Navigating the labyrinth of work permit requirements is a crucial task for any HR leader or hiring manager planning to onboard new hires in Hong Kong. While the allure of tapping into Hong Kong's rich talent pool is undoubtedly attractive, it's essential to understand that unauthorized employment carries significant risks. From hefty fines to detrimental damage to your company's reputation, the consequences can be far-reaching.
Ensuring that your employees have the proper authorization to work in Hong Kong is not just about compliance. It's about setting the foundation for a seamless onboarding experience, retaining your new hires, and most importantly, safeguarding your business from falling on the wrong side of the law. As we delve into the intricacies of obtaining work permits in Hong Kong, remember that the effort you put in now will pay dividends in protecting your business and ensuring a smooth start for your new employees.
What is a work permit in Hong Kong?
A work permit in Hong Kong, more commonly referred to as an employment visa, is a document issued by the Hong Kong Immigration Department. It allows a foreign national to live and work in Hong Kong for a specified period, usually tied to the duration of their employment contract. Several types of work visas exist, each serving different purposes. The most common type needed by foreign employees hired by companies outside Hong Kong is the General Employment Policy (GEP) visa. This is primarily used for professionals who possess special skills, knowledge, or experience of value to—and not readily available in—Hong Kong.
Who needs a work permit in Hong Kong?
Foreign nationals who aren’t citizens or permanent residents of Hong Kong and are planning to work there need a work permit or employment visa. Exceptions apply to citizens of certain jurisdictions such as mainland China, Taiwan, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Vietnam, who have different arrangements under Hong Kong law. Moreover, graduates from a recognized Hong Kong university can leverage the Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates (IANG) to work in Hong Kong. Unique categories also exist for entrepreneurs under the Entrepreneur visa and highly skilled professionals under the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme. However, these niche cases are less common.
How long does it take to get a work permit in Hong Kong?
The processing time for a work permit in Hong Kong can vary but typically, it takes about four to eight weeks from the date of submission of all required documents. It's worth noting that this timeline might fluctuate depending on factors like the applicant's background, the accuracy of the submitted information, and the responsiveness of the Hong Kong Immigration Department.
Types of work visas in Hong Kong
In Hong Kong, there are several types of work visas, but the following are the most common ones likely to be relevant to an employer:
- General employment policy (GEP) Visa: This is the standard work visa issued to foreign professionals who possess special skills, knowledge, or experience not readily available in Hong Kong. The applicant must have a job offer from a Hong Kong company and the remuneration package should be at a level commonly taken as a good educational background.
- Immigration arrangements for non-local graduates (IANG): This type of visa is for individuals who have obtained a degree or higher qualification from a full-time and locally accredited program in Hong Kong. Graduates who apply within six months after graduation are classified as "non-local fresh graduates" and do not need an offer of employment for their application.
- Admission scheme for mainland talents and professionals (ASMTP): This work visa category is for mainland China residents who have special skills, knowledge, or experience of value to (and are not readily available in) Hong Kong.
- Entrepreneur visa: This type of visa is for entrepreneurs who plan to establish or join businesses in Hong Kong. Applicants must prove that their business will contribute to the local economy.
While these visas cover the majority of situations, there are other specific types such as the Training Visa or visas under the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme. However, these are less commonly applied to employers.
Application process for Hong Kong work visas
Here's a step-by-step guide to the application process for Hong Kong work visas:
- Offer and acceptance of employment: Before the visa application process can begin, the applicant must have a confirmed job offer from a Hong Kong company. This means that the applicant and the employer have agreed on the terms of employment, including the remuneration package and the job role's details.
- Application submission: The employing company typically initiates the work visa application by submitting an application form (ID 990A) along with the applicant's form (ID 990B) and the following documents to the Hong Kong Immigration Department: copies of the applicant's passport, proof of academic qualifications and relevant work experience, and a copy of the employment contract showing details of the job position, salary, contract duration, and other terms and conditions.
- Application review: The Hong Kong Immigration Department reviews the application and supporting documents. During this phase, the department may ask for additional documents or information.
- Visa issuance: If the application is successful, the Immigration Department issues a visa/entry permit label. The label must be affixed to a blank visa page in the applicant's valid travel document before they arrive in Hong Kong. Once they arrive, their work visa is activated, and they can legally begin employment.
