Can I just show up in Hong Kong and find a job?

Question: I know it is very difficult to answer "Can I get a job in HK?" questions, but hopefully this one is generic enough to be workable. I work in IT (several years of networking and unix experience, good certifications, etc.). But I don't speak Cantonese, so will that get in the way of finding an IT job?

Mr B replies: First, you need a visa to work here, or you must already have the right to live and work here. If you need a visa, and you don't speak Cantonese, then unfortunately I think you'll find it difficult. (See also our article on getting a work visa.)

The big companies are likely to insist on Cantonese, whether or not that's what they say in their job ads. The smaller companies (especially those which are run by expats) may be more willing to hire other westerners -- but unless you have very unique skills they probably won't want the trouble of applying for a visa for you.

Maybe I'm being too pessimistic -- are there any readers who've arrived in HK in the last few years and been able to find a company here to arrange their visa and give them a job?

A reader adds: It's definitely getting a lot more difficult than it was some years back.

I've worked for large organisations in the HR field for many years and while previously it was almost a 'routine' to be gone through with not too much inspection at immigration headquarters, nowadays each case seems to be gone through with a fine-tooth comb.

In one case, we were challenged as to how comprehensively we had sought the skills we were looking for locally and had to provide documentation to evidence our local and unsuccessful search.

While hard, it's not impossible, the thing is -- as in most countries now -- are you bringing skills which are not available in the local labour market? If you are, you stand a pretty good chance of a successful employment visa application. It will depend on finding a company willing to sponsor you of course.

Well, what sort of things qualify as skills no local has? Because other than speaking native English, Hong Kong has enough well-educated people to fill any need, doesn't it? Also, is there a directory of expat-owned businesses, by any chance?

Reader Fiona adds: My company has successfully hired managerial-level employees with specialist skills, i.e. in the hospitality industry, but even then we sometimes have to battle to demonstrate that a particular skill level or international experience base couldn't be found locally or that we could not recruit locally.

It sounds as though it will be very difficult for you unless you have something -- you mention English as a language, so perhaps you could pursue a TEFL qualification or the like.

For 'expat' companies you may like to start your search here:

The Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce

The British Chamber of Commerce

The American Chamber of Commerce

The Hong Kong Trade Development Council

Best of luck, as it's not easy getting in here any longer, and with unemployment still not stable, jobs are tenuous to say the least.

On a brighter note, another reader adds: I got two IT jobs and working visas between 2000 and 2003 -- it can be done if you're persistent.

Okay, I realize there's good news and bad news, but I'd still like to give finding a job in Hong Kong a try. Where should I start looking?

Mr T replies: There are numerous online sources of job ads for Hong Kong. The premier site is the The South China Morning Post's classified section, but you might also try,, and

Having listed all those, however, personal connections are often very effective here, so I'd pursue any such possibilities as far as I could.


working visa or working holiday visa??

I am an Australian citizen with 5 years work experience in Finance and management accounting. I am planning to go to Hong Kong in the beginning of October 2006 to seek full-time employment there.

I just want to clarify whether I can actually apply for the working visa if I do not have a confirmed offer of employment.

If not, can my company, who has a branch in Hong Kong, be able to sponsor my working visa for me to seek employment in other company? If so, please let me know what the details and procedures me and the HK company have to do.

Also, if I cannot apply for working visa, is it better for me to apply for working holiday visa first and then when I get a job, I should try and get that company to sponsor my visa?

Working visas

Hi Flo;

Hmmm. You definitely can't start working here without a sponsor and a work visa. I think you company will have to pursue a visa on your behalf in this case if you are going to be stationed here permantly. But they certainly can't sponsor you to work for another company. See our section on jobs and visas for more information.

Mr Tall


Hi Mr Tall,

Thanks for the info.

I'm planning to get to to Hong Kong by the beginning of October now. I will be going to recruitment agency and all to look for a job.

I know I don't need a visa to get into HK from Australia. But how long can I stay for without a visa??


What kind of jobs if holiday working visa is taken up

Funny enough I fall into the category of "working in IT (several years of networking and unix experience, good certifications, etc.)." just like the above example. I would like to apply for the holiday working visa which I can enter, work and stay in the country for 12 months but I realise since Im not fluent in Cantonese ( I can manage numbers, and basic meet & greet conversations) so that would mean it probably would be almost impossible to get a job in HK besides teaching english if Im lucky. (maybe if you dont need a diploma in teaching)

So I just want to ask you on your thoughts of typical jobs that western people happen to get on the holiday working visa scheme? Even though you have a 3 month limit with a single employer.

Working holiday visa jobs

I've never talked to anyone that has taken the working holiday visa in Hong Kong. If you're out there, we'd love to hear from you!

I used Australia's similar working holiday visa way back in 1990-1. It had the same limitations of max. three months in one job, but I never heard of them being enforced. The common work was crop-picking, or working in bars / restaurants. I don't think you could find the first in Hong Kong, but the second is definitely an option. Teaching English would also be an option.

