Hong Kong is a vibrant and densely populated city, home to a thriving population of approximately 7.4 million people. Official figures suggest that around 5% of the population are defined as being foreign nationals. With a rich history of immigration, and having firmly established itself as a destination for those seeking a high quality of living, the city is an attractive option to those considering a new life abroad.
If you’re thinking of moving to this Asian metropolis, or you’re seeking information on Hong Kong’s immigration laws and rules, read on to find out more.
- 1 Introduction to Immigrating to Hong Kong
- 2 What Are the Requirements for Hong Kong Immigration?
- 3 How to Immigrate to Hong Kong
- 4 Introduction to the Hong Kong Immigration Department
- 5 Is There a Scheme for Immigration to Hong Kong by Investment?
- 6 About the Hong Kong Immigration ID Card
- 7 Is There an Extension of Stay Policy with Hong Kong Immigration?
Introduction to Immigrating to Hong Kong
The city is a highly developed territory and ranks fourth on the UN Human Development Index, a measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development. As the world’s tenth-largest exporter and ninth-largest importer, the territory has become one of the world’s most significant financial centres and commercial ports. It’s also home to the second-highest number of billionaires of any city in the world.
As a successful economic hub with a high standard of living, Hong Kong attracts many different nations and backgrounds. The city’s multicultural heritage is deeply woven into everyday life and is evident across the city, from the bustling Temple Street Night Market to Sham Shui Po, one of the oldest districts in the territory known for its textiles industry. Thanks to ties with both China and the UK, Chinese and Western influences keep the culture and economy vibrant.
Though Hong Kong was once a British colony, today the city exists as a Special Administrative Region controlled by the People’s Republic of China. It maintains separate governing and economic systems from that of mainland China under the principle of “1 country, 2 systems” and enjoys its own limited autonomy as defined by the Basic Law. The principle of “1 country, 2 systems” allows for the coexistence of socialism and capitalism under “1 country,” which is mainland China.
What Are the Requirements for Hong Kong Immigration?
Nationals of about 170 countries and territories may visit Hong Kong without a visa and can stay for periods varying from 7 days to 180 days, depending on your nationality. However, you’ll still need a visa to work, study or live here.
It’s important to consider that, although the city is part of the People’s Republic of China, it remains a Special Administrative Region (SAR) with its own policies and requirements.
The most common visas are as follows:
- Visitor/Entry Permit – Depending on your nationality, you may need to apply for a visa or entry permit if your country is not one of the 170 countries which are visa-exempt for short stays.
- Work – To get an employment visa, you must have a job offer from a sponsoring company that is willing to employ you and carry out the application process for your permit.
- Investment – Investment visas are issued to self-employed people.
- Dependant – If you have a work or business visa you can sponsor residency applications for your partner and children below the age of 18.
- Student – Student visas are handled very much like work visas. To get a student visa, your sponsoring educational institution will need to apply on your behalf.
For most expats, the visa for employment is most relevant. Although your company may be sponsoring your move and some of the administration will be dealt with already, it’s still a good idea to know your requirements and any limitations.
If you move to the city for job-related reasons, you need to apply for a work visa under the General Employment Policy (GEP).
A visa under the GEP scheme is usually issued only for a specified period of time. In order to be eligible, you must already have a confirmed job offer, as you need someone to sponsor you.
Other types of visa:
- Domestic Help – Domestic help visas are valid for a 2-year domestic work contract. Domestic helpers must live in their employer’s home and cannot become permanent residents.
- Training – Valid for up to 1 month, this visa is for people who cannot get similar training in their own country.
- Working Holiday Scheme – This scheme applies to nationals of certain countries and is based on a quota system, so a limited number of visas are granted per year. This type of visa is only valid once per individual for 12 months.
Indian nationals are required to apply for a Hong Kong PAR (Pre-Arrival Registration) before entering. India is a visa-exempt country, and so visitors do not require a full visa. However, as of 2017, Indian nationals are required to apply for a PAR slip before entering the city.
Another important point to bear in mind is that all visitors must have a passport that is valid for at least 1 month to 6 months (depending on your nationality) after the period of their intended stay.
How to Immigrate to Hong Kong
Whether you’re still considering making the move to the city or you’re in full research mode before you embark on your journey, here is a basic checklist of what you need to consider:
- Apply for a visa.
- Get a Hong Kong ID card.
- Get an Octopus card (used for making payments for shopping here, online and offline).
- Set up a bank account.
- Organise a mobile phone.
- Research where to live.
Also, there are a few other more specific points to take into account before you move.
If you are moving with pets, you’ll want to consider quarantine rules and conditions and factor in the cost of transporting your animal companions.
If you’re moving with children, you’ll want to consider the many international schools in the city and put your name down for a few schools before moving.
Introduction to the Hong Kong Immigration Department
If you are immigrating to the city, you will become very familiar with the Hong Kong Immigration Department! The Immigration Department of the Government of Hong Kong controls all entries and exits, examining passengers arriving and departing by land, sea and air.
The Department is headquartered in the Immigration Tower in Wan Chai North district of the city and is responsible for a wide range of matters relating to immigration control, from issuing Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) passports to managing and processing visa applications.
Is There a Scheme for Immigration to Hong Kong by Investment?
While Hong Kong does not have a citizenship by investment program, it does offer various routes to residency for talent, professionals and entrepreneurs.
As one of the globe’s most business-friendly cities with a world-class business infrastructure, it may not surprise you to learn that the city offers an Investment as Entrepreneurs scheme for applicants who would like to establish themselves or join a business as an entrepreneur.
Applicants should have/be able to prove certain factors including a good education background, a degree in a relevant field, a business plan, business turnover, financial resources, the number of jobs created locally and the introduction of new technology or skills.
About the Hong Kong Immigration ID Card
After you have landed, you will need to apply for a Hong Kong ID. This credit-card sized ID has a chip containing all your details, including your thumbprint for the biometric customs gates.
If you’re planning to stay for longer than 6 months, an application must be made within 30 days of landing. It is recommended that you make a booking online before going into the Immigration Office, as you aren’t guaranteed an appointment by just showing up at the office.
When you attend your appointment, you need to take with you:
- Your passport.
- A valid visa.
- Your completed ID card application.
More details of the process can be found on the Immigration Department’s website.
Is There an Extension of Stay Policy with Hong Kong Immigration?
Generally speaking, visitors must depart before the expiry of their limit of stay. If there is a special/urgent need to stay longer, visitors may make an extension of stay application within 7 days before their limit of stay expires.
If you wish to extend your stay, you are required to present the following documents upon submission of your application:
- Your travel document (and the previous travel document if it shows the current limit of stay).
- Evidence to support the need to prolong your stay.
You may still be required to submit further supporting documents and information in connection with your application.
If you have resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of 7 years, you are able to apply for the right of abode. You would then become a permanent resident. The right of abode entitles a person to live and work in the territory without any restrictions or conditions of stay.
With the right of abode, you are given most rights usually associated with citizenship including the right to vote in regional elections. However, you would not be entitled to hold territorial passports or stand for office in most Legislative Council constituencies.