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Hong Kong is an attractive place for employees to work due to its vibrant economy and business-friendly government policies. The city has a world-class infrastructure, strong international connections, and a highly educated workforce that continues to attract companies from all over the world.
Before your employee heads to Hong Kong, you need to first obtain legal work status for them to prevent penalties or complications. In this post, you'll learn the different types of visas as well as the application process and Hong Kong visa requirements so your employee can enter and work legally.
Types of Hong Kong work visa and permits
Hong Kong prioritizes its own workforce over foreign nationals, so open job positions from foreign companies are often filled by local professionals. For your employee to gain legal work status, they must not only meet all Hong Kong work visa requirements, but you must also prove the employee has the specific skill set necessary to fill the position.
Applying for a Hong Kong employment visa is worth the time and effort considering there are no application fees. Even if your employee is denied the visa, your company will incur no financial losses.
There are specific countries that have been singled out by Hong Kong and are not eligible for the Top Talent Pass Scheme, regardless of employee credentials. These include:
- North Korea
Below is a list of the most common types of Hong Kong visas that allow your employee to work legally in the country.
General employment policy (GEP) visas
The most common type of visa for foreign nationals is the GEP. Before obtaining the visa, the employee needs sponsorship from your company to begin the application process. This means you'll need to have a written employment contract signed by both parties.
The Hong Kong employment visa itself is only valid for the length of the employment contract, so you'll want to carefully consider how long you need your employee in Hong Kong.
All filing is done with the Hong Kong Immigration Department. This is where you'll send a statement describing the type of position your employee will fill along with the application form. The department will look at several factors to determine approval including:
- Professional skills
- Working conditions
- Contributions to the local economy
- Proof local professionals are not able to fill the role
Even though there might be strict Hong Kong visa requirements, the GEP does allow a spouse or dependents under the age of 18 to move with the employee. It even allows your employee’s spouse to get a job in Hong Kong without going through an additional application process.
If your employee doesn't have the specific skill set required for the GEP, they can still gain legal work status under the training visa. This visa was set up specifically for employees who need to go through a training period to develop certain skills and knowledge related to the job position.
An employee can stay in Hong Kong for up to a year using the training visa. However, just like the GEP, the nationalities listed previously are ineligible to receive this visa. Unlike other visa options, the training visa is more lenient to foreign nationals who have a signed contract, have employer sponsorship, and have committed no serious crime.
Top Talent Pass Scheme (TTPS)
There is a new option called the top talent pass scheme (TTPS) for foreign nationals looking for legal employment status. Under this new scheme, applicants will be eligible as long as they have a job offer or business plan. They must also meet the following Hong Kong visa requirements:
- Have an annual income of HK$2.5 million or more
- Hold a degree from one of the top 100 universities in the world AND have three years of work experience over the past five years
- Hold a degree from a top-100 university (quota of 10,000 applicants)
Quality migrant admission scheme visas
Hong Kong immigration authorities may grant entry to individuals who can prove their high quality and exceptional talents will enhance Hong Kong's economic competitiveness. The visa program is called the quality migrant admission scheme but the process is more complex to become approved.
To be granted the scheme visa, employees must undergo a two points-based test that awards points to candidates and qualifies them for approval. The general points test and the achievement-based points test both determine which candidates get to compete for the quota allocation set forth by the Hong Kong government. The general points test has six point-scoring factors while the achievement-based points test only has one point-scoring factor.
Employees who are ultimately awarded this visa are allowed to bring their spouse and any unmarried dependent under the age of 18.
Like all other visas on this list, citizens from the countries listed previously are not eligible to receive the visa, regardless of their skills or experience.
Technology talent admission scheme (TechTAS) visas
If your company wants a fast-track method for sending an employee for R&D purposes, the technology talent admission scheme (TechTAS) visa is available. Using this legal work arrangement, employees will be able to enter, stay, and work in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) under the TechTAS.
Your company will first need to apply for a quota with the Innovation and Technology Commission to fill the position with non-local technology talent. Once the quota is achieved, you can sponsor an employee for an application and if granted, they can perform research and development for your company. The employee is also able to bring along their spouse and any unmarried dependents who are below the age of 18.
Overall, the process should only take about two weeks to complete but all required documents and forms need to be submitted. Any mistakes or errors may result in the application being denied and will cause a long delay in getting approval.
Like the other visas on this list, individuals from the specific list of countries outlined by the Hong Kong government are ineligible to receive the TechTAS visa.
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Requirements for Hong Kong work visa and permit
Since most employees will be applying for the GEP visa, this article will focus on the Hong Kong visa policy for that particular type of visa.
