How can I get a visa to live in Hong Kong?

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If you currently live overseas and want to live in Hong Kong, you’ll need to apply for a visa. Here are the main options available to you.

THE SMALL PRINT - We’re not immigration experts, so don’t rely on anything you read here. You should contact the immigration department (details below) to get their official advice before making any decisions.

If you are coming here to work, you’ll most likely be sponsored by a local company who will apply for the visa on your behalf. We’ve collected some common questions and answers about work visas here.

There are other types of visa available if you fall into any of these categories:
  1. You’re rich
  2. You’re extremely smart, famous, or otherwise special
  3. You’re ethnic Chinese, and were born in Hong Kong
  4. One or both of your parents are ethnic Chinese who were born in Hong Kong
  5. You’re Irish, Australian, or a Kiwi aged between 18 & 30
  6. Your spouse has an employment visa to work in Hong Kong
  7. You own a company in your home country
  8. You have clear plans to start a business in Hong Kong
  9. None of the above
In more detail:

1. You’re rich
Lucky you. The government welcomes people that can invest HK$6.5M (appx USD835K) in Hong Kong, offering them a visa under the ‘Capital Investment Entrant Scheme’. Possible investments include buying shares listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, or buying property in Hong Kong.

2. You’re special
Hong Kong wants your genes! The government started a ‘Quality Migrant Admission Scheme’ last year to attract ‘highly skilled or talented persons who are fresh entrants not having the right to enter and remain in Hong Kong to settle in Hong Kong in order to enhance Hong Kong's economic competitiveness in the global market.’

What does this mean in practice? You can apply based on your achievements (they give ‘Olympic medals, Nobel prize, national/international awards’ as examples), or use a more general points-based approach which seems aimed at academics. A batgung reader gives an idea of the academic standard required: “I work in a local university. From time to time, the Immigration dept refers QMA applications to us for assessment. Many of the applicants possess PhD and professional experience in specialist areas and yet these only qualify them for assessment, not for admission.”

3. You’re ethnic Chinese, and were born in Hong Kong
4. One or both of your parents are ethnic Chinese who were born in Hong Kong
In both these cases, you may have ‘Right of Abode’ (ROA) in Hong Kong, which already gives you the right to live and work here. In that case you don’t need a visa.

The government’s web page describing ROA says people with ROA include:
a.    A Chinese citizen born in Hong Kong before or after the establishment of the HKSAR.

b.    A Chinese citizen who has ordinarily resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less than 7 years before or after the establishment of the HKSAR.

c.    A person of Chinese nationality born outside Hong Kong before or after the establishment of the HKSAR to a parent who, at the time of birth of that person, was a Chinese citizen falling within category (a) or (b).
Points (a) and (c) seem to cover both groups of people we mentioned, but what does 'Chinese nationality' and 'Chinese citizen' mean? The nationality law says that
Article 9 Any Chinese national who has settled abroad and who has been naturalized as a foreign national or has acquired foreign nationality of his own free will shall automatically lose Chinese nationality.

So it seems that if you were born overseas, or have lived there for many years, there's a good chance that either you, your parents, or both would have lost your Chinese nationality. And yet... in a following ‘Explanations…’ document there appears to be a loophole whereby you can have an overseas passport, but be treated as a Chinese national when in Hong Kong.

Update, 28 Oct 2007: This page clarifies 'Chinese Citizen' in a way that seems to include many more people:

Whether you are regarded as a Chinese citizen in Hong Kong does not depend on what travel document you have. It depends on whether you have made a declaration of change of nationality to the HKSAR Immigration Department.

If you think you could receive ROA, your best bet is to contact immigration to check how they will interpret your case. (If you've been in this situation, please leave us a comment to describe how your case was treated. Then over time we'll get a clearer picture of how this works in practice)

5. You’re Irish, Australian, or a Kiwi aged between 18 & 30
Cha-ching. The Working Holiday Scheme can give you a visa to visit and work in Hong Kong for up to 12 months.

