Hong Kong Visas Made Easy

05

Apr 2024

How Can I Get The Approval Of The Immigration Department To Change My Hong Kong Employment Visa Sponsorship Without My Current Employer Learning About It?

Posted by / in Employment Visas, Your Question Answered / No responses

Changing jobs in Hong Kong requires the permission of the Director of Immigration…

Change My Hong Kong Employment Visa Sponsorship

Dear Stephen,

How can I get the approval of the Immigration Department to change my Hong Kong employment visa sponsorship without my current employer learning about it?

I have a stable job in Hong Kong and am finalizing an offer with a potential new employer here.

Since there is always a risk of immigration refusal, and I don’t want to lose my current job if the change of employer application does not work out.

How to do this without my current employer knowing?

Basically the question is how to get the new employment visa arrangements approved by the Hong Kong Immigration Department before letting my current employer know about it?

Thanks a lot! 

ANSWER

This is quite a common situation, as you can imagine; the Immigration Department devised a way of dealing with it that’s quite logical. Effectively, you go ahead with your application to change your sponsorship and submit all the normal documents to that end, and then during the currency of the application, the Immigration Department when they’re about to finalise, will typically invite you to submit a copy of a resignation letter that records the fact that you have a last date of employment with your current sponsor.

Then once you submit that to the Immigration Department, they will then issue a letter of approval for your new position. Now, of course, there always is an implied risk in this that you go through the process – the Immigration Department will then issue the request for the resignation letter and then they say no to your application.

Normally though, in all the years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve never seen the Immigration Department take that tack. Therefore, when you receive a request from the Immigration Department for the final date of employment with your existing employer, that’s a tacit signal that your application is about to be approved. So you then clearly, notify your existing employer, hand in your notice, do what you need to do; the documentation that’s generated in pursuit of you terminating your existing employment is then submitted to the Immigration Department to finalise your new change of sponsorship application and then they will positively approve you, in my experience, thereafter.

I hope you found that useful.

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04

Apr 2024

Is It Ever OK To Work Full Time In Hong Kong Without An Employment Visa – For The Hong Kong Subsidiary Of An Overseas Company?

Posted by / in Employment Visas, Refusals & Appeals, Your Question Answered / 3 responses

Work full time in Hong Kong without an employment visa ? This is a bit of a hoary old chestnut this question but a really important one nonetheless so I am grateful to the questioner for posing it.

Work Full Time in Hong Kong Without An Employment Visa

QUESTION

Hi there,

My Hong Kong employment visa application has just been refused. My company who are sponsoring me applied on my behalf.

Apparently it was the first visa for them to have been rejected. We are going through the appropriate channels to re-apply.

I was interviewed in Hong Kong for the position I am now holding, whilst in the USA. I am being paid in the USA, although my wages are being internally invoiced to Hong Kong (the company in the USA being the pay-master).

My question being: can I enter Hong Kong with a visitor visa, as a USA national, and be paid in the same manner though the USA?

Whilst of course waiting for the re-application of the visa to be completed.

Thanks for your advice. 

ANSWER

In the final analysis, it doesn’t really matter what the origin of your employment contract is or where you end up getting paid or whatever the financing mechanism is between the various entities in the group as to how you get paid. The issue really relates to you being physically in Hong Kong carrying out employment activities, because it is unlawful to work in Hong Kong without the permission of the Immigration Department, whether paid or unpaid irrespective, as I say, of the source of the payment or where the contract is cited.

So if you are going to wait in Hong Kong until such a time as your reconsideration application has been finalised, then in order to ensure that you don’t break the law, its important that you don’t carry out any employment duties. And the Immigration Department are totally wise to what your intentions are given that they are presently considering an application for you to take up employment; so, ostensibly at face value, is extremely easy for them to understand, what you might be doing here whilst you wait for your employment visa application to be finalised. So, I think it’s really important that you don’t confuse the origin of employment and where you get paid with the fact that taking up employment activities, irrespective of whether you get paid or not, is a breach of your conditions of stay as a visitor.

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03

Apr 2024

Can You Remain In Hong Kong Under An Employment Visa Sponsored By An Ex-Employer & Run A Hong Kong Sole Proprietorship Providing Services Outside Of Hong Kong (Mostly)?

Posted by / in Employment Visas, Investment Visas, Your Question Answered / No responses

Remain in Hong Kong under an Employment Visa sponsored by an ex-Employer? Unusual set of facts in this case and a question never posed to me in this fashion previously…

Employment Visa

QUESTION

I have been in Hong Kong since 2011 under an employment visa but have recently quit my job.

The last time my visa was renewed it was extended until November 2018 and I understand I still have the privilege to reside in Hong Kong until then even if my employment has ended.

I now have a consultancy agreement with a firm based in Singapore for which I provide services independently.

The fieldwork (which represents 80% of the work) takes place outside of Hong Kong, I only write up my reports from home in Hong Kong.

I have registered a sole proprietorship business to report the consultancy income for tax purposes.

However, I guess I am not supposed to work under the current conditions of my stay.

My questions are:

(1) Could the fact of reporting that income to the tax authorities actually trigger some issues on the immigration side?

(2) If I was to apply for a business investment visa as an entrepreneur and it was rejected, could that trigger the Immigration Department to cancel my current permission of stay until November 2018?

What is in your opinion the best thing to do?

