Hong Kong has long established itself as an international financial centre and favourable destination for both tourists and businesses. To enhance the competitiveness of Hong Kong in the global market, the Immigration Department has a series of policies to attract talent and capital into the region. These immigration schemes are summarised below and sorted based on the entrants:
Note 1: All entry arrangements below are inapplicable to nationals of Afghanistan, Cuba, Laos, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nepal and Vietnam.
For Talents and professionals,
General.Employment Policy (GEP) – Professionals
The GEP Professional stream is quota-free, non-sector specific entry arrangement for foreign applicants who possess special skills, knowledge or experience of value to and not readily available in Hong Kong to join the region’s workforce.
To qualify for the arrangement, the Immigration Department takes into consideration that the applicant –
- has a good educational background, good technical qualifications or prove professional abilities;
- has a confirmed offer of employment relevant to such qualifications; and
- has secured a renumeration package which must be broadly commensurate with the prevailing market level for professionals in Hong
The applicant should also meet normal immigration requirements such as holding valid travel document with adequate returnability to country of residence or citizenship·, be of clear criminal record and raise no security or criminal concerns, no likelihood of becoming a burden on the HKSAR.
The processing time for visa applications under this scheme normally takes 4 weeks upon receipt of all required documents.
Successful applicants will normally be granted an initial stay of 24 months on employment condition, or in accordance with the duration of the employment contract (whichever is shorter), upon entry. Extension of stay, if approved, will normally follow the 3-3 years pattern, also on employment condition, or be in accordance with the duration of the employment contract (whichever is shorter). Hence, the pattern of duration of stay would be “2+3+3” years. Top-tier professionals who (i) has been permitted to take up employment as a professional under the GEP for not less than 2 years and (ii) has an assessable income of salaries tax of not less than HK$2 million in the previous year of tax assessment may apply for an extension of 6 years instead of the years pattern.
Note 2: This entry arrangement is inapplicable to Chinese residents of the Mainland. For Chinese residents of the Mainland possessing special skills, knowledge or experience of value, please see ASTMP below.
Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP)
The ASMTP arrangement is a replica entry arrangement of the GEP Professional entry arrangement for Chinese residents of the Mainland of China who possess special skills, knowledge or experience of value to and not readily available in Hong Kong. The scheme, like the GEP
Professional arrangement, has no sectoral restrictions and further allows for intra-company transfer of senior managers and professionals.
The ASTMP has the same eligibility criteria as that of the GEP Professional stream. The processing time for visa applications under this scheme normally takes 4 weeks upon receipt of all required documents.
Similarly, successful applicants will normally be granted an initial stay of 24 months on employment condition, or in accordance with the duration of the employment contract (whichever is shorter), upon entry. Extension of stay, if approved, will normally follow the 3-3 years pattern, also on employment condition, or be in accordance with the duration of the employment contract (whichever is shorter). Hence, the pattern of duration of stay would be “2+3+3” years. Likewise, the 6 years extension of stay is available for top-tier professional in this scheme as in the GEP Professional arrangement, bringing the duration of stay to “2+6” years total.
Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS)
QMAS is a quota-based entrant scheme, seeking to attract highly skilled or talented persons to settle in Hong Kong. In contrast to the GEP Professional arrangement, however, an applicant under QMAS need not secure a job offer before entry to Hong Kong.
There are 5 stages to the selection mechanism, within which the applicant shall pass several hurdles. Failure to move on from each stage would result in refusal of the application.
Stage l: Applicants must satisfy ALL of the following prerequisites-
- Aged 18 or above when lodging an application
- Capable of supporting and accommodating himself and his dependants, if any, on his own financial resources without relying on public assistance during his stay in Hong Kong
- Not have any criminal record or adverse immigration record
- Proficient in written and spoken Chinese (Putonghua or Cantonese) or English
- Have a good education background, good technical qualifications or proven professional abilities
Stage 2: Applicants may opt to be assessed either under the General Points Test or Achievement based Points Test.
In General Points Test, points are awarded based on 6 factors: (i) age, (ii) academic/professional qualifications, (iii) work experience, (iv) talent list, (v) language proficiency and (vi) family background. Failure to obtain the prevailing minimum passing mark of 80 would result in a rejected application.
