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Hong Kong Visas and Permits

Visas and residence permits are processed by Hong Kong’s Immigration Department: Immigration Tower, 7 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai. For many of their services, you need to make an appointment in advance, which can easily be done by telephone: 2598 0888.

HKSAR Region Travel Pass

Frequent visitors to Hong Kong can apply for a travel pass to the country. This significantly speeds up the immigration process.

The pass is valid for three years and is good for multiple entries to the country, for a maximum stay of two months each visit.

Applicants must have a genuine need to visit Hong Kong often and should have already come for at least three trouble-free visits in the 12 months preceding the application.

Only people from those nationalities that do not ordinarily require a visa to visit Hong Kong can apply for the pass.

The application form (ID 888) can be picked up at the Immigration Department or downloaded from their website. Applicants will need to provide a photocopy of their passport, a passport photo and a letter from their company supporting the application. The applicant also needs to nominate a referee in Hong Kong.

The application fee for this type of pass is 660 HKD.

Working visa

Foreign nationals must obtain a work visa before they can work in Hong Kong.

There are two ways of doing this — either by finding a company willing to sponsor you or by setting yourself up as a self-employed worker.

If you want to find a company willing to sponsor you, you should officially do so before moving to Hong Kong.

It can take anywhere from six to eight weeks to process the application for a work visa — or even longer if the Immigration Department needs to make further inquiries (for example, if a Hong Kong-based company has been newly incorporated).

If an employee leaves one company to join another, the new company can re-sponsor the worker. This usually takes two to three weeks.

A work visa is typically granted for a year, and extensions are often given in two-year increments.

Dependent visas are available for family members, such as a spouse, unmarried children under 18 and parents older than 60.

If you wish to apply for an investment visa — i.e., to set up your own business or work for yourself — then you will need to submit a huge amount of supporting documentation along with your application. This includes paperwork detailing things such as educational background, professional experience, proposed business activities, capital that you will bring to Hong Kong, jobs that the venture might create and details of any relevant businesses already being run overseas. When proposing a new business, it helps to supply as much information as possible, including a detailed two-year business plan and a cash flow forecast.

You have an advantage if you set up a business in an area related to one of Hong Kong’s four ‘core industries’: trading and logistics, tourism, financial services and professional and producer services.

The application form (ID 999A) can be obtained from the Immigration Department or downloaded from their website.

It normally takes around four weeks from the receipt of all documents for the application for an investment visa to be processed.

Graduate visa

Expats who graduate from one of Hong Kong’s universities — or those who obtain a higher qualification from an accredited institution — can apply to stay and work in Hong Kong, under what is known as ‘Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates’ (IANG).

Application form ID990A is available from the Immigration Department. The form can also be downloaded from their website.

The application should be supported by a certificate of graduation or, if one has not yet been awarded, a letter of certification from the relevant institution.

The application should be made within six months of graduating.

Permanent residency

If you have lived for at least seven consecutive years in Hong Kong, you can apply for a permanent right of abode in the territory.

Permanent residency status grants you the same rights as any other Hong Kong citizen. This means, for example, that you will be able to seek work without first finding a sponsor you or you will be able to pay a lower rate of tax when buying a house.

You will lose your permanent residency status if you are absent from the country for more than three consecutive years.

It is free to apply for a permanent identity card (providing this is your first time in doing so). Application forms can be downloaded from the Immigration Department’s website. You will need to provide proof of seven years of continuous residency in Hong Kong, which can include school documents, proof of work, tax receipts and so forth. You will also need to produce a travel document that shows proof of your last entry to Hong Kong.

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