An Overview of the Hong Kong Immigration Department Work Visa Process

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Hong Kong Employment Visas Issued by the Hong Kong Immigration Department Under the General Employment Policy

Eligibility
An application to the Hong Kong Immigration Department for a visa to take up employment will be successful if: 

  • There is no security objection and no known record of serious crime.
  • You have a good educational background in the relevant field but in special circumstances good technical qualifications, proven professional abilities and/or relevant experience.
  • There is a genuine job vacancy.
  • You have a confirmed offer of employment.
  • You will be employed in a job relevant to your qualifications or working experience.
  • That job cannot be readily taken up by the local work force.
  • The remuneration package. Including income, accommodation, medical and other fringe benefits is broadly commensurate with the prevailing market level for professionals in the HKSAR.
Approvability Test
You must possess special skillsknowledge or experience of value to and not readily available in Hong Kong. Moreover, your employer must be justified in engaging the services of an expatriate staff.
 

Assessing Your Case Type

How you go about structuring your argument to the Hong Kong Immigration Department will depend on which classification your application falls. You must first discern the type you generally fit in to and then approach your case accordingly. The three general classifications are: 

1.  Intra-company transferee.
2.  Locally recruited expat.
3.  Non-local expat specifically recruited from overseas.

Intra-company Transferee

Typically no need to engage in substantive argument. These cases tend to be administrative in nature. However, if is always worthwhile setting out to the Hong Kong Immigration Department  specifically how the applicant satisfies the separate limbs of the approvability test. It may be very obvious to you, but not necessarily so to the examining immigration officer so the more detail you can provide, the easier it will be for him to positively assess the application (suggesting a speedier approval process).

Locally Recruited Expat

If the applicant is already a 4 years + resident of Hong Kong and is set to move jobs within the same industry but over to a different employer (a change of employers/sponsorship application) these cases tend to be administrative in nature. Any less than four years prior residence or where a previous employment visa was just recently approved or, most typically, where a visitor to Hong Kong is seeking to change status to take up an offer of employment in Hong Kong, the case must be forthrightly argued with the Hong Kong Immigration Department.

Non-local Expat Specifically Recruited From Overseas

The ‘newly-hired-gun-for-Hong-Kong’ scenario. Great care must be taken in preparing and how you present these applications. Consideration must be given to the size, scope and nature of the Hong Kong operation requiring these skills brought in from overseas specifically and the case made out that Hong Kong will very definitely benefit if the Hong Kong Immigration Department approve the application. The application must be strenuously argued if the Hong Kong business is only recently established or if it is not a particularly sizeable operation. The Hong Kong Immigration Department frown upon overseas recruitment so the case must be suitably presented and correctly argued.

 

Considering Your Argument

To ensure the best possible chance of an approval, you need to promulgate a good case argument. Good arguments are derived from a careful application of your individual circumstances as applied in the context of the job offer in hand. Moreover, the particular circumstances of your proposed employer’s business and their specific need for exact skills needs to be interwoven throughout. Please refer to the following narrative for guidance on what you should be articulating to the HKID when arguing your case for an employment visa approval: 

Special Skills, Knowledge, Experience

‘Special’ as compared to other foreign nationals and also locals. ‘Skills, Knowledge and Experience ‘ in the context of the actual work to be done.

Of Value

Value here can be economic, social or educational. Not all activities are deemed of value, however. It depends on the nature of the work.

Not Readily Available

The Hong Kong Immigration Department have their own methods of determining whether such skills are in fact available from within the local workforce. They will often interact with other government agencies to seek official guidance. Running job advertisements and stating no one/no one suitable applied can be a double edged sword. On the one hand, by virtue of the fact that you advertise locally for a candidate you are admitting that there remains the possibility of the employer finding the skills they need locally (and so its just a matter of time before a suitable candidate emerges). On the other, if you do advertise and claim that no suitable candidate has emerged, the Hong Kong Immigration Department will ask to see the CV’s procured in response. Either way, it’s a struggle. Interestingly though, the Hong Kong Immigration Department do not as a rule place the burden of proving that the skills in question are not available locally on the shoulders of the applicant and their proposed employer. However, in making the argument, this element of the approvability test must be addressed, if not directly, then certainly by implication from all the other things you will be saying in support of the application.