I started off in Sydney and went along to an IT agency that handled short term contracts. They found me a contract on an IT support desk, which lasted 5 months. Then after that I took several months off for the holiday part.

So you might look at something similar - work on the assumption you'll look for bar work / teaching work, and see if that will pay your bills. But also bring a set of office clothes and your references etc to see if any of the IT agencies will bite.

Good luck, MrB

I.T. contract work

I asked a friend who works in recruitment how you could look for IT contract work. She wrote:

The agency I suggest is manpower  or Talent2.  Manpower would be better.  Have him search on the website.  If they have nothing, still have him contact someone there and forward his resume.  If something comes up, they will call him up. 


So was anyone successful

So was anyone successful when they just showed up in HK to find a job?

I have a Chinese background but my parents were born in Vietnam and we all speak cantonese - so I aint as lucky as those whose parents were born in HK etc...hence HK ID card is out of the question...

My company doesn't have an office in HK so I actually quit my job and bought a ticket to HK and planning to holiday and find a job - how risky!

So what are the chances of finding a job there, esp when it comes to the part where you tell them I'm not a local and I will need a working permit??

I registered my CV with a recruitment firm and got a response straight away and the consultant was very enthusiastic and willing to help and even had a job for me.

After talking to her I realise I forgot to mention that I'm not a local so I emailed her back and told her.
She replied and said "it'll be slightly difficult but I'll see what I can do" ...I never heard from her again.

So really, what are the chances of finding employment in HK if I just rocked up with a valid working visa?

It seems to me applying for a working visa in other countries - even my own home country - is easier than HK. I think they are trying to screen out "unnecessary people" as HK is so crowded already.

And whoever that told me HK is needing professionals as a lot of HK professionals are leaving HK for jobs in mainland China!

I'd also like to mention that all jobs that I've looked at require 3-4 years experience. I really feel for the fresh graduates in HK. I really do.

re: So was anyone successful


I think you'll get a better response from the agencies if you're talking to them face-to-face, rather than over the phone. So it is definitely worth making the trip here. But what are your chances? I'd love to know too. It's a question we're often asked, but so far we haven't ever heard back from those people after they've arrived in Hong Kong.

Your need for a visa puts you at a disadvantage if compared with an equivalent local candidate. So you will have to fight harder than at home, and look for opportunities where your strengths (language, technical, personal, etc) outweigh the visa requirement.

Good luck, and please take a moment at the end of your visit to let us know how things worked out for you.

Regards, MrB


From what I can understand from our HR lady where I was working, it was relatively easy in the last 6 months to get visas for people, in her words immigration was 'handing them out' due to the current pressures on the employement market.

The people I know in the company where I was working were definitely not skilled in any special way, it all had to do with the way in which their skills were 'sold' to immigration. None of the people had chinese language skills.

On another note, to find a job, I'd say to try and find out if the place you studied has an alumni organisation in HK (and many of the universities in Australia, USA, Canada and the UK do), get on their event invitation list and do some networking.  HK is a very networked kind of place.


Good luck 

Dianne, A few months ago, I


A few months ago, I started to look for jobs in HK thru different website such as Robert Half, etc... and did not really get any inputs once they know I am still in USA. But think about it, how a company hire a prospect and provide employment visa when the prospect is not in HK? I mean the hiring company needs to do the interview process. Now, my situation is different. The company I have been working for 8 years just got bought out by a competitor and most likely my position will be eliminated by Dec '08. So, I am going to HK in Sept '08 and visit in person with these recruiting agencies to find out if they can hook me up with an employment. I have read somewhere that HK needs so many finance background prospects. So, I am thinking that I have 8 years exp with a Fortune 500 company as sr financial analyst (fluent english and Indonesian, able to speak cantonese and fukiense). I am thinking I will give it a shot for a fresh new start. Hopefully I will be the successful one! Worst case, I will be back in the US.

Note: If I were you, try look for employment/company that has ties with Vietnam since you have the language skill.

Finding a Job In HKK


I have been working in Hongkong since last 4 years and i still have a valid visa for one year. the Visa is not a problem for me at this stage. I want to change my job and want to look for a job in the same field as i working now.

Do you think it will be difficult for me to get a job, with 4 yrs staying here.

Waiting for your replies




I also have difficulty

I also have difficulty finding a job. I thought with my fluent Cantonese and English, and able to read and write, it wouldn't be so tough. I have always wanting to work in HK, experience different things, and especially now that I want to see if different carreer field might be something I am talent with beside the medical background. Once I mention I am able to go to interview because I am not in HK, I have never heard anything back! Yet I am not giving up, still trying, hopefully I'll get something back soon.

TO VJ, you said you've worked in HK for the past 4 years. What is the salary range from?