Hong Kong Visas for Entrepreneurs
Hong Kong has a special migration visa scheme called Entry for Investment for foreign entrepreneurs who wish to relocate to operate their own business in Hong Kong. This 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 you are able to prove that your business will make a significant contribution to the economy of Hong Kong. You are allowed to bring your spouse and unmarried dependent children under the age of 18 to Hong Kong under this scheme. You are also eligible to apply for Hong Kong permanent residence in due course. The entrepreneur visa is generally issued for one-year period initially and is renewable thereafter as long as your business remains viable.
This article serves as a guide on the eligibility criteria, application procedure and timeline, documentation required and other related information on applying for entrepreneur visa (to establish/join in business) in Hong Kong. To learn about available Hong Kong visa schemes, refer to Guide to Hong Kong Visas.
There is no minimum investment requirement specified by the authorities when applying for the entrepreneur visa. However at the time of processing your application, the authorities will closely examine your proposed business plan to assess if your proposed investment is sufficient for the business you plan to set up. In this regard, you must ensure that your proposed investment covers the start up and operational expenses of your business for at least the initial 3-6 month period.
- You should not have any criminal records or security objections.
- You must possess a good educational background. Normally it is preferable to have at least an undergraduate degree in the relevant field. However, in the absence of such a degree, documentary evidence of good technical qualifications, relevant professional abilities, achievements and experience may suffice.
- You must prove that you will make a substantial contribution to the economy of Hong Kong by demonstrating that your business will create jobs for the local workforce, that you will utilize the services of local service providers, suppliers, manufacturers etc. and that you will be able to make a significant contribution in the specific market that you are entering into.
- You are required to incorporate your Hong Kong company prior to applying for the entrepreneur visa. For details on how to register a Hong Kong company, refer to Hong Kong Company Registration guide.
Entrepreneur visa application must be sponsored by a local sponsor – a company or an individual. The sponsor takes the onus of assuming responsibility for your repatriation, if the circumstances so arise. To apply for entrepreneur visa in Hong Kong, the following documents are required:
Documents required from the applicant:
- Completed Application Form
- A copy of the personal particulars page of your passport. If you are currently staying in Hong Kong, a copy of your passport page containing the latest arrival stamp/extension of stay label in Hong Kong.
- A copy of your Hong Kong identity card (if any)
- A copy of proof of academic qualifications and relevant working experience
- A copy of the company’s Employment Contract or Appointment Letter, detailing information about your post, salary, other fringe benefits and employment period (if applicable)
- A thorough and detailed two-year business plan which should provide information about your company’s proposed business activities, amount of investment, creation of local job posts, setting up of an office/showroom/warehouse, etc. More details on the business plan are provided further below in this gudie.
- A copy of the Business Registration Certificate obtained from the Inland Revenue Department and business registration particulars of the company you are going to invest in or have already invested in.
- A copy of proof of your overseas residence
Documents required from the sponsor:
- If the sponsor is a company
- Completed Application Form (Sponsor)
- A copy of the company’s Business Registration Certificate
- If the sponsor is an individual
- Completed Application Form (Sponsor)
- A copy of the sponsor’s Hong Kong identity card
- A copy of the personal particulars page of the sponsor’s passport.
All documents submitted must be in English or Chinese or translated into English or Chinese by a certified translation body. The Immigration authorities reserve the right to demand further documents from the applicant or sponsor as and when necessary.
Preparing Business Plan
As mentioned above, you must submit a 2-year business plan as part of your entrepreneur visa application. A good business plan is one of the most crucial aspects in the approval of entrepreneur visa application. You must convince the authorities by enclosing adequate information and proof that your business will benefit the economy of Hong Kong. Your investment plan will be scrutinised and the following factors will be taken into account by the authorities:
- Business Plan: You must ensure that you have a sound business plan detailing your business idea, product or service, market analysis including the potential of your business to grow and contribute to the market in Hong Kong, your operational plan, administrative and management team etc.
- Capital Investment: The authorities will examine if you have adequate capital investment or the necessary funding required to support your business. It is generally advisable to enclose documentary proof of your financial standing such as bank statements, loan papers, letters of credit etc. Although there is no minimum capital requirement, you must ensure that you have sufficient funds to cover your start-up costs and operational costs for a short to medium term period of three-six months.
- Proposed Business Vehicle: Determinants such as your choice of business vehicle also plays a vital role in your application. Generally, a limited liability company incorporated in Hong Kong commands a better image than a sole proprietorship or a partnership firm, and will be taken more seriously by the authorities.
- Suitable business premises: The authorities will consider if your chosen business premises is suitable for the nature of business activity you will be engaging in. For instance, an import/export company will require business space that offers storage facilities. It is advisable to enclose a copy of the existing or proposed tenancy agreement and photographs of your business premises.
Taking the above factors into consideration, you are strongly advised to pay great attention and detail to the points highlighted above while filling in your application form. A loosely structured business plan which meets the bare minimum requirements faces a greater chance of rejection by the authorities than a strong investment plan that reflects your commitment to the business and the economy of Hong Kong as a whole.
Application Procedure and TimelineThe completed application along with supporting documents must be submitted to Hong Kong Immigration Department by post. The application processing time is about 3-5 months. If the application is successful, the Immigration Department will issue a Visa/Entry Permit label which must be collected from the immigration office in-person by the applicant or an authorized representative. The Visa/Entry Permit label must be affixed on a blank visa page of the applicant’s passport and presented to the Immigration Officer upon arrival in Hong Kong. In case the work permit application is rejected, an appeal can be filed with authorities.If the authorities find that your commitment to your business and the economy of Hong Kong is genuine and strong, that you have the adequate capital to support your business plans and that you satisfy all the eligibility criteria, it is unlikely that your investment visa application will be rejected. However, in the event of your application getting rejected, you can approach the authorities for an appeal.
Dependant Visa for FamilyApplicants under this work permit scheme are eligible to bring their family members (spouse and unmarried dependent children under 18 years of age to Hong Kong) with them to Hong Kong. A dependant visa application must be filed for each family member for this purpose. The dependant’s length of stay is tied to the applicant’s length of stay in Hong Kong and dependant visa holders are free to take up employment or study in Hong Kong, as applicable. For further details on dependent visa, refer to Hong Kong Family Visa guide.
Should You Hire A Professional Firm?
It is normally advisable to hire the services of a professional firm to handle your entrepreneur visa application. The reasons are as follows:
- Most professional firms are familiar with the procedure involved as they are most likely to have handled several cases earlier. The firms are in a position to provide you with the right guidance owing to their experience.
- Given the importance placed on your proposed investment plan by the Immigration authorities, the firm will help you draft a sound business plan (based on your inputs) in line with what the authorities expect.
- The professional firm can act as your local sponsor.
- The firm will undertake to submit your application and deal with the authorities as and when required, saving you the time on follow up and other administrative matters.
Visa RenewalsIf you have been granted Entry for Investment entrepreneur visa, you can relocate and stay in Hong Kong on employment status. Should you wish to extend your stay, you will need to file a renewal application at least four weeks before your limit of stay expires. Your renewal application will be considered only if you continue to meet the eligibility criteria and your business remains viable. If your renewal application is approved, your extension of stay will normally follow the 2-2-3 years pattern.
If you have been granted an entrepreneur visa and you have resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of at least seven years, you are eligible to apply for Permanent Residence, commonly referred to as “Right of Abode” in Hong Kong.