The Achievement-based Points Test is tailored to individuals with exceptional talent or skill and outstanding achievements. The one point-scoring factor is that an applicant either has received an award of exceptional achievement (e.g. Olympic medals, Nobel prize, national/international awards) or can show that his work has been acknowledged by his peers or has contributed significantly to the development of his field (e.g. lifetime achievement award from industry). Applicants would either be awarded 225 points or O points.
Stage 3: The Director of Immigration may seek advice from the Advisory Committee on Admission of Quality Migrants and Professionals on how best to allocate available quota in each selection exercise in consideration of the socio-economic needs of Hong Kong, the sectoral mix of candidates and other relevant factors. The Director would then proceed with quota allotment and publish results of each selection exercise on the Immigration Department website.
Stage 4: Applicants receiving a quota allotment will be issued an Approval-in-principle letter and are required to come to Hong Kong to attend an interview in person and present originals of all documents submitted during the application to the Immigration Department for verification.
Stage 5: If all original documents are verified and application procedures are finalized, successful applicants will be issued a visa or entry permit.
The processing time such application is not guaranteed for the scheme, the applicant may enquire on their application status on the Immigration Department’s website or by the 24-hour telephone enquiry system at (852) 3160 8663.
Admissions through the General Points Test would be awarded an initial grant of 24 months’ stay. Admissions through the Achievement-based Points Test would be granted a stay of 8 years. A successful applicant under the General Points Test may be apply for extension of stay in the 3-3 years pattern, with prove of his settlement in Hong Kong and contribution to Hong Kong (e.g. engaging in graduate, specialist or senior level gainful employment or establishing a business of a reasonable size in Hong Kong). Similar to the GEP Professional scheme and ASTMP, persons admitted for not less than 2 years with an assessable income for salaries tax of not less than HK$2 million may apply for an extension of 6 years.
Technology Talent Scheme (TechTAS)
TechTAS is a fast-track arrangement for eligible companies or institutes to admit non-local technology talent to undertake research and development work.
Please note that, unlike other schemes, the eligible companies would have to first apply for a quota from the Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC) before sponsoring an eligible person under this scheme for a 24-month employment visa.
Factors relating to eligibility, in addition to qualification of normal immigration requirements (please see GEP Professional), include:
- the employer company’s holding of a valid quota as allotted by the ITC at the time of application;
- a contract being of full-time mode of employment;
- the conducting of resea !iGh and development in areas of artificial intelligence, biotechnology, cybersecurity, data analytics, financial technologies, material science, robotics, 5G communications, digital entertainment, green technology, integrated circuit design, Internet-of-Things or microelectronics as the job’s primary nature;
- the applicant’s holding of a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) from a well-recognised university, which is among the top l 00 universities for STEM-related subjects in the latest publication of the ranking tables of QS, Shanghai Jiao Tong University or Times Higher
- a minimum of one year of work experience in the relevant technology area for Bachelor’s degree holders*
- an offer of renumeration not lower than the prevailing market level for comparable jobs in Hong Kong
- the applicant’s meeting of the specific particulars pertaining to the job position set out in the quota allotment letter issued by the ITC
- bona tides of the employing company and the applicant are not in
*Note 2: the work experience requirement is inapplicable to Master’s and PhD degree holders.
The processing time for visa applications under this scheme normally takes 2 weeks upon receipt of all required documents.
On top of the initial grant of stay for 24 months, extension of stay, if approved, will normally follow the 3-3 years pattern, also on employment condition, or be in accordance with the duration of the employment contract (whichever is shorter). Hence, the pattern of duration of stay would be “2+3+3” years. Likewise, the 6 years extension of stay is available for top-tier talent in this scheme as in the GEP Professional arrangement, bringing the duration of stay to “2+6” years total.
The Capital Investment Entrant Scheme has been suspended since 2015.
General Employment Policy (GEP) – Entrepreneurs
The GEP Entrepreneur stream is designed for persons from outside of China who wish to establish or join in business in Hong Kong.
