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What Exactly Do You Need To Include In A Visa Application To Join In A Side Business In Hong Kong?

April 26th, 2024

Posted by / in Employment Visas, Your Question Answered / 7 responses


So, you sense there’s an opportunity to augment your salary with some freelance work so how do you go about making an application to join in a side business in Hong Kong?

 Join in a Side Business in Hong Kong


Dear Visa Geeza,

I have listened to your podcasts regarding sole proprietorship and followed the information given.

Background information – I am currently working as a Business Manager (3+ years) for a Hong Kong based company who holds my working visa.

My employer has agreed that I can work outside of my current company as a sole proprietor / freelance.

I have registered and got my BRC and waiting on forms to open a bank account.

My questions is, what is the best way to approach immigration / who to write to regarding acceptance of my sole proprietorship?

1) My employer to write a letter confirming that they allow me to work outside the company – is there anything you would advise to include / not include?

2) A personal letter from myself outlining my business activates / plan – during work for my current company I have been approached by a number of other businesses and sometimes friends who want certain services for Hong Kong companies.

Do I need to outline in detail or just explain what services I will be offering?

Do I then need to link how this will benefit Hong Kong and potentially create new jobs etc?

Any advice would be great as this will hopefully be the last step and I can start accepting work during my free time and keep immigration happy.



Yes, so as you’ve understood, going about getting the permission of the director of immigration to join in a side business requires you essentially to get the permission of your current employer to confirm that they have no objection to you taking up this side business. And they need to do that in writing.

And, insofar as the inclusions, essentially, so long as the employer, a sponsor, clearly denotes that he has no objection to taking up that side employment, then really that’s the sum of that correspondence part to the Immigration Department. Then in terms of your personal letter from yourself outlining your business activities, yes, essentially what you do is you talk about the work that you do for your current employer, how you have sufficient time, free time, that you could use productively, and you’ve been approached by various parties in Hong Kong to provide those services. Consequently, in anticipation of the Immigration Department approving you to uptake that side business you have established, a sole proprietorship and you are standby ready to begin work on side projects the moment that the director of immigration authorises it in writing.

So, yes, I would essentially set out in your current letter to the Immigration Department the rationale for you wishing to take up that side employment. At this point, I wouldn’t really get into issues about how it’s going to benefit Hong Kong and potentially create new jobs and the like; the expectation of a side business is that it’s something you do on the side, something that supplements and supports the income that you receive from your current employer. And by giving you permission to join in the side business, the Immigration Department are essentially saying, okay, we acknowledge that you have other talents that could be marketable, we don’t particularly want to stand in your way of you being able to exercise those marketable talents for profitable end, just so long as your current employment interests are not compromised by your proposed side business activities – hence the Immigration Department needing the permission of the employer to go forward with an approval for such an application.

So, yes, I wouldn’t harp on too much about how you’re going to create local jobs and add a lot of value to the economy of Hong Kong. Essentially, the side business process anticipates that there is some value creating activity. There’s no need to argue for it as such, and clearly, if you do believe you’re going to create new jobs, then that begs the question as to whether or not that’s a part time side business or whether it’s a full time business. And if it’s a full time business, then clearly you need to stop working for your current employer and make an application for a wholly fledged business investment visa instead.

So, essentially, those are the two things that you need to be thinking about when crafting your letter to support the proposition that you should be allowed to join in your side business.

It’s an application to the 5th floor of immigration tower, addressed to the residence section; you can send it in by mail. There’s no need to show up with your passport to progress this type of application, and the Immigration Department will deal with you via correspondence through to your approval.

I hope you found that useful.

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The Hong Kong Visa Geeza (a.k.a Stephen Barnes) is a co-founder of the Hong Kong Visa Centre and author of the Hong Kong Visa Handbook. A law graduate of the London School of Economics, Stephen has been practicing Hong Kong immigration since 1993 and is widely acknowledged as the leading authority on business immigration matters here for the last 24 years.

  • Ca

    11 Aug 2017 pm31 12:02pm

    You mention there is no need to set out how your side business will create jobs in Hong Kong or to obtain an independent sponsor for a side business, however, having recently applied for permission I have been asked to account for how my business will create local jobs and provide an independent sponsor. Have the rules recently changed regarding these factors?

    • The Visa Geeza

      17 Aug 2017 pm31 2:12pm

      Yes: the Audit Commission Report Number 66 changed everything. Now such applications are treated just like a full investment visa applciation in terms of the documents and plans for Hong Kong go. Much bigger endeavour.

  • Adam

    26 Jun 2017 pm30 1:51pm

    Thank you for all of these great resources on requesting permission to join in a sideline business. I wanted to ask you about the process of submitting the information to Immigration. I listened to your podcast answers from various pages, and on one of them you mention that applicants who have their documents ready (non-objection letter from sponsoring employer, copy of business registration from IRD, and letter of business intent), can mail these in to the Immigration department rather than showing up in person. I called Immigration last week to ask for the address of the department I could mail my documents to, and they told me it was compulsory to show up in person and take care of it there. I’m not sure if the man at the hotline I called was assuming this was regarding some other form of work, different from sideline? He tried to tell me that I also needed to fill out an “Extension of Stay” form. This all sounded strange to me.

    Have you had this issue show up before? I was really hoping I could simply mail in my documents instead of go in person, as it will be a challenge to get the time off work.

    Thank you for your help and consideration.

    • Adam

      26 Jun 2017 pm30 1:54pm

      Also, I wanted to add that I have tried looking on the HK Immigration website for information about sideline business, but I cannot find anything. Perhaps I just don’t understand the legal jargon? Can you point me in the right direction?

      • The Visa Geeza

        28 Jun 2017 pm30 12:37pm

        There isn’t any!

    • The Visa Geeza

      28 Jun 2017 pm30 12:36pm

      Yes, since the Audit Commission Report you now need to treat the application via 5/F with the documents you mention and also complete form ID91 (Extension of Stay) even though you’re not asking for an extension of stay. Clear as mud eh?

      • Adam

        29 Jun 2017 pm30 1:31pm

        Thank you for the update and clarification! I really appreciate it. I’ll work on preparing the ID91 and plan an in-person visit.

        Thanks again!


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