 

Articulating Your Argument

 

You have a good educational background in the relevant field but in special circumstances good technical qualifications, proven professional abilities and/or relevant experience.

 

Normally, a first degree is required. In the event that you do not have a degree, it is acceptable to cite your prior qualifications and experience to the Hong Kong Immigration Department. Your CV is a vital document in these instances as are any testimonial and references from previous employers.

There is a genuine job vacancy.

Here representations need to be made which detail how the vacancy came about and where it sits within the organisational chart of the employing company as a whole. The Hong Kong Immigration Department are on the look out for ‘contrived employments’ with a view to residence in the absence of a bona fide employment opportunity.

You have a confirmed offer of employment.

This requires the Hong Kong Immigration Department having sight of an offer of employment a condition of which is that the employment is “subject to the approval of the Director of Immigration”.

You will be employed in a job relevant to your qualifications or working experience.

In other words, if you are an investment banker seeking to change careers to a PR expert, the likelihood of you satisfying the Hong Kong Immigration Department that this limb of the approvability processes is slight,

That job cannot be readily taken up by the local work force.

Please see the comments above in relation to “Not Readily Available”.

The remuneration package. Including income, accommodation, medical and other fringe benefits is broadly commensurate with the prevailing market level for professionals in the HKSAR.

In stark terms, any employment package valued at any less than HKD260,000 p.a. will likely struggle to approval.

In addition, the six Approval Markers must be satisfied in each and every case.

 

Documents Required

  • Application form ID990A (employee) and ID990B (employer).
  • Recent photograph affixed to the form.
  • Copy passport details page and current visa/period of stay if presently in Hong Kong.
  • Copy up-to-date CV.
  • Photocopy of all graduation certificates/proof of academic qualifications.
  • Copies of prior employment references and testimonials.
  • Copy Letter of Engagement or Contract of Employment detailing information about the post, emolument and term.
  • Copy Business Registration Certificate.
  • Copy of latest audited financial report and/or management accounts.
  • Copy latest profits tax return to the Commissioner for Inland Revenue.
  • Copy of the most recent Annual Return filed with the Registrar of Companies (FORM AR1), along with Companies FORM D1 (Notification of First Secretary and Directors) and FORM D2 (Notification of Changes of Secretary and Directors) if applicable, and FORM SC1 (Return of Allotments).
  • Detailed letter introducing the company, its business and list of staff (with HKID numbers).
  • Company Brochure (and/or “Company Profile “), sales publications, press articles and any similar promotional type materials, which verify the business type of the company.
  • General Proofs of Business – for example, trading documentation, shipping documents, invoices, contracts, agency and distribution agreements etc.
  • Office tenancy agreement copy.
  • If there is a substantial overseas parent company the following documents could also be submitted to assist in the credibility establishment process: Certificate of Incorporation of the parent company, its audited financial statement and the parent company profile or brochure (which will often suffice instead of Hong Kong corporate background information.)

NB — if the employing company has had a prior employment visa approved in the previous 18 months the employer documents above are not required.

 

Submitting Your Application

The application is submitted to the Hong Kong Immigration Department either (a) via post from overseas or in person to the Receipt & Dispatch Unit of the Immigration Tower (2/F) or (b) as part of an application to Change Status, Visa Category or Sponsorship (Employer) if you are presently in Hong Kong as a resident or as a visitor.
 

The Consideration Process

Once your application has been submitted, the process will play out via mail and/or fax. Occasionally the Hong Kong Immigration Department will communicate with you via email. Processing time is usually 6-8 weeks but can be considerably longer in more complex cases. It is rare that a case, unless it is an Inter-company transferee type, will be approved without some element of a dialogue whereby the Hong Kong Immigration Department will raise questions and requests for further information. These subsequent submissions are usually required within 14 days, although the Hong Kong Immigration Department are quite flexible, proving you with sufficient time to respond. Careful consideration should be given to these requests; they can provide very real clues as to the attitude the Hong Kong Immigration Department are adopting to the case. Remember, the challenge is to ensure that the Approvability Test is very properly addressed so the materials you submit in response to the request of the Hong Kong Immigration Department should carry forward your substantive argument for approval. Once approved, the Hong Kong Immigration Department will write to you with a notice as to the positive outcome and invite you to complete the approval formalities which will differ depending on how you submitted your application.
 

