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Obtaining an employment visa in Hong Kong

According to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 Report released on 31 Oct 2018, Hong Kong is ranked 4th globally on the ease of doing business. Apart from being one of the most competitive economies in the world, Hong Kong has maintained its position among the world’s top economies due to its favorable business environment for local and overseas enterprises. Below are some of the advantages:

  • Preferred base for multinationals, international chambers of commerce, global organizations, and media companies to set up their regional headquarters and offices
  • Regional hub for legal services and dispute resolution underpinned by a trusted common law system and an independent judiciary
  • Efficient business environment supported by a stable and fully convertible currency, the absence of exchange controls, low tax rates and a simple tax structure, and the free flow of information, capital, and talents

With the above advantages coupled with the business efficiency and vibrancy of Hong Kong’s economy, the city appeals to many foreigners looking to expand their businesses or to search for job opportunities here.

Before a foreigner starts working in Hong Kong, he/she needs to acquire an employment visa in Hong Kong. To do so, one needs to first apply for a visa at the Immigration Department of Hong Kong. Below are two possible scenarios:

1. Inter-Company Transferee Expatriate

This is the most common reason for applying for an employment visa. Under this situation, the visa applicant is already working for a parent, sister, or other formally associated company of the intended Hong Kong employing company. This basically means that a group or parent company wishes to transfer an overseas staff to work in their Hong Kong office for either a short or long period of time.

2. Overseas specialist recruited outside of Hong Kong

Extra attention must be paid to this situation since the immigration officer must examine the employer’s background such as year of establishment, organization size, scope, and nature of Hong Kong operation. The employer should justify the need of requiring skills and knowledge from overseas recruitment rather than from the local labor market.

Depending on the length of the prior employment with the parent or group company, the work nature proposed for the visa applicant in Hong Kong and the possibility of an objective assessment of the fact that no local Hong Kong person could really be placed in the position to undertake the job proposed for the transferring staff, these types of visa applications tend to be merely administrative, as opposed to argumentative, in nature. Thus, it is especially important when applying for an employment visa for an Inter-Company Transferee expatriate staff that the whole picture is viewed to answer the question “Could this job realistically be undertaken by a suitably qualified local Hong Kong resident?”

To understand more about the detailed application process of employment visa in Hong Kong, please contact Ms. May Ly (, Senior Manager from our Company Secretarial team.

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