Visas and language


Having visited HK for both work and holidays about 10-15 times since 92, I have been talking about relocating for years. I finally took some serious steps earlier this year and both my wife and I have found jobs in our respective fields.

My problem is that a decision on my work visa has not (as yet) been forthcoming and I was seeking some local wisdom on the reality of visa processing as against the official information provided by the Immigration Department.

Their website says visa processing takes 4-6 weeks, and I am now getting close to 8 weeks, with no news. I was wondering what the general experience of yourselves and your readers have been in the time it takes for a visa application to be processed. Also wondering if it is worth contacting the Department myself to see where things are up to, or should I get my company to follow up for me? They are keen for me to start asap after I get my visa.

Also, I have a question about language learning.

I'm a (nearly) fluent Mandarin speaker (I lived in the Mainland for 3 years, and I did 4 years of Mandarin at university) and I was wondering what your thoughts are on the usefulness of Mandarin in HK now that it has been returned to the Motherland for some years.

Will English/Mandarin meet most of my business/social needs, or will I need Cantonese as well? My main reason for asking is that I'd like to spend 6 months or so really trying to brush up my Mandarin, as it's been nearly 10 years since I lived in China and while my spoken language is holding up, my written Chinese has well and truly faded. I was also planning to try and get some more technical-specialist Mandarin in my field of work.

What are your thoughts on whether I'd be better off in HK trying to get some basic Cantonese to get around with early on, or getting my Mandarin up to near native-speaker level?

Thanks in advance for your help.


You can probably get by without Cantonese. A lot of westerns don't speak Cantonese at all even after they have been here for long time. As for practicing Mandarin, I'm not sure if HK is a good place for it. There are more people speaking Mandarin now, but the local language is still Cantonese. If you're to practice Mandarin in HK and the locals give you funny look and don't seem to understand your Mandarin, don't assume that it's your problem. It might be them not knowing the correct pronounciation to understand you. A lot of people claim that they speak Mandarin, but they don't. I'm local but don't speak Mandarin, when someone speaks Mandarin and I can understand, I know that they're not speaking Mandarin. Hope you enjoy HK when you move over!

Re:Visas and language

I don't have any experience of visa applications for work, but there are a few notes about visas here

Mandarin is becoming more and more useful as the amount of cross-border work increases. So if your work will involve time in China, I'd focus on fine-tuning the mandarin. Within Hong Kong, English will be fine for business, but for a social conversation Cantonese will get you much further with the average local person than mandarin.


Visa Application

The immigration people in HK are usually pretty efficient - if its been longer than the time they told you go ahead and contact them. If you dont get an answer within a week then get the company to follow it for you...