Refusal & Appeal

If your case is denied, you can elect to start the appeal process with a formal request for Reconsideration. If you are a visitor seeking to change your status, the Hong Kong Immigration Department will usually afford you an extension to your current period of stay during the Reconsideration process. See the section on Appeals.

Hong Kong Employment Visas Issued by the Hong Kong Immigration department Under the Immigration Arrangements for Non-Local Graduates Policy

Eligibility
Under a new visa type which was introduced in 2008, if you are a person from outside of Hong Kong and have obtained a degree or higher qualification in a full-time and locally-accredited programme in the HKSAR, you are entitled to apply to the Hong Kong Immigration Department for an employment visa under a liberalised approvability test. 

Under the Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates (IANG) such non-local graduates who submit applications to the Hong Kong Immigration Department within six months after the date of their graduation (i.e. the date shown on their graduation certificates) are classified as ‘fresh graduates’. Fresh graduates who seek to work in Hong Kong after their studies are complete are not required to secure an offer of employment as part of their application to change from student visa status to employment visa status — which is approved, effectively, almost as of right.

Non-local graduates who submit applications after six months of the date of their graduation are classified by the Hong Kong Immigration Department as ‘returning graduates’. Such returning graduates who wish to return to work in the HKSAR are required to secure an offer of employment in order to secure an employment visa. These applications are ’favourably considered’ so long as the job is ‘suitable’ and the remuneration package is set at market levels.

 

Approvability Test

 

Fresh Graduates: Production of proof to the Hong Kong Immigration Department that you have graduated (six months limit).

 

Returning Graduates: Production of proof to the Hong Kong Immigration Department that you have graduated (no time limit) and an offer of employment in Hong Kong commensurate with your education at an emolument set at market levels.

 

Documents Required

 

All Applicants

 

  • Application form ID990A.
  • Recent photograph affixed to the form.
  • Copy passport details page and current visa/period of stay if presently in Hong Kong.
  • If PRC national not holding travel document of any kind a photocopy of your PRC resident ID card.
  • Photocopy of HKID card, if any.
  • Photocopy of all graduation certificates/proof of academic qualifications/transcripts showing graduation (and date) from a Hong Kong tertiary education institute.
  • If PRC national currently resident on the Mainland, a letter of consent from your present working unit or relevant Mainland authority.
  • If PRC national current resident overseas, copies of documents showing your third country immigration status and limit of stay.
  • If Macau resident presently, a copy of your Macau ID card.

Returning Graduates

  • Application form ID990B.
  • Offer of employment letter detailing work role and emoluments.
  • Copy employing company’s business registration certificate.
  • Latest audited financial statements, management accounts or profits tax return
  • If the employing company is less than 12 months old, a detailed business plan.

NB — if the employing company has had a prior employment visa approved by the Hong Kong Immigration Department in the previous 18 months the last three listed documents are not required.

 

Submitting Your Application

The application is submitted to the Hong Kong Immigration Department either (a) via post from overseas or in person to the Receipt & Dispatch Unit of the Immigration Tower (2/F) or (b) as part of an application to Change Status or Visa Category if you are presently in Hong Kong as a resident or as a visitor or (c) via the nearest Chinese diplomatic mission in your country of domicile.
 

The Consideration Process

Once your application has been submitted, the process will play out via mail and/or fax. Occasionally the Hong Kong Immigration Department will communicate with you via email. Processing time is usually 4-6 weeks . Once approved, the Hong Kong Immigration Department will write to you with a notice as to the positive outcome and invite you to complete the approval formalities which will differ depending on how you submitted your application.
 

Once Approved

Your initial period of stay will be for 12 months which is then extendable subject to the normal 2-2-3 year pattern. Holders of employment visas issued under the Immigration Arrangements for Non-Local Graduates are able to change employers without needing to seek the prior approval of the HKID but will need to demonstrate they are presently employed or engaged in a business at the point of making the application for extension.
 

