependent policy.
  2. Applicants do not need to show that they are sole-proprietors/partners/key personnel of the business.

Disadvantages

  1. Lengthy forms to be submitted and hardcopies mailed  (or delivered in person) by both the applicant and the employer, such as the Application for Entry for Employment as Professionals (ID 990A) and Application for Employing Professionals (ID 990B).
  2. Takes about 4-6 weeks to process.

 

Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP)

This visa is suitable if you are planning to attract qualified Mainland (Mainland of China) professionals.

Like the GEP scheme, the applicant needs to show that they have the relevant skills and expertise to contribute to the local economy and for the particular job they are applying for.

Advantages

  1. The ASMTP scheme is quota-free and non-sector specific.
  2. Applicants who are of managerial or professional positions can use this scheme to prepare for training and commencement of operations in Hong Kong, even before the business has started.
  3. The ASMTP scheme allows for a person’s spouse and child — the child must not be more than 18 years of age — to go to Hong Kong with them on a dependent policy.

Disadvantages

  1. Lengthy forms to be submitted and hardcopies mailed (or delivered in person) by both the applicant and the employer, such as the Application for Entry for Employment as Professionals (ID 990A) and Application for Employing Professionals (ID 990B).
  2. Takes about 4-6 weeks to process.

 

Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS)

This is suitable for individuals who are highly skilled. However, they must first pass either one of two points-based tests, the 1) General Points Test (GPT) – which tests mainly professional qualifications, and 2) Achievement-based Points Test (APT) – which focuses on outstanding achievements and awards, which are usually non-work related.

Advantages

  1. The ASMTP scheme is quota-free and non-sector specific.
  2. Successful applicants under the GPT or APT may get an extension of up to 6 years and 8 years respectively.
  3. The QMAS scheme allows for a person’s spouse and child — the child must not be more than 18 years of age — to go to Hong Kong with them on a dependent policy.

Disadvantages

  1. The scheme is quota-based, which means only a handful of applicants succeed in obtaining the visa.
  2. It is not applicable to nationals of Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cuba, Laos, Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of), Nepal and Vietnam.

 

Other schemes

You may also look at schemes such as the Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates (IANG) and Admission Scheme for the Second Generation of Chinese Hong Kong Permanent Residents (ASSG) for your younger employees.

However, the former scheme only allows for a stay of 1 year and requires the applicant to have obtained an undergraduate or higher qualification in a full-time locally accredited local programme in Hong Kong. The latter requires the applicant to have at least one parent holding a Hong Kong permanent identity card.

 

Closing notes

Time is of the essence to a business, and nobody likes to spend hours at immigration.

Make sure to apply for a visa well in advance of your planned departure. Perform a quick assessment on which types of visa you would need, depending on your nationality and reason for travel. If necessary, call the relevant authorities to confirm your entry into Hong Kong.

As for bringing in foreign employees, make sure they possess the relevant skills and knowledge for a job that’s not readily filled by a local in Hong Kong. Provide them with the necessary documents such as NDAs and job offer letters before proceeding with the visa application.

To download the necessary immigration/visa forms, you may head to the Immigration Department’s website at www.immd.gov.hk. If you have very specific questions you’d like to address, consider speaking to a Hong Kong visa expert online at Hong Kong Visa Centre.

 


 

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