- Renewal of visa: It's essential to remember that all work visas in Hong Kong are time-limited. So, if the employment continues beyond the visa's expiry date, a renewal application must be submitted at least four weeks before it expires.
- Dependent visa applications: If the employee plans to relocate to Hong Kong with family members, separate dependent visa applications should be submitted for each family member.
Remember, each application is reviewed on its merits, and it's crucial to ensure that all information provided is accurate and complete to avoid unnecessary delays or possible rejection of the application. It's also advisable to seek legal advice before starting the application process.
Rippling can connect you with immigration services to help you sponsor work visas around the world.
Frequently asked questions about work permits for employees in Hong Kong
Do US citizens need a work permit to work in Hong Kong?
Yes, regardless of nationality, anyone who intends to take up employment in Hong Kong, including U.S. citizens, must obtain a work permit, also known as an Employment Visa, prior to starting work.
What documents are required to apply for a Hong Kong work permit?
Several documents are necessary to apply for a Hong Kong work permit, including the completed visa application forms (ID 990A and ID 990B), a copy of the employment contract, proof of the applicant's academic qualifications and work experience, and a valid passport. Additionally, the employing company must provide a detailed business plan and business registration certificate.
What’s the fastest way to get a work permit in Hong Kong?
The fastest way to get a work permit in Hong Kong is to ensure that all the necessary documentation is correctly filled out and submitted at the outset of the application. A comprehensive application decreases the likelihood of requests for further information, which can delay processing. Additionally, the applicant should have a confirmed job offer from a Hong Kong company before starting the application process.
How much does it cost to get a Hong Kong work permit?
The cost of a Hong Kong work permit varies. However, as per the current regulations, the application fee for an Employment Visa is HK 230. The cost can change, so it's advisable to check the latest fees on the Hong Kong Immigration Department website.
Is a criminal record check required for a Hong Kong work permit?
Hong Kong does not typically require a criminal record check for work permit applications. However, the immigration office reserves the right to request one if necessary.
Can entrepreneurs apply for a work permit in Hong Kong?
Yes, entrepreneurs who plan to establish or join in business in Hong Kong can apply for an Investment Visa under the General Employment Policy (GEP). They must demonstrate that their business will contribute to the local economy. This usually involves providing a detailed business plan outlining the nature of the business, a two-year forecast of turnover, and other financial details.
Can a Hong Kong work visa holder apply for permanent residency?
Yes, work visa holders can apply for permanent residency after they have resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less than seven years. They will need to provide tax returns and other documents as proof of continuous residence.
What are the eligibility criteria for a Hong Kong work permit?
The eligibility criteria for a Hong Kong work permit are determined by the Hong Kong Immigration Department. The applicant must have a job offer from a Hong Kong company, relevant work experience, and good educational background. The job in question must be relevant to the applicant's skills and qualifications, and the remuneration package should be in line with local standards. Furthermore, the hiring company must demonstrate that the job vacancy could not be filled locally.
Can Chinese citizens apply for a Hong Kong work permit?
Yes, mainland Chinese citizens can apply for a Hong Kong work permit, although they must meet the eligibility criteria. Furthermore, once they arrive in Hong Kong and begin employment, they must apply for a Hong Kong Identity Card.
What role does the Hong Kong government play in the work permit process?
The Hong Kong government, through the Hong Kong Immigration Department, oversees the entire work permit process. They review all applications, assessing the applicant's qualifications, the employer's business activities, and financial standing, and make the final decision on whether to grant the permit.
Are there security objections to getting a Hong Kong work permit?
In rare cases, security objections may be raised during the application process. For instance, if the applicant has a serious criminal record or if there are concerns related to national security, the application may be rejected.
What are the tax obligations for work permit holders in Hong Kong?
Work permit holders in Hong Kong are subject to salary tax on all income derived from employment in the region. The employer is also required to submit a yearly profit tax return to the Inland Revenue Department. It is crucial for employers and employees to understand their tax obligations to avoid any legal complications.
By understanding the complexities of the work permit application process, businesses can ensure a smoother transition for their employees and compliance with Hong Kong's employment laws. Always remember that professional legal advice can be invaluable when dealing with these matters.
Run your global workforce with Rippling
Rippling can connect you with immigration services to help you sponsor work visas around the world; enquire for more information.
Rippling makes it easy to hire and manage your workforce in Hong Kong and all over the globe
Rippling and its affiliates do not provide tax, accounting, or legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any related activities or transactions.