In the scheme of things, business visas and business immigration in Hong Kong appear quite low on the list of most people's priorities when organizing a new venture.
However, without the appropriate permission, very little can be implemented without one. The Immigration Department will want to see that everything is place and that all Hong Kong business visa requirements have been satisfied, to enable them to process any application. Submitting an incomplete application does nothing but prolong the process. Also, bear in mind that some nationalities attract more attention than others and some aren't eligible to apply at all.
In our experience preparation is the key to a successful outcome when you apply for work visas in Hong Kong. You should allow four-to-six weeks to process work visa permit applications, although this does depend on how well-established the sponsoring company is and if they have made applications for company visas before. If you're incorporating a new company, opening a business bank account and processing an investment visa application could take around two-to-three months.
Arriving a little earlier than planned.
Planning your arrival to coincide with approval of your immigration work visa in HK doesn’t always go according to plan. Legally, you can't start work until you have had your employment visa endorsed when you arrive. However, there is nothing to stop you entering as a visitor and attending business meetings – although you are not allowed to deliver any goods or services.
To avoid any unnecessary complications, it’s best to avoid completely making any voluntary reference to any outstanding Hong Kong immigration visa application. Once your work visa permit has been issued, take a side trip to Macau or a third country. When you re-enter Hong Kong put the visa label on a clear full page in your passport and present it to the officer. Next step: Hong Kong ID Card.
For more information on requirements, or a free assessment with a Hong Kong visa consultant, just send us your C.V. (Résumé), job description and brief overview of the situation.
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Can you switch from a visitor into employment or similar? Yes you can, but it is to be avoided. Hong Kong immigration is based on "entry visas" and that is what they expect you to do, get the appropriate permission to enter Hong Kong before you arrive. Switching, the process will take longer; immigration will want an explanation why you didn't get the appropriate visa before you entered Hong Kong. They will be suspicious that you have already started work. It's not uncommon for immigration to visit the sponsoring company to check the immigration status of those working there. If you're offered employment make good use of the time compiling the necessary documents for a Hong Kong immigration visa application. When you're ready, leave Hong Kong for at least 24 hours and have the application submitted to the immigration department. An example of this may be, leave Hong Kong on a Sunday, submit the application on Monday and return to Hong Kong on Tuesday, not before! Your application will then be treated as "out of country" which is what immigration expects. Macau is where most people go who do that or a country where the applicant doesn't need a visa.
To qualify for Permanent Residency (Right of Abode) for most people means seven years in sponsored employment. Although not too many people spend seven years with the same employer. Career advancement or starting their own business will require a new application for permission to vary. Hong Kong immigration do allow switching under these and other circumstances without the need for you to leave Hong Kong while the application is considered. Also those with valid leave to remain in Hong Kong after leaving an employer to consider their options can seek employment or alternatives during that time is tolerated. However, should you travel and upon your return you are asked are you still with the employing company you should answer correctly. How this works with the new "E" channel is subjective, but all employers are required to inform Hong Kong immigration for any change in circumstances of their visa holders. However in our experience not many employers are aware of this requirement.
If any application is refused, can you appeal and ask for reconsideration? The answer is yes, but you must have sufficient grounds to ask immigration to look at the application again. In the majority of cases there are no grounds for having the case looked at again because the application has been already compromised. Trying to compare an application with a friend or associate won't be sufficient. Applications may have similarities, but each case is assessed on its own individual merits. However, should there be more relevant information that further supports the case that for some reason was omitted or has been misinterpreted by immigration, then there is a possibility depending on individual circumstances a case can be argued successfully and be approved.
For more examples related to specific visa and immigration questions and answers, visit the immigration category at our BLOG Establish Hong Kong.