Overview of Business Visa in Hong Kong and China

Foreign companies established in Hong Kong and mainland China often need to hire foreign employees in addition to their local staff. Typical objectives of such positions encompass business development with foreign prospects, continuity of the company’s culture, and reporting to the overseas’ headquarters. In such case, local entities would act as sponsors of those foreign employees. Moreover, entrepreneurs who wish to launch a business in Hong Kong and/or China also need to apply for a visa for themselves to reside and work therein. What are the main types of business visas in Hong Kong and China? This article provides you with an overview of the current business immigration policies and requirements.

Hong Kong: Employment Visa & Investment Visa

 

Hong Kong Employment Visa is meant for individuals who wish to work for a Hong Kong company and reside in Hong Kong. Applicants must have a good educational background and possess special skills, knowledge or experience which are not readily available in Hong Kong (thus justifying the employment of a foreigner instead of a Hong Kong national). Each application is assessed based on the qualifications of the applicant and the sponsoring company. 

 

Hong Kong Investment Visa is meant for foreign entrepreneurs who wish to relocate to Hong Kong to start and run their own businesses. The key criteria of assessment lies in the ability to prove that such business will make a significant contribution to the economy of Hong Kong. Each application is assessed based on the qualifications of the entrepreneur and the new business to be set-up. 

 

HK Employment Visa HK Investment Visa
Eligibility Applicant (employee): Foreigners who have graduated from an academic institute in Hong Kong,or foreigners who graduated overseas and possess special skills, knowledge or experience not readily available in Hong Kong. In addition, candidates shall have no criminal records or security objections. Applicant (entrepreneur): Foreigners who possess a good educational background or good technical qualifications, relevant professional abilities, achievements and experience. In addition, candidates shall have no criminal records or security objections. Besides, the Immigration Department also requires a proof of available fundings, i.e. bank statements or assets.
Sponsor (employer): The sponsor shall justify a genuine job vacancy, and provide proof of good financial standing (if the applicant company is less than 12 months old, it shall also prove that its business will substantially contribute to the economy of Hong Kong - see criteria of the Investment Visa). Besides, the employer shall prove that the remuneration offered is in line with the prevailing market standards in Hong Kong.

New Business: The applicant must prove that the business will make a substantial contribution to the economy of Hong Kong. Though there are no official minimum requirements in terms of investment and staffing, the Immigration Department will expect the applicant to:

 

  • Make a significant investment, in line with the cash flow and needs of the new business.
  • Have an office space or at least a desk in a co-working space.
  • Create local jobs, and at least commits to hire one Hong Kong employee during the first year of business.
Validity Normally issued for a two-year period. Normally issued for a one-year period.
Extension Renewable after one year (if all eligibility criteria are still fulfilled), usually for a period of three years. Renewable after one year (if all eligibility criteria are still fulfilled).
Quota No quota system. Each application is considered based on its own merit. No quota system. Each application is considered based on its own merit.
Family Employment Visa holders can sponsor Dependent Visa for their spouse and children below 18 years old. Investment Visa holders can sponsor Dependent Visa for their spouse and children below 18 years old.
PR Eligibility Employment Visa holders can apply for Permanent Residencestatus after having resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of at least seven years. Dependent Visa holders are entitled to work in Hong Kong.Investment Visa holders are eligible to apply for Permanent Residence status after having resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of at least seven years. Dependent Visa holders are entitled to work in Hong Kong.
Timeline
Minimum 6 to 8 weeks
Average 3 to 6 months

 

China: Business Visa (M) & Work Visa (Z)

 

China Business Visa (also called M Visa) is meant for individuals who wish to come to China on a short-term basis, for commercial and trade activities, such as attending trade fairs, visiting clients and factories, negotiating with clients, and signing contracts. 

 

China Work Visa (also called Z Visa) is meant for those who wish to work for a Chinese enterprise and reside in China. Z Visa holders are allowed to enter China for work purposes. Once they are in China, they shall first turn the visa into a Work Permit, then register with the local public security bureau, where a China Residence Permit will be issued to replace the Z Visa thus allowing multiple entries in and out of the country.

 

As of today there is no centralized national policy offering foreigners Entrepreneurship Visa in China. The arrangement for entrepreneurs vary from city to city, and could evolve in the future. For instance, since 2015, foreigners graduating from Chinese universities and staying in Shanghai for business are allowed to apply for an Entrepreneurship Visa, allowing them stay in the country and start their business within a year. Individual situations shall be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

 

China Business Visa (M) China Work Visa (Z)
Eligibility Applicant (visitor): Foreigners holding a passport with at least 12 months validity and 2 visa blank pages. Applicants need to submit an Invitation Letter (see below), shall file an application form and provide side documents (including pictures). Applicant (employee): Foreigners holding a passport with at least 12 months validity and 2 visa blank pages. Applicants need to submit a Work Permit obtained from their employer, shall file an application form and provide side documents (including pictures).
Inviter: The company or institution in mainland China which the applicant intend to visit, should issue a formal Invitation Letter, detailing: the particulars of the applicant, the purpose of the visit, the city intended to be visited in China, dates of arrival and departure, the relationship between the applicant and Chinese company or institution, who will support the costs of the applicant’s accommodation in China, the inviter’s particulars, the signature and chop of the Chinese company or institution.

Sponsor (employer): The sponsor shall provide a valid Work Permit issued by the China State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs. Applicants are categorized into 3 different classes ranging from A to C (standard profiles usually qualifying as B status) based on their:

  • Yearly salary & the taxes they declared in the previous financial years
  • Educational background (recognized universities)
  • Work experience (managerial posting in fortune 500 Co.)
  • Chinese proficiency & skillset
Validity In most cases, Business Visa are issued for 3 months, while the allowed duration of stay is usually 30 days and can be longer depending on applicants' personal cases. Canada, Argentina, and US citizens, can even be granted a 10-year Business Visa. A Work Visa only allows a stay duration of 30 days from the date of arrival in China, during which the employee and employer shall apply for a Work&Residence Permitfor the duration of the employee’s contract, to a minimum of 90 days and a maximum of 5 years.Usually the Work Visa grants a single entry, and the duration of stay is to be determined by the Residence Permit obtained after entering China.
Extension It is locally possible to apply for a Business Visa extension at least seven days before the original expiry date. Renewal of a Work Visa and Residence Permit shall be submitted locally at least 30 days ahead of the visa expiration date.
Quota No quota system. Each application is considered based on its own merit. No quota system. Each application is considered based on its own merit.
Family Business Visa holders cannot sponsor their family dependents (spouse and children below 18 years old). Work Visa holders can sponsor Dependent Visa (S Visa) for their spouse and children below 18 years old. Dependent Visa holders are not entitled to work in China (and need to apply for a distinct Work Visa).
Timeline 1 week (under standard procedure) - shorter processing time (under express service, at additional costs).

1 week (under standard procedure) - shorter processing time (under express service, at additional costs).

 

NB: Application time to obtain a Work & Residence Permits ranges from 5 to 6 weeks (excluding documents collection).

 

In order for your business to succeed in Hong Kong and China, finding the right talents is always key. Depending on the type of staff you need to hire, strategic recruitment could take time. It is highly recommended to consider immigration constraints and seek professional advice on visa application processes during the hiring process.

 

 

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