HK Immigration treatment of long term foreign "perpetual visitors"

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Hello all,

First, I'd like to say this site is wonderful... it gave me many a good tip, tidbit, and chuckle when I first arrived in Hong Kong as an expat about 3yrs ago.

I was employed in Hong Kong for about 3yrs.  Then, about half a year ago, I decided to take a break from my place of employment to do independent consulting work.  For all sorts of complicated reasons I will not go into, it was best that I terminate my employment and settle my HKIRD tax balance, i.e. exit tax.  (Presumably my work visa has terminated as well, though interestingly enough my HKID card seems to work fine at airport immigration!)

Since a half year ago I have not taken any monies onshore HK as none of the consulting work I have done so far is onshore HK.  However, I do live here when I am not traveling because I own a flat here.   In the eyes of immigration I suppose I am a foreign visitor who does serial stints of up to 90days visit.  By my days calculation, at the end of this year I will come up against the 180days+ worth of stay in HK as a visitor status, and 180days is the test for residency.  My understanding is that universally (not just HK), the residency test generally provokes the need to file a tax form (which I find pointless because it will be a bunch of zeros for onshore HK income).

So far, I have not bothered with registering a business in HK, even as a sole proprietor (which may not even be possible for me, as I am not a permanent resident).   I would like opinions on whether 1)  I should motivate to make myself a legitimate HK resident via registration of a company and employing myself, 2)  I should be mindful of 180days/yr threshold for residency (and thus plan to never be in HK >180days), or 3)  will Immigration tolerate my presence as a perpetual visitor?  

Many thanks in advance for your feedback.

re: HK Immigration treatment of long term foreign "perpetual vis

Disclaimer - I'm not a professional in this field, so take the following with a pinch of salt. But...

I'd be most worried about whether immigration will continue to let you in to Hong Kong. It seems like their records shouldn't show you have a work visa, so you'll be treated as a visitor. I don't know how immigration decide what is or isn't acceptable visitor behaviour, but staying for 180+ days in a year seems to be pushing it. See this reader's experience of being rejected entry when attempting to stay on successive visitors' visas.

I don't think the ">180 days'" has any link to them sending tax returns. I haven't worked for the last few years. Despite living here full-time as a permanent resident, the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) stopped sending me tax returns to fill in. I've just registered as a sole-proprietor, so I assume that next year they'll send me a return again. The IRD know when someone begins employment, or starts a company, so they know who should be filling in tax returns.

As always, contact Immigration & IRD for accurate answers to your questions. Good luck, and please let us know what you find out.

Regards, MrB

Hi Mr B, Many thanks for your

Hi Mr B,

Many thanks for your reply.  Had a quick chat with a few folks since the original post, some who have gotten away with it (6yrs!) vs. others who ended up getting employed by a friend solely for the purpose of legitimizing their stay.  As it turns out, my work visa didn't expire until 6Oct (the guy at the HK-China border noticed since I happened to exit HK for a biz trip exactly on 6Oct), so the 90days tourist visa has been ticking since my re-entry into HK.  I will certainly post an update on any response from HK Immigration, though I suspect they will frown heavily and take note of my passport number.  Thankfully, two friends have happily offered to employ me (for skills, I am a specialist, so not too hard to justify the employment vs. local), so that is my back up plan at the end of 90days.

Update immigration, the old fashioned way

Hi Mr B, 

Just to update on what happened to me.  I ended up doing things the old fashioned way, got a job offer and the employer is now submitting an immigration application (6-8wks estimated time to process).  Starting from zero again with regards to consecutive years in HK (for PR purposes, if I ever stay that long) is a bit of a drag, but I should be starting work in HK in the new year under a usual work visa.  

Chatted with an immigration lawyer, there really aren't too many ways to acquire residency other than the methods posted on another section of Batgung.

re: Update immigration

Thanks for the update - and congratulations on getting your visa!

Regards, MrB