Overview of Hong Kong Work Visa Schemes

Hong Kong ranks as one of the most business friendly jurisdictions facilitating foreign investment. One of the key contributing factors is its immigration policy, designed to accommodate investors, business entrepreneurs and working professionals alike.

This guide provides an overview of the various work and business related visa schemes available in Hong Kong.

The main types of visa schemes for entry into Hong Kong for employment, investment, starting a business and other business/work related purposes include:

  • Employment Visa – for foreign individuals who will be employed by a Hong Kong company and will be relocating to Hong Kong
  • Investment Visa – for foreign entrepreneurs who wish to start their own business and relocate to Hong Kong
  • Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS) Visa – a quota based entrant scheme for foreign persons who wish to enter Hong Kong and explroe establishing a business or employment opportunities
  • Permanent Residence Visa – for those who have resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of at least seven years and want to call Hong Kong their home

The above mentioned Hong Kong visa schemes, with the exception of the QMAS, are non-quota specific. In other words, approval of the visa application will be based on the merits of the individual applicant and is not dependant on external factors.

Sections below provide further details on each of the above mentioned visa schemes:

Employment Visa Scheme

The Employment Visa is meant for persons who will be employed by a Hong Kong company and residing in Hong Kong. There is no official quota system limiting the number of Employment Visas that can be issued to a company. The Employment Visa can only be applied for after the person has secured an employment with a Hong Kong company.

  • Eligibility: The following individuals are eligible to apply under the Employment Visa scheme.
    • Foreigners who have graduated from an academic institute in Hong Kong
    • Foreigners who graduated overseas and possess special skills, knowledge or experience not readily available in the Hong Kong
  • Validity: The Employment Visa is normally issued for a one year period and is renewable thereafter (subject to the applicant fulfilling the eligibility criteria).
  • Quota System: No quota system for this category. Each application is considered based on its own merit.
  • Permanent Residence Eligibility: Employment 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.

For further details on Employment Visa, refer to Hong Kong Employment Visa guide.

Investment Visa Scheme

The Investment Visa is a form of Employment Visa meant for foreign entrepreneurs who wish to relocate to Hong Kong to start their own business. Under the Investment Visa, foreign entrepreneurs can stay in Hong Kong on employment status under their own company. There is no minimum investment amount stipulated by the authorities when applying for the Investment Visa.

  • Eligibility: Foreign entrepreneurs who wish to join in or establish a business in Hong Kong and who possess a good educational background or good technical qualifications, relevant professional abilities, achievements and experience. The applicant must prove that the business will make a substantial contribution to the economy of Hong Kong.
  • Validity: The Investment Visa is normally issued for a one year period and is renewable thereafter (subject to the applicant fulfilling the eligibility criteria).
  • Quota System: No quota system for this category. Each application is considered based on its own merit.
  • Permanent Residence Eligibility: 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.

For further details on the Investment Visa, refer to Hong Kong Investment Visa guide.

Quality Migrant Admission Scheme

The QMAS is an entrant scheme meant for foreigners who wish to come to Hong Kong to explore employment or business opportunities. The scheme is quota based and operates on a points based system. Successful entrants must take steps to settle in Hong Kong by securing gainful employment or establishing a business during the visa validity period.

  • Eligibility: Foreign nationals who satisfy certain conditions such as a sound financial standing capable of supporting themselves and their dependants, proficiency in Chinese or English, absence of criminal or adverse immigration record, good educational background, falling within the age group of 18-51 years and who also pass a point based test.
  • Validity: Visas issued under the QMAS are usually valid for a one-year period (at the discretion of authorities) and is renewable for one more year.
  • Quota System: Yes. Currently an annual quota of 1,000 entrants has been set.
  • Permanent Residence Eligibility: Entrants who have been granted admission under the QMAS are eligible to apply for permanent residence status after having resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of at least seven years.

For further details on QMAS scheme, refer to the Hong Kong Quality Migrant Admission Scheme guide.

Other Relevant Visa Schemes

Training Visa

The Training Visa is issued to foreign individuals who wish to enter Hong Kong in order to receive training from a bona fide well established company for a maximum period of up to one year, in order to acquire special skills and knowledge not available in the applicant’s country/territory of domicile. This entry arrangement does not apply to certain nationalities and Chinese residents of the mainland (other than mainland employees and business associates of well-established and multinational companies based in Hong Kong).

Business Visit Visa

The business visit visa is not a work visa and is only meant for business executives who need to attend to business matters in Hong Kong. Nationals of more than 170 countries and territories may visit Hong Kong visa-free for a period ranging from 7 days to 180 days. If you are not entitled to the visa waiver or wish to stay beyond the visa-free period you must apply for a visa/entry permit before you travel to Hong Kong.

Applicants who have entered Hong Kong on a visit visa (for business purposes) can undertake the following business-related activities: concluding contracts or submitting tenders; examining or supervising the installation/packaging of goods or equipment; participating in exhibitions or trade fairs (except selling goods or supplying services direct to the general public), settling compensation or other civil proceedings; participating in product orientation; looking for business opportunities; meeting clients or suppliers based in Hong Kong and attending short-term seminars or other business meetings.

The applicant will have to furnish proof of his/her proposed business visit to Hong Kong, e.g. invitation letter issued by a local company, letter issued by a trade body to confirm the applicant’s attendance at trade fairs and exhibitions, etc. Individuals who enter Hong Kong on a visit visa meant for business purposes cannot take up any employment whether paid or unpaid, cannot establish or join in any business, and cannot join any educational institution. For detailed information on visit visas click here.

Travel Pass

The Travel Pass is not a work visa and is meant for foreign business executives who need to frequently travel to Hong Kong for business related matters. The key benefit is that Travel Pass holders can enjoy streamlined immigration clearance procedures as they are allowed to use the Hong Kong Resident counters at the airport (instead of the visitors counter) and the automated passenger clearance system. With the Travel Pass you can make multiple entries to Hong Kong during the validity period and stay for up to two months on each trip.

  • Eligibility: Frequent business travellers who hold valid passports and are eligible to come to Hong Kong without a visa or entry permit for visit purpose may apply for the Travel Pass. This is subject to the criteria that the applicant has a genuine need to visit Hong Kong frequently, and has previously made three or more visits (other than return from side trips to the Mainland of China or the region of Macau) in the 12-month period prior to making the application, or can reasonably demonstrate to the authorities that the visits will bring benefits to the economy of Hong Kong.
  • Validity: The Travel Pass is valid for 3 years and allows for multiple entries to Hong Kong for a stay of 2 months on visitor condition for each trip.
  • Quota System: No. Each application is considered based on its own merit.
  • Permanent Residence Eligibility: Not eligible.

Permanent Residence

If you have been granted a work visa under the employment for professionals scheme 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. The application is subject to satisfying the requisite criteria.

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