Hong Kong is an impossible to define destination. It’s a location like no other on this earth where you encounter massive contrasts at every turn, and where your expectations can be both challenged and exceeded at the same time! It is one of two special administrative regions (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China and a former British colony, and yet it cannot really be considered wholly Chinese and you definitely can’t say it embodies Great Britain.
The landscape in Hong Kong is breathtaking because of the stark contrasts you witness all around you – from magnificent high rise structures for as far as the eye can see, to peaceful temples and gardens – and the wealth of the region is incredible but significantly undermined in any form of importance by the simplicity of many local people’s lives.
Some move to Hong Kong because there are excellent and prosperous employment opportunities available to those in big business for example, others are drawn to the almost magical quality of this impossible to label location. Whatever your reasons are for considering Hong Kong you need to know that the rules relating to who can live and work in the SAR are strict, and that it’s a higher cost destination than mainland China.
If you’ve never experienced Asia before then Hong Kong is a fabulous introduction. The vibrancy of the region is incomparable, the beauty of the skyline is only rivaled by the stunning natural landscape, and the fact that it’s one of the most densely populated areas of the world may leave you fighting for space, but you will never feel hemmed in or restricted in Hong Kong.
Because the Hong Kong experience cannot easily be defined, and even those expatriates who have lived and worked in the SAR for many years still manage to discover new experiences regularly, it makes sense to visit Hong Kong before you commit to a relocation. For some the destination is so ‘alien’ and therefore so challenging that one visit is enough to convince them they could never call Hong Kong home. However, for others Hong Kong is a ‘once seen, never forgotten’ place where no end of dreams can come potentially come true.
If you fall into the latter camp and you want to become a resident and spend time living or working in the Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China for example, here’s what you need to know to gain residency and access to one of the most fascinating places on earth: –
As a citizen of the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom for example, you need to apply for a visa to live, work, establish a business or even invest in Hong Kong and seek residency permissions.
What follows is an overview of the various visa types that may be applicable to your position if you want to become a resident. However, you should receive up to date and personally applicable advice before you apply for a visa and certainly before you travel. Consider contacting the immigration department online or the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in your nation for official advice – and because there are so many international faces in Hong Kong you can get online and search the forums for more personal advice from those who have recently experienced the move.
Becoming a resident in Hong Kong has massive advantages – and if you’re ready to embrace the positive challenges that this incredible region can offer you here’s what you need to know to enable your move…
Quality Migrant Admission Scheme:
Perhaps one of the most straightforward ways to gain entry to Hong Kong and a visa to reside in this stunning location is by applying for skills based entry via the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme.
This is a points based visa system open to anyone over the age of 18 who feels they have exceptional skills or talents and who will therefore “enhance Hong Kong’s economic competitiveness in the global market.” Conditions for application are strict and it is a quota-based system; however if you fulfill the main criteria you stand a good chance of gaining a valuable entry visa.
You do not have to have an offer of employment to apply. If you are a highly experienced and qualified professional in your field or if you have received an award of exceptional achievement and you do well in the age, language skills and perhaps even the family background selection criteria you may be invited to attend an interview at the Immigration Department in Hong Kong, and you may finally receive an entry visa/entry permit under the Scheme for Stay in Hong Kong.
Note, there is a financial requirement pertinent to this visa type: namely “the applicant must be able to demonstrate that he/she is capable of supporting and accommodating himself/herself and his/her dependants, if any, on his/her own financial resources without relying on public assistance during his/her stay in Hong Kong.”
Employment as Professionals Visa:
If you have an offer of employment in Hong Kong and you really want to take it up and go and live and experience the region, then you need to apply for a different visa type depending on whether you’re a graduate or you “possess special skills, knowledge or experience of value to and not readily available in” Hong Kong.
This visa will only be granted if you have a firm offer of employment and usually there is a liability on the company employing you to prove that the job you’ve been offered could not be fulfilled by locally sourced talent. The visa is usually issued for a year and is renewable as long as your employment lasts, it is also transferrable if you change employer.
If you enter Hong Kong on this visa and maintain your employment status for 7+ years you can then apply for permanent residency. Note: if you are being headhunted or relocated, chances are your employer will assist you with your application, and there is no quota based limit on this type of visa per company.
Investment Visa Scheme:
This is a hybrid visa type – a cross between the former employment visa and the next visa type we will examine which is the capital investment entry scheme. The investment visa scheme is for foreign entrepreneurs who want to invest in an already established business in Hong Kong or start their own business in the SAR in order to gain residency.
Again, the visa is valid for a year and there is no quota in terms of a maximum annual allowance for the issuance of these visas. Additionally, if you hold this visa for 7 consecutive years you may apply for permanent residency.
This would be the right visa for you to consider if you have a good educational background or good technical qualifications, skills or relevant professional abilities, achievements or experience and you can prove that the business you will establish or invest in will or already does make a substantial contribution to the economy of Hong Kong.
Capital Investment Entry Scheme:
The next visa class you may wish to explore is one meant specifically for investors. You need to have 6.5 million Hong Kong dollars to invest (1 HKD = 0.128623 USD, 0.101161 EUR or 0.0826834 GBP at the time of writing) in so-called ‘permissible assets,’ which can include real estate or financial assets for example.
This is not any form of employment visa per se, however if you do successfully invest and gain a visa under this class you can go on to establish a business or seek employment – but you are not obligated or required to do so and so you could just gain residency and enjoy the many benefits Hong Kong has to offer you – such as it cultural delights, it attractive tax regime and its inimitable lifestyle.
Unlike the former visa types this one is offered on a two yearly basis and is renewable every 2 years for a further 2 years – with the successful applicant eligible to apply for permanent residency after 7 consecutive years of holding this visa type.
Your Other Options to Move to Hong Kong:
If you want to visit Hong Kong before firmly committing to relocation and you come from the UK, America or most of Europe you’re eligible to stay for up to 90 days. British passport holders don’t need a special visa just to visit or transit – but everyone else needs to contact the Chinese diplomatic or consular services in their nation to ensure they have the right paperwork before they travel.
If you want to study in the SAR or enjoy a working holiday there are visa types for you to explore – and the good news is that Hong Kong authorities are keen to promote cultural and educational exchange opportunities in an effort to strengthen bilateral relationships with nations worldwide.
As we touched upon at the outset of this article, Hong Kong offers so much to its residents; and living in this stunning region you will discover whole new worlds within your world every single day!
The contrasts that Hong Kong embodies are breathtaking, and the reasons to try Hong Kong on for size are innumerable – therefore we hope you find the information you need to enable you to make the move a reality, and to allow you to make a brand new life for yourself in this stunning part of the world.
The guidelines relating to who can apply for which visa type are detailed clearly on the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Immigration Department’s website (http://www.immd.gov.hk/ehtml/hkvisas.htm) and are of course subject to change.
About the author: Susan Beverley is a writer and editor for Escape From America Magazine and also writes for and maintains Expat Daily News – the expat news blog for EscapeArtist.com. She traveled extensively before becoming an expat herself having found a place to call home in South America where she has lived since 2005. She understands the concerns, needs and difficulties that expats face from first-hand experience and is dedicated to supporting and encouraging anyone who is looking for a new nation to call home.