6. Your spouse has an employment visa to work in Hong Kong
Then you can work too. From the government FAQ : “With effect from 15 May 2006, dependants of persons admitted for employment (as professionals, investors or for training) or as capital investment entrants are not prohibited from taking up employment.”

7. You own a company in your home country
I remember reading of a person that owned a company in their home country, registered a branch office in Hong Kong, then had the Hong Kong branch sponsor him for an employment visa in Hong Kong. But… I can’t find the article now. Can anyone confirm that this approach works?

8. You have clear and convincing plans to start a business in Hong Kong
Separate from the ‘Capital Investment Scheme’ mentioned above, visas can also be issued to people who are investing time and effort in developing a business in Hong Kong. So, if you are an entrepreneur with a strong business plan this may be an option for you. Angela Spaxman has written a good summary of the process, and also gives a couple of real-world examples.

9. None of the above
If all else fails, some readers have suggested teaching English is a way to finance an extended stay in Hong Kong, even without an employment visa. There may be people doing this, but keep in mind it is illegal, and that there is no guarantee you will be allowed to re-enter Hong Kong if you are trying to extend a tourist visa. Here are some opposing views that have been left in the Batgung comments:

Submitted by J (not verified) on Tue, 2006-10-31 21:49.
It's pretty easy to pick up work teaching english to kids in local private kindergardens or even business english to adults. I know many young westerners (18-25) who come out to HK for a year or so (or longer) to do that. Many are without a college degree. For those who come from abroad they are here without work visas and therefore it's illegal of course but clamping down on these kinds of felons is not really high on the police's agenda. All you need to do is to make sure you leave HK every 3 months or so to renew your tourist visa. Typical going rate is around HK$15,000 per month and you can supplement this income by advertising in supermarkets / estates / or quietly pinching students from your tutorial center (many will be keen for you to teach them 1 to 1 as it will cost them less than they pay for group sessions) etc. Pretty boring work to do of course but it's quite easy and the money is good. If you're really serious about coming over here then I'd say go for it dude.

Submitted by Steve (not verified) on Mon, 2006-11-27 11:15.
It is pretty easy to get work in HK teaching english to kids / adults, WITHOUT possessing a university degree or work visa. I know many people who have done this and while I acknowledge that most english teachers here have a BA and a work visa this is not uniformly the case. Naturally if you wish to work for the British Council or other reputable organization which will page you a decent wage you would require both plus several years of experience but there are many, many small tuition centers around town, particularly in Kowloon / NT , who employ young westerners without degrees or work visas. They (the tuition center and the people you will teach!) just want a white face basically. The salary would not be great ($12,000 - $15,000 full time) and these centers can be quite unreliable at times when it comes to paying their staff on time, but there are many young westerners - most are on a gap year between secondary school and college, but i know of others well into their 20s without degrees who are doing the same - in HK doing this type of work. Of course it is illegal to work without the proper work visa and I do not wish to encourage people to break the law but it is relatively easy to get round this by simply leaving HK every three months (when entering HK most people with western passports get a 3 month tourist visa), if only to Shenzhen or Macau, to renew your visa.

Submitted by Fiona on Fri, 2006-12-01 13:15.
Last I heard, you couldn't count a trip to Macau or Shenzhen as qualifying for a new visa upon re-entry into Hong Kong. Has there been a change?

Submitted by Codyintokyo.com (not verified) on Sat, 2006-12-02 03:27.
"What jobs are available without college ed. and with livable income in HK?"

Not many, trust me. Sure there are plenty of HK residents with no college education who make "livable income", but as a foreigner, someone with no education or language skills is basically a liability to HK. Companies risk huge fines for illegally employing you etc. Plus, look at how most people live in HK.. they live with their parents until they are married, and that's not all just a cultural thing. Without income coming in from everyone, even HK families would struggle with the cost of living here. My flat in HK is not what I would consider luxury, in fact it's small and old, but it still costs nearly double what I was paying per month back in southern California for a place about four times as large. Living here isn't cheap, you can reduce costs here and there, but the cost of living here is much higher than compare to say... Thailand ;)


If you have any tips about applying for visas or experiences you can share, we welcome your feedback.
 