In addition to meeting normal immigration requirements (as listed above in GEP Professional), the applicant is more likely to be considered favourably ifhe has a good education background and is in a position to make substantial contribution to the economy of Hong Kong. To prove the latter element, the applicant shall submit the following documents:
- A 2-year business plan stating the nature of the business, market analysis, market positioning, business direction, sales targets, product marketing strategy, ;
- A 2-year forecast of the profit-and-loss account statement, cash flow statement and balance sheet, including anticipated turnover;
- A profit-and-loss account statement and balance sheet showing the business turnover and profit in the previous year, if the applicant is running relevant business overseas or joining a business in Hong Kong;
- Statements of his/her personal and company bank accounts in the previous year and proof of other sources of funding, as well as the company’s latest audited financial report (if any);
- Documentary proof showing the amount of capital investment in Hong Kong;
- The organisational structure of his business and the required number of staff and posts, based on the nature and scale of the business and indicate the number and level of actual jobs created locally (e.g. managers, administrators, professionals, clerical support staff, )
- A document explaining how the new technology or skills to be introduced can inspire creativity in the high-value-added industries in Hong Kong, and whether he has taken out patent (if the business introduces new technology or skills)
The Immigration Department would then assess the feasibility and sustainability of the business, and its potential contribution to the Hong Kong economy.
Regarding start-up entrepreneurs, their applications are more likely to be approved if they plan to establish or join a start-up business supported by a government-backed programme such as InvestHK’s StartmeupHK Venture Programme, Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation’s Incu-App, Incu-Bio and Incu-Tech programmes, Cyberport Incubation Programme, Innovation and Technology Commission’s Small Entrepreneur Research Assistance Programme and Enterprise Support Scheme, and Hong Kong Design Centre’s Design Incubation Programme.
The processing time for visa applications under this scheme normally takes 4 weeks upon receipt of all required documents.
Successful applicants will normally be granted an initial stay of 24 months on employment condition, or in accordance with the duration of the employment contract (whichever is shorter), upon entry. Extension of stay, if approved, will normally follow the 3-3 years pattern, also on employment condition, or be in accordance with the duration of the employment contract (whichever is shorter). Hence, the pattern of duration of stay would be “2+ 3+3” years.
For non-local students,
Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates (JANG)
IANG is established to allow for non-local students who entered Hong Kong with a student visa and have obtained an undergraduate or higher qualifications in a full-time and locally-accredited programme to stay and work in Hong Kong.
Under this arrangement, non-local graduates are either classified as non-local fresh graduates if they submit an application within 6 months after date of graduation or returning non-local graduates if their application is beyond said 6 months. Eligibility for both classes of applicants depend on the meeting of normal immigration requirements (please refer to GEP Professional).
Non-local fresh graduates need not have secured an offer of employment upon application and may be granted 12 months’ stay. If the applicant has not secured graduation results, he may apply for an extension of stay to wait for said results. Returning non-local graduates, however, are required to, upon application, have secured an offer of a job at a level commonly taken up by degree holders, accompanied by a renumeration package at market level.
Successful applicants will normally be permitted to remain and extend their stay on the 2-2-3 years pattern.
Understandably, it is common for entrants under the above schemes to have dependants for whom they provide for. In all of the aforementioned schemes, dependants are limited to spouses (or any other party in a civil partnership, civil union or same-sex marriage) and unmarried dependent children under the age of 18. They may be favourably considered if they meet normal immigration requirements (please see GEP Professional) and most schemes impose the following additional criteria:
- there is reasonable proof of a genuine relationship between the dependant and the applicant;
- there is no known record to the detriment of the dependant; and
- the applicant is able to support the dependant’s living at a standard well above the subsistence level and provide him with suitable accommodation in Hong Kong.
The applicant under the entrant scheme would act as a sponsor for his dependants and the length of stay of dependants will normally be linked to that of their sponsors. During dependants’ stay, they are not prohibited from taking up employment or studies in the region.
Please note that this entry arrangement does not apply to nationals of Afghanistan and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and former Mainland Chinese residents residing in the Macao Special Administrative Region who have obtained Macao identity cards for less than seven years, unless they have acquired residence in the Macao SAR through the One-way Permit Scheme.
All successful applicants under the immigration schemes above may apply for extension of stay in Hong Kong within 4 weeks before their limit of stay expires. If resided in Hong Kong for 7 years, they are also eligible to apply for a Permanent Identity Card for the right of abode in Hong Kong.