As mentioned previously, some stipulations must be met beyond the document and form requirements. For example, applicants must have special skills, knowledge, or experience that can contribute to the HKSAR. Applicants must also not have citizenship from any of the following countries:
- China Mainland
Other stipulations that will cause an application for the GEP to be favorably considered by the Hong Kong government are as follows:
- No known record of a serious crime
- First degree in the relevant field, or good technical qualifications, or proven professional abilities
- Genuine job vacancy
- Confirmed offer of employment and is employed in a job relevant to academic qualifications or work experience
- The job cannot be readily filled by the local workforce
One of the more difficult parts of the application process is proving your employee is the only one qualified for this position compared to the local workforce.
Employees who do receive the GEP visa are allowed to bring their spouse and dependent minors. There must be financial proof the employee can guarantee a certain standard of living and suitable accommodations for the visa to be approved. Spouses can also get a job without needing an additional Hong Kong work permit.
The duration of the GEP is dependent on the employment contract itself but the normal stay granted is around 36 months. Hong Kong immigration authorities will use whichever stay is shorter to determine the actual length. Employees do have the ability to request an extension before the original visa expires. It is recommended to apply up to four weeks in advance of the expiration date.
How to apply for a Hong Kong work permit
The first step to global expansion in Hong Kong is gathering the right documents and forms. The government is strict on all requirements and any mistakes in the process could cause denial. At best, unintentional errors during the application process will cause a further delay in the amount of time it takes to process. Documents and forms that are not in English or Chinese will need to be translated before submission.
Applications may be submitted through the mail, handed in person, or filed online. Employers and employees have the option to mail directly to the Hong Kong Immigration Department or they can choose to submit through the nearest Hong Kong embassy or consulate. If your employee is already living in the Chinese Mainland they can drop off the application in Beijing at the Hong Kong government's office.
If the employee filed for the visa online, they can check their online portal for the status of the application. Otherwise, the application will be available at the immigration office and must be picked up either by the employee or an authorized representative. The employee must then attach the visa on a blank passport page when they enter Hong Kong.
It's possible to file an appeal with the Hong Kong government if the work visa application is originally denied. Also, if the employee ever changes jobs and works for a different employer, you will no longer take responsibility as a sponsor and the employee will be forced to apply for another visa. The employee is not allowed to complete any work while waiting for approval for another visa.
Planning to hire or work in Hong Kong? Here’s how Skuad can help
Obtaining a Hong Kong visa requires in-depth knowledge of local laws and regulations. The proper forms need to be filed depending on the type of visa and specific documents need to be gathered. The strain on you and your team to become fully compliant with Hong Kong work visa requirements can be overwhelming.
Not only will your team have added pressure but your entire organization could be put at risk. Fortunately, Skuad can help with all your visa needs. Our team of local experts is familiar with the laws and regulations surrounding visas and permits in Hong Kong. We know how to navigate the process from start to finish, so you can be assured your business is 100% compliant with local laws.
Whether you’re moving team members to manage your projects or want to empower your employees to work from wherever they’d like, we’re making mobility possible in Hong Kong and globally. Hire talent in Hong Kong and beyond and build globally-distributed teams easily with Skuad.
1. How long can you stay in Hong Kong as a U.S. citizen?
Any U.S. citizen can stay in Hong Kong for up to 90 days without any visa. A visa is only required if a U.S. citizen plans on staying longer than 90 days or has plans to study or work in Hong Kong.
2. Can foreigners work in Hong Kong?
Yes, foreigners can legally work in Hong Kong as long as they have one of the applicable visa types. However, foreign nationals need to prove they have the skills, experience, or knowledge required to fill the position and no local workers can also fill the position. Otherwise, priority will be given to the local worker over the foreign national.
3. Can U.S. citizens work in Hong Kong?
Yes, U.S. citizens can work in Hong Kong as long as they have obtained the correct visa type. A U.S. citizen will need the help of their employer to prove to the Hong Kong government the position can only be filled by a U.S. citizen and not a local worker. Otherwise, the position will be given to a local worker.
4. Is it hard to get a work permit in Hong Kong?
It is harder to receive a work permit and visa in Hong Kong compared to other countries. Hong Kong prioritizes its own workforce and does not allow foreign nationals to take an open job if the skills or experience are available within the country.
5. How do I get a work permit in Hong Kong?
First, you must gather all the correct documents and forms. Then, you must submit your visa application form and all requirements either online or in person. If the application is accepted, you will be granted a work visa and be allowed to work in the country for the duration of your employment or until the visa expires.