Visas for Hong Kong

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Depending on their nationality and the purpose of their stay, expats may need to get a visa in order to enter, work, study or live in the special administrative region. Fortunately, visa requirements aren't as stringent as in many other countries, and forms can be completed in English. A variety of companies are also available to assist expats with applying for the appropriate visa for Hong Kong.

Entry visas for Hong Kong

Visit visa stamp for Hong Kong
Expats planning to visit Hong Kong should find out whether an entry visa needs to be obtained prior to departure. People who arrive in Hong Kong without the correct documentation will be denied entry, and promptly placed on the next plane back to where they came from.

Citizens from as many as 165 countries can enter Hong Kong without a visa for a limited amount of time, provided they have a passport valid for a recommended period of at least six months beyond the period they intend to stay in Hong Kong.

That said, different periods of stay are granted to different nationals, so expats should be aware of the amount of time specifically associated with their nationality. Citizens of the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, among others, do not need a visa for entrance into Hong Kong. 

Many African and Eastern European citizens do, however, need an entry visa. This documentation can be applied for at the nearest Chinese diplomatic and consular mission, or can directly be applied for through the Hong Kong Immigration Department, via post or through a local sponsor.

A full list detailing whether or not citizens from different countries require an entry visa is published in the public services section of the Hong Kong Immigration Department's website.

Work permits for Hong Kong (GEP)

Given its formidable international presence and its status as a former British colony, it isn't particularly surprising that Hong Kong’s employment visa legislation is fairly liberal. No quota restrictions are in place for general employment permits, and they are in no way sector-specific.

Generally, work permits are easy to come by if expats can prove they don't have a criminal record, that they have a high level of education or possess a highly specialised skill set that isn't readily available locally and will be of value to society.

That said, it’s necessary for all expats who are not from Mainland China and who are not graduates of a Hong Kong university to have a job contract and an employer sponsor prior to applying for a work permit.

How to get a work visa for Hong Kong

Step 1 -  Find a job

It’s required that all expats submitting an application for a general employment permit (GEP) have an employer sponsor and a secured contract with a remuneration package and benefits that are roughly on the same level as the prevailing market in Hong Kong.

In some situations this creates a catch-22 since many firms won’t hire expats without a work permit, but work permits cannot be granted without a contract. Still, many institutions are familiar with this process and don’t see the work permit application process as being a burden.
Step 2 – Complete the application
Both the applicant and their employer sponsors will need to complete application forms to be submitted to the Hong Kong Immigration Department. The forms are available for free on the department’s website.
  • Expats should complete application form (ID 990A)
  • The employing company should complete application form (ID 990B)
It’s also necessary that both expats and their employer submit supporting documents. Employers are generally aware of the requirements, and expats will not need to be responsible for their submission.
Expats can expect to submit the following supporting documents as part of a GEP application:
  • One recent passport-sized photograph
  • Photocopy of passport particulars
  • Photocopy of documentation proving academic qualifications and relevant working experience
Documentation should be submitted in Chinese (Cantonese) or in English. In cases where the original documents are in another language, certified translations should also be attached.

Step 3 – Collect your employment visa
The processing time for visas is generally four to six weeks, although each individual case is different. Once the visa is approved, a label will be issued by the Hong Kong Immigration Department which must be collected, placed on a blank passport page and displayed upon entry into Hong Kong. Visas must be collected in person, either from the Chinese diplomatic and consular mission if the visa was applied for from abroad, or from the Immigration Department of Hong Kong, if applied for within.

Work permits in Hong Kong are generally valid for one year, but are renewable thereafter (renewals must be submitted at least four weeks prior to the date of expiration. They are, however, bound to the sponsoring company; therefore, if an expat wishes to change jobs, they must legally reapply for a visa by filing an “Application for Change of Employment”.

Dependant visas for Hong Kong

Expats applying for a GEP are entitled to legally bring their dependants to Hong Kong. According to Immigration, dependants include unmarried children under the age of 18, spouses and parents over the age of 60. An Application for Entry for Residence as Dependants form should be filled out along with the original GEP application.

Expats will also have to provide proof of their relationship with their dependants, and must be able to show that they can financially support and accommodate these individuals while living in Hong Kong. The following documents will have to be submitted for those wanting to stay with their dependants in Hong Kong:
  • Dependant visa application form (ID 997) 
  • Photocopy of dependant's and sponsor’s passport
  • Photocopy of sponsor’s employment contract
  • Proof of dependant relationship (marriage certificate or birth certificates)
  • Photocopy of bank accounts and rental receipts (if already in Hong Kong)
Processing time takes roughly six weeks, and approved visas must be collected by the sponsor.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

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