Hong Kong's immigration ordinance is surprising in as much that there aren't that many categories for people to qualify under, unlike other developed countries in the world. Similarly the requirements are not documented as extensively as other destinations. As a result Hong Kong immigration officers have a broad range on how they interpret a particular situation within an application, resulting in what some may consider as inconsistent decision-making. However in reality no two applications are the same, but may have some similarities. The fact remains that each application for an immigration work visa in HK will be assessed on its own merits.
To follow is a brief summary of each category high-lighting the key elements of each type of business visa in Hong Kong. If you have any questions at all feel free to CONTACT US or go to our blog, Establish Hong Kong.
The difference between these and employment visas for new entities is if the applicant is holding around 25% or more in shares. The applicant must possess the necessary skills and experience to benefit the company. Being a major shareholder doesn't give the applicant an automatic right to live and work in Hong Kong. The company must demonstrate that the new entity is potentially viable and the parent or overseas company or individual is capable of supporting the new venture. Also the generation of local employment, there is a need or niche for the business and that other Hong Kong Companies, both supplies and clients will benefit. Another favourite is to demonstrate what immigration describes as "a significant contribution to Hong Kong". This statement is intentionally vague and open to interpretation. An essential part of these applications is to provide Hong Kong immigration with a detailed business plan and cash flow forecast for the first year and beyond. The criterion for this type of visa hasn't changed, but the interpretation has, significantly, as a result of a growing economy.
The Government has announced that as of the 14th October 2010 the threshold for investment under CIES has been raised to $10 million Hong Kong dollars. Furthermore, real estate is temporarily been suspended as a permissible asset under the scheme.
The investment threshold (Net asset/equity requirement) will be reviewed every three years. The temporary suspension of real estate as a permissible investment asset (PIA) will also be assessed at the next review, or earlier as considered necessary.
The options are, stock, equities or debt securities (from an approved eligible list) or a combination of the qualifying criteria. The applicant must be able to demonstrate the net value of the portfolio is at least $10 million HKD and have had the funds for two years prior to the application. "Approval in principle" is granted for six months after the applicant's portfolio has been confirmed by HK immigration to be in excess of $10 million HK net to make the appropriate investment. Those choosing to invest in stock, equities or debt securities will need to appoint a financial intermediary to manage the investment portfolio on their behalf. Once the investment is confirmed by Hong Kong immigration a visa for two years will be issued to the applicant and any qualifying dependents which can be extended. The category is one that leads to residency in Hong Kong after seven years. Unlike other categories that lead to residency (Unconditional Stay) the applicant doesn't have to spend seven years continuously in Hong Kong to qualify, but must maintain the investment throughout the seven year period.
As a heading this covers a range of particular applications for business immigration to Hong Kong, for example, Intra-company transfer, new hire, training, investment. There are three areas that need to be addressed, the sponsoring company, the applicant and the vacancy. Where it starts to get potentially complicated is how long the sponsoring Hong Kong company has been around and how well established, also if the applicant will be a shareholder and or Director of the company. Is it a genuine vacancy and what attempts the company has made to fill the vacancy locally.
For companies or individuals looking to work in Hong Kong this can be particularly challenging. Visas for these situations would most likely be referred to as Investment Visas, but are still know as Employment Visas.
The burden of proof falls heavily on the applicant and the sponsoring/supporting company. It's a bureaucratic version of “show and tell”, supporting documents are essential, if not provided then the claim will largely be discounted.