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Hong Kong's Immigration Policies

Hong Kong is often described as a ‘city of immigrants’ and is home to the Chinese, British, other European, and South Asian communities. Hong Kong’s immigration policy plays a vital role in enhancing its attractiveness to foreign professionals and investors.

This article provides a brief overview of Hong Kong’s immigration policy.

Brief History of Hong Kong Immigration

The first wave of immigration from mainland China to Hong Kong began in the 1840s when the British established Hong Kong as a free port. This resulted in the significant growth of Hong Kong’s population during the 1840s through the 1860s. The Chinese brought with them machinery and know-how and formed a local entrepreneurial class in Hong Kong. Other Chinese immigrants served as low-cost labourers. The second mass exodus of Chinese immigrants from mainland China to Hong Kong occurred at the end of World War II. As a result, Hong Kong’s ethnic composition primarily comprises the Chinese community.

Until the 1960s all immigration matters were controlled by the Hong Kong Police Force. Subsequently, the Immigration Department was set up in 1961 as an independent body responsible for immigration control in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s Immigration Policy

Hong Kong follows a liberal immigration policy. Nationals of about 170 countries and territories are allowed visa-free visits to Hong Kong for periods ranging from 7 to 180 days. Short-term visitors are allowed to enter Hong Kong on a visitor visa to conduct business negotiations and sign contracts. The government has introduced appropriate work visa provisions, anticipating the needs of business entrepreneurs who may wish to relocate to Hong Kong to run their business or who may want to hire foreign professionals to work in their company. Dependants are issued with visas that allow them to undertake almost any type of lawful employment in Hong Kong. The following are various policies and schemes for employment of foreign professionals, employment of mainland talents and professionals, those wishing to enter for investment etc.

Policies to attract foreign professionals

Under the ‘General Employability Policy’ (GEP), foreign professionals who possess good educational qualifications and also possess special skills, knowledge or experience of value to and not readily available in the Hong Kong can enter and work in Hong Kong by applying for a special work permit scheme called employment for professionals. In 2015, 34,403 overseas professionals were admitted under the GEP.

Policies to attract mainland talent and professionals

Under the ‘Admission Scheme for mainland Talents and Professionals’, professionals from mainland China who possess good educational qualifications and who also possess special skills, knowledge or experience of value to and not readily available in the Hong Kong can enter and work in Hong Kong by applying for the employment visa, also known as the ’employment for professionals’ scheme. This policy was designed to meet local manpower needs and enhance Hong Kong’s competitiveness in the global market. In 2015, 10,861 mainland talent and professionals were admitted under the scheme.

Policies to attract skilled foreign talent

The Hong Kong authorities implemented the ‘Quality Migrant Admission Scheme’ (QMAS) in 2006 to attract highly skilled or talented professionals from mainland China or other foreign countries to stay in Hong Kong to explore employment or business startup opportunities. In order to secure entry into Hong Kong under QMAS scheme, the applicant must satisfy the basic pre-requisites, pass a points based test and compete for quota allocation with other applicants. Under the scheme, a maximum of 1,000 applicants per year may be admitted into Hong Kong. Unlike the employment visa, applicants are not required to secure a confirmed employment offer in order to enter and stay in Hong Kong.

Policies to attract foreign entrepreneurs

The Hong Kong government has designed a special migration visa scheme called ‘Entry for Investment’ for foreign entrepreneurs who wish to relocate to operate their own business in Hong Kong. The entrepreneur visa scheme is essentially a type of work permit that is issued to the owner of a business as an employee of his/her Hong Kong company. One of the main criteria for grant of the entrepreneur visa lies in whether the applicant is able to prove that his/her business will make a significant contribution to the economy of Hong Kong.

The least restrictive immigration laws for foreign talent

According to the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook, 2008, Hong Kong is ranks sixth in the world for least restrictive immigration laws for foreign talent. By adopting an open and liberal approach to immigration, Hong Kong ensures its sustainability in a globally competitive market. For more information on various Hong Kong work and business related visa schemes, please refer to Hong Kong visa schemes.

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