Hong Kong Work Visa Schemes: An Overview

If seeking a professional work visa in Hong Kong, what are your options?

In this article, we set out the requirements of the primary Hong Kong work and employment visa, known as ‘Entry for Employment as a Professional’: Specifically, we look at the eligibility criteria, what applicants and employers need to include in the application and the way in which the Hong Kong visas are processed. 

Introduction to Hong Kong Work and Employment Visas

The Hong Kong ‘Employment as a Professional’ program from the immigration office involves three separate schemes:

  • The Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP). This entry pathway is only available for Chinese residents of Mainland China who seek a Hong Kong employment visa
  • The Immigration Arrangements for Non-Local Graduates scheme (IANG). This scheme is available to foreigners who have completed a degree or other higher qualification at an accredited Hong Kong institution. 
  • The General Employment Policy (GEP), for everyone else, is what most people refer to when they talk about a Hong Kong employment visa for professionals. 
    Note, applicants from some countries are excluded from entering via any of these schemes, including applicants from Afghanistan, Cuba, Laos, North Korea, Nepal, and Vietnam. 

Eligibility Criteria for the ‘Entry for Employment as a Professional’

To be eligible for this work visa scheme for the three schemes mentioned above, it is a requirement that the applicant: 

  • Has no criminal record and raises no other security concerns to the Hong Kong Government. There should also be no indication that the applicant will become a burden to the Hong Kong government
  • Has the appropriate educational background. Normally a degree would be expected, but in some cases, professional achievements and experience will suffice
  • Demonstrate there is a genuine job vacancy at the employing company where employment is sought, and that the applicant has been made an employment offer matching their qualifications and work experience, for example, a sourcing office hiring a person with previous experience in the industry makes a more appealing case compared to an application from the same sourcing office hiring an engineer for a sourcing position and with no experience in the industry
  • Provide details of a compensation package that meets the general market standard in Hong Kong for a role of that sort
    Chinese Nationals residing overseas at least one year before the application can apply under this policy too.
    Also, is important to note that foreign students that have an undergraduate or higher qualification from a Hong Kong educational institution should apply under the IANG scheme mentioned above.

Documentation Required for Applicants for the Hong Kong Work Visa

The application for a work visa in Hong Kong should be processed with the Immigration Department. Both the applicant and the employing company that is offering the position should present a specific form to process a Hong Kong employment visa with the Immigration Department, the application form for individuals is ID 990A and the application form for the company is ID 990B. The forms can be obtained at the Immigration Department offices and on its website, Chinese Consulates overseas, and Hong Kong SAR government offices overseas.

To start the Hong Kong immigration process the application form for the work visa should be completed with the following information: 

  • Names and other personal information relating to the applicant (in both English and Chinese, where appropriate)
  • Information about the type of travel document held by the applicant
  • An explanation as to the length of residence in Hong Kong by the applicant
  • An indication of whether the applicant has received a degree or higher qualification at a Hong Kong institution (determining whether they are eligible for the IANG scheme)
  • Details of dependents (the Hong Kong Employment and Work Visa allows for dependents as well). 
  • The applicant’s employment record (which jobs they have held and when)
  • A declaration, including such matters as having never been refused entry to Hong Kong. 

Alongside the work visa application, supporting documents include: 

  • A recent photograph 
  • A photocopy of the applicant's travel document, usually the applicant's passport is presented
  • A photocopy of the applicant’s Hong Kong Identity Card (where one is held)
  • A photocopy of transcripts of academic records, graduation certificates, and the like, showing the attainment of Hong Kong qualifications (only for those entering through the IANG scheme)
  • A photocopy of proof of academic qualifications and relevant work experience (for all non-IANG applicants)
  • Special identity and consent documents for Mainland China, Macao, and Taiwan resident applicants. 

Starting on 28 December 2021 the Immigration Department set in place the electronic system for diverse visa-related services "e-Visa". This platform allows performing visa applications, extensions, and changes of status. The document granted is a digital document in PDF.

Documentation Requirements for Employers

As well as the applicant, the employer must also provide documents to the Hong Kong Immigration Department when applying for a Hong Kong working visa for a potential employee. These include: 

  • The application form ID 990B
  • A photocopy of the company’s employment contract with the applicant and a letter of offer
  • A photocopy of the Business Registration Certificate (BRC) for the company
  • A photocopy of proof of financial standing (e.g., the latest audited financial report and performance, or tax returns). 
  • Documents setting out the company’s background, its business activities and modes of operation
  • A detailed business plan (where the company is less than 12 months old). This plan should include information relating to: 
    - Sources of funds
    - Capital injections
    - The nature of business activities
    - Projected turnover, sales volume, and gross and net profits for the coming years
    - Proposed number of jobs to be created.  

Note, the last four requirements only apply where the employing company has not successfully obtained an employment or training visa/entry permit in the last 18 months prior to application. 

It is important to note that the applicant, the dependents, and the company might be required to present further details or supporting documents.

If any of the documents required for the work visa application is not in Chinese or English, the document should be translated and certified as a true translation.

Processing Timeline for the Hong Kong Employment visas

Payment is due on the receipt of the visa/entry permit and may be made in cash, electronic payment, or cheque. It is also possible to apply and pay for a visa from overseas through a Chinese diplomatic or consular mission, where the payment will be made out directly to that office or the Beijing Office. 

The processing time is usually four weeks; however, the Immigration Department will not begin processing the application until all essential documents are received. The processing time is usually two weeks for IANG applicants. 

Approval is entirely discretionary, and the Director of Immigration can deny an application at any time, despite an applicant otherwise meeting all the eligibility criteria. 

Applicants should note that it is a criminal offense to make false statements in the visa application or accompanying documentation. 


Dependant visas for family members

The working visa applicant can also apply for a dependent visa for his/her spouse and unmarried dependent children under 18 years old. The visa application process for family members can also be performed at the Immigration Department. Some of the requirements include proof that the relationship is genuine, and for this is important to note that the Hong Kong government recognizes diverse types of civil unions.

Another requirement for the application for a dependent visa is that the applicant for the work visa can financially support the dependents, and provide a suitable living standard and accommodation.

According to the Immigration Department, the following documents should be provided to complete the application procedures:

  • Application form ID 990A and fill Part B of the form
  • Photo of the dependent
  • Valid travel document
  • Proof of the relationship with the dependent (marriage certificate, birth certificate, etc.)

Applying for Hong Kong Employment and Work Visas 

It is common for foreigners to seek a visa to stay in Hong Kong through professional employment (another option for those who wish to set up a business is the Entrepreneur's visa). This is where the Hong Kong employment visa, known as Employment for Professionals, comes in. This program has three entry routes: One for graduates of Hong Kong institutions, one for mainland China residents, and one for everyone else (GEP). 

The key for applicants through the GEP route is to receive an offer from a Hong Kong company relating to a job with significant skills requirements. The applicant must be able to prove that they can meet those requirements in the application and supporting documents. They must also submit a supporting application from the employer in question. 

Conclusion

Once you know the requirements and have a company willing to sponsor the visa application the process for the employment visa is straightforward and easy to understand. At the same time, the policies in Hong Kong welcome international talent and are easy to understand. Once the application is done the timing for the reply form the authorities are short compared to other jurisdictions. In the case you prefer a professional to perform the application process there are firms specialized in this matter that can assist you in the application and make the process smooth for you, your family, and your employer.

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