To apply for a visa, your passport must be valid for six months or more from the date of intended entry. The most common visas are the following:
Citizens of several countries are allowed to visit Hong Kong without a visa for between seven and 180 days. These include the UK, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Singapore, Spain, and the US. A full list of nationalities and visa requirements can be found at www.immd.gov.hk.
If you need a visa you should apply for it at the Chinese embassy or consulate in your home country. The application process can take up to four weeks, but the time depends on the consulate and how busy they are. You may be able to ask, but the best thing to do is leave more than enough time before your trip to get the visa. Note that once you travel to Hong Kong on a visitor’s visa you are not permitted to change to an employment visa without leaving and re-entering first (irrespective of your nationality).
Work Visa for Hong Kong
To get an employment visa you must have a job in a sponsoring company that is willing to employ you and carry out the application process for your permit. The sponsoring company has to prove that you have the necessary skills for the job and that a local worker could not fill the position. When granting work visas, the Immigration Department considers the applicant’s education, job experience and other factors.
The application for your work visa is not submitted by you, but by your future employer. The company has to submit a confirmed offer of employment, and proof that the remuneration package includes salary, accommodation, medical and educational provisions, as well as other benefits appropriate for professionals in Hong Kong.
The application process takes four to six weeks, after which the entry visa is issued to your employer, who should forward it to you. Once you get your visa, you can apply for residency for your spouse and children as well.
Work visas are normally granted for the duration of your employment contract. However, they are not generally for a duration of more than 2 years. If the company wants to employ you for longer, towards the end of your visa period it has to apply for a renewal, which is quite straightforward.
A Hong Kong employment visa is not transferable from one company to another. If you resign or are fired, you will need to apply for another visa and restart the process. Your sponsoring employer is obliged to notify the Immigration Department if you leave. Intra-company transfers are possible for employees who have worked for over 12 months in an overseas office.
If you want to do extra work outside the scope of your existing visa, you should apply for permission to do this additional employment. In order to do so, you need to submit your visa application form from the Immigration Department, together with your ID card, passport, a description of the work you have been contracted to do and a letter from your current work visa sponsor giving permission for you to take up the work.
Investment visas are issued to self-employed people in Hong Kong. In order to apply for an investment visa, you will need to complete a large amount of paperwork detailing your educational background, professional experience, the proposed business activities, capital and details of the activity and the jobs it will create. Detailed information is available on the Immigration Department’s website www.immd.gov.hk and at www.investhk.gov.hk.
If you have a work or business visa you can sponsor residency visa applications for your spouse and children below the age of 18. Bear in mind that if you lose your employment status, they also lose their visa rights. As a Hong Kong permanent resident you can also sponsor your parents if they are aged 60 or above.
To apply for a dependant visa you will need to present the passports and birth certificates of your family and a marriage certificate (if applicable). The Immigration Department will also require proof you can support your family and that the sponsored family members have no criminal record. Dependant spouses of foreign workers with a work visa are permitted to take up employment.
Student visas are handled very much like work visas. To get a student visa, your sponsoring educational institution will need to apply for the visa on your behalf.
Permanent residence status may be granted to people who have lived continuously in Hong Kong for seven years. In addition, you need to fulfill certain requirements. If you have permanent residency status you can live in Hong Kong and work at any company without a visa. If you later leave Hong Kong for longer than 3 years you lose permanent residency status.
Other Types of Visas
Domestic Help Visa: Domestic help visas are valid for a two-year domestic work contract. Domestic helpers must live in their employer's home. They cannot become permanent residents.
Training Visa: Valid for up to one month, for people who cannot get similar training in their own country.
Working Holiday Scheme: This scheme applies to nationals of certain countries, the full list can be found here. It is based on a quota system so a limited number of visas are granted per year. This type of visa is valid for 12 months and an individual can only receive this visa once.