Refusal & Appeal

If your case is denied, you can elect to start the appeal process with a formal request for Reconsideration. If you are a visitor seeking to change your status, the Hong Kong Immigration Department will usually afford you an extension to your current period of stay during the Reconsideration process. See the section on Appeals.

Hong Kong Employment Visas Issued by the Hong Kong Immigration Department Under the Admission for Training P0licy

Eligibility
An application to enter Hong Kong for a limited period (not more than 12 months) of training to acquire special skills and knowledge not available in the applicant’s country/territory of domicile may be favourably considered by the Hong Kong Immigration Department if: 

  • There is no security objection and no known record of serious crime in respect of the applicant
  • The bona fides of the applicant and the sponsoring company are satisfied.
  • The sponsoring company is a well-established company, capable of providing the proposed training.
  • There is a contract signed between the sponsoring company and the applicant.
  • The sponsoring company guarantees in writing the maintenance and repatriation of the applicant and that the applicant will receive training in the sponsor’s premises until the end of the agreed period, after which the applicant will return to his/her place of residence; and
  • The proposed duration and content of the training programme can be justified.
Approvability Test
The essence of Hong Kong Immigration Department approvability for a training visa boils down to (a) the bona fides of the sponsoring entity providing the training (b) whether the training can be provided in the applicant’s home country or not and (c) the scope and length of the training is reasonable in all the circumstances.
 

The Training Plan

A detailed schedule of training which breaks down the exact activities which will go to make up the training plan is absolutely essential. It should, at the very least, include for the Hong Kong Immigration Department the topics to be covered, the location of the training, the number of hours of training each day/week, details of the trainer, the department involved and the like. The more information which can be provided in the make up of this plan the better.
 

Documents Required

 

Applicants

 

  • Application form ID992A.
  • Recent photograph affixed to the form.
  • Copy passport details page and current visa/period of stay if presently in Hong Kong.
  • If PRC national not holding travel document of any kind a photocopy of your PRC resident ID card.
  • Photocopy of HKID card, if any.
  • Photocopy of all graduation certificates/proof of academic qualifications.
  • Proof of relevant working experience.
  • If Taiwan resident, copy of your household registration and Taiwan identity card.
  • If Macau resident presently, a copy of your Macau ID card.

Sponsoring Training Providers

  • Application form ID992B.
  • Copy of the training contract detailing work role and emoluments.
  • Copy detailed training plan.
  • If the employing company is less than 12 months old, a detailed business plan.
  • Copy sponsor-company’s business registration certificate.
  • Latest audited financial statements, management accounts or profits tax return.
  • Collection of public-facing information which details how the business operates.

NB — if the employing company has had a prior employment or training visa approved by the Hong Kong Immigration Department in the previous 18 months the last three listed documents are not required.

 

Submitting Your Application

The application is submitted to the Hong Kong Immigration Department either (a) via post from overseas or in person to the Receipt & Dispatch Unit of the Immigration Tower (2/F) or (b) as part of an application to Change Status or Visa Category if you are presently in Hong Kong as a resident or as a visitor or (c) via the nearest Chinese diplomatic mission in your country of domicile.
 

The Consideration Process

Once your application has been submitted, the process will play out via mail and/or fax. Occasionally the Hong Kong Immigration Department will communicate with you via email. Processing time is usually 4-6 weeks . Once approved, the Hong Kong Immigration Department will write to you with a notice as to the positive outcome and invite you to complete the approval formalities which will differ depending on how you submitted your application. Please note that applications for training visas from PRC nationals resident on the mainland will only be entertained if the applicant is an employee/associate of a well established or multinational company with operations in both Hong Kong and the Mainland.
 

Once Approved

Your maximum period of stay granted by the Hong Kong Immigration Department will be for 12 months which is non-extendable. The actual period of stay is tied to the formal length of the training contract.
 

Refusal & Appeal

If your case is denied, you can elect to start the appeal process with a formal request for Reconsideration. If you are a visitor seeking to change your status, the Hong Kong Immigration Department will usually afford you an extension to your current period of stay during the Reconsideration process. See the section on Appeals.