MrB

PS Any questions? If it’s a question you think another reader can help with, feel free to post your question in the comments below. But if it’s a question about the details of Hong Kong’s immigration policies, you’re probably best contacting the immigration department directly, to make sure you get the correct answer:

Comments

Internship

Sorry, I don't have any suggestions about internship. I believe you'd still need a visa, so I think it's unlikley a company would go through the hassle. I don't know if the visa for your course will give you any exemption there? The visa probably won't start until your course starts, so it won't be much help -  but it could be something else to ask immigration about.

Why not also ask the college where you'll study for the MSc, and see if they can suggest anything?

Good luck, and please let us know what you find, to help others in your situation.

Regards, MrB

Ordinarily Resident

I've been looking at the working holiday scheme for Kiwis (I can have dual nationality) on the immigration website, but it doesn't say how long I will have had to have lived in NZ before they'll accept the application.  Does anyone know?

re: ordinarily resident

There's a definition of 'ordinary residence' at the bottom of this page, but even after reading that I still don't know how long you should have lived in NZ. I think you'll need to contact immigration. Please let us know what you discover, and good luck!

MrB

IANG scheme

yup, this is true. i am under IANG scheme. what's great about the scheme is its flexibility. they give the first year as your chance to look for work but for the succeeding years, you do have to present to immigration a letter of employment showing that you are currently employed but don't worry if the job is project-based or short-term, they don't really look at the duration of your contract (well, in my case, they didn't but i don't know for the others). usually when you renew, they would give you 2 years unless there are some problems.

re: IANG scheme

Thanks Val. We've mostly summarised information from the government websites, but it's much better to hear from someone who has direct experience.

Can anyone else share their experience of any of the visa schemes mentioned here?

MrB

HK ROA for US born child

I just went through the process with HK immigration department and it seems to be rather smooth. I was born in HK with HKID and came to US for school/ work and ended up with green card. My child was born when I was still on H1B (work visa). Recently I applied for ROA for my child. Since my parents still live in HK, they served as "local reference/point of contact". I had to submit paperwork to the immigration department through my parents. The paperwork was not too onerous, but asked many detail information such as schooling (even includes Kindergarten for both parents!!). In the end, the immigration department sent us a "sticker" to be put on my child's passport to certify the ROA status. They say when my child turns 11, he can get an HKID. I think the fact that my child was born when I was on a work visa AND I didn't get naturalized helped my case.

"I think the fact that my

"I think the fact that my child was born when I was on a work visa AND I didn't get naturalized helped my case."

This is actually the crux of the issue for post-97 born children. They can be born overseas and still be considered "Chinese" (and therefore qualify for ROA) as long as at least one of the parents still fulfills the requirement for being a Chinese citizen (i.e. not settled overseas or taking foreign nationaility).

Congratulations!

re: HK ROA for US born child

HBMom, Thanks very much for sharing your story. Hearing from people who've been through these situations is invaluable - and much more useful to other readers than hearing me say 'Contact immigration to be sure'!!

Regards, MrB

Investment Visa in Hong Kong

If you want to live in Hong Kong, you can consider setting up a business here and in that case you can apply for investment visa. You would require to come up with detailed business plan including your revenue projections for 3 years and plan of hiring Hong Kong professional, renting space etc.

You can find more details about Investment Visa on Hong Kong immigration site or talk to  any immigration consultants in Hong Kong like following

http://www.immd.gov.hk/ehtml/hkvisas_invest.htm

http://www.prismvisas.com/servicesMain.php?serviceId=1

Work Visa applied almost 8 weeks back

Hi,

My sponsor co. has applied for my Hkg work visa almost 8 weeks back, after a week of docs submission i got the acceptence letter by immigration with ref. no. After another 2 weeks my co. received another letter to submit more docs, 4th week again immigration asked my co. to submit 2 more docs (one of which was my hkg accomodation rent agreement)..since then i have not received any information on my visa, its been almost 11 weeks now...i'm really worried, i am checking the status online which only shows "in progress"...any info required on this would certanly make me relaxed..