ANSWER

The employment visa that you have presently has been granted to you on the strength that you are permitted to work in Hong Kong for your nominated employer and your nominated employer alone. As you’ve correctly understood, even though you have a valid limit of stay that stretches all the way through to 2018, you’re privileged to work for anybody in Hong Kong other than yourself.

Given that you have established a business – which you’ve done through the establishment of your sole proprietorship, essentially you’ve breached your conditions of stay at that point, and given that you’re spending 80% of your time on field work outside of Hong Kong, engaging in employment activities outside of Hong Kong doesn’t mitigate the fact that you will spend the 20% of the remainder of your time in Hong Kong actually undertaking employment activities for your own sole proprietorship business.

So, clearly, in the circumstances that you find yourself right now, you are breaching your conditions of stay as a result of you not merely residing in Hong Kong but having established a business here. So, clearly you’ve got to think about bringing your circumstances into compliance as soon as you possibly can.

Additionally, the fact that you have established a sole proprietorship certainly could alert the Immigration Department to the fact of you having established that business, as the Immigration Department and Inland Revenue Department are able to exchange information if they so wish;  whether that’s an automatic exchange of information or whether it’s done on specific query or not is question that remains open being part of the Security Bureau; clearly I don’t have privileged access to how those government departments work but, nevertheless, my best advice to you is to make an application to adjust your status from sponsored employment through to business investment in your own right. I won’t go into the details of how you go about satisfying the approvability test for that business investment visa, because I’ve dealt with that quite extensively elsewhere on the site.

In terms of the Immigration Department potentially refusing any such business investment visa application as an entrepreneur and then yanking, as it were, the rug from under your feet and then giving you a shorter limit of stay, I suspect that that’s probably not going to happen to you; it doesn’t appear to be the Immigration Department standard practice in those circumstances. If they say no to business investment, it means that they are not satisfied that you can make a substantial contribution to the economy of Hong Kong on the basis of your business plan and the other information that you have put forward. So, if you do get denied, you do have an opportunity to have another go at it on the basis of a reconsideration, and if you get it right the second time, then you are on your way.

So, just to wrap it all up – yes, you are not permitted to actually engage in the activities that you’ve presently configured yourself for, given that you’ve left your employment of your previous sponsor.

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02

Apr 2024

Must The Employing Company Sponsor Of My Hong Kong Work Visa Application Be Profitable?

Posted by / in Employment Visas, Your Question Answered / No responses

How important is sponsor-profitability, especially for start up businesses less than 12 months old?

Hong Kong Work Visa Application

QUESTION

I have been recruited by a newly established company (12 months old as of this week).

They have never hired a foreigner and have tasked me with completing the visa forms, both employee and employer versions.

The Employer-side application requires “proof of financial standing.”

Although registered one year ago, the company has only recently begun making sales, which do not amount to much.

Will the companies lack of profit negatively affect my chances at being approved under this Hong Kong work visa application?

If so, is there anything that can be done to mitigate this?

Thank you in advance for your reply.

ANSWER

Whenever the Immigration Department are asked to ascribe a suitable and credible sponsorship status to a newly established enterprise, the Immigration Department will look at a number of different factors when taking into account a good financial standing of the business. As a newly established company with no history of trading, that will not come as a surprise to the Immigration Department if only just turning revenue now, that’s okay.

They’ll look to see for a set of management accounts – I appreciate you won’t have an audited management account at this point, but certainly up-to-date management accounts that shows the balance sheet and the profit and loss so that the Immigration Department can see what’s going on now, that will be beneficial to the application.

The fact that there are no revenues, as you say, then what does the bank balance look like, and what the extent of the funding available to be used for the business. As long as all of that stacks up, it will not stand in the way of you getting your approval because you’ll satisfy the financial bona fides accordingly.

I hope you found that useful.

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01

Apr 2024

Can The Company You Have Just Left Contact Hong Kong Immigration And Make Your Visa Expire Immediately?

Posted by / in Employment Visas, Special Programmes, Your Question Answered / 14 responses

Contact Hong Kong Immigration and make your visa expire? This question comes up often enough for it to warrant another explanation of the arrangements which prevail (current ImmD practice)…

Contact Hong Kong Immigration And Make Your Visa Expire

QUESTION

Dear Visa Geeza,

 I’m under the impression that when you leave a company that has been sponsoring your employment visa or if you are fired, that as long as your visa hasn’t expired you are allowed to stay in Hong Kong and look for new employment.

Can the company you have just left contact immigration and make your visa expire immediately so you therefore lose the right to stay in Hong Kong and look for work? 

ANSWER

This scenario is very much an old chestnut; so, I’d like to take this opportunity to hopefully sort of bury it once and for all time. Effectively, when you secure an employment visa sponsored by a Hong Kong employer, you get two privileges: (1) you get the privilege to do the work – that’s nominated in the employment contract for the sponsor of record, and (2) you also get the privilege to reside – that flows naturally from the privilege to work.

When you stop working for your current employer, your privilege to work ceases, but your privilege to reside continues until your current limit of stay expires, or the Immigration Department remove it from you, whichever is the sooner it is; in fact, the Immigration departments standard practise to allow the current limit of stay to expire where there has been a situation such as yours, and therefore you will be allowed to remain in Hong Kong to carry on your lives until your current limit of stay expires, whereupon you’re expected to leave.

Additionally, it is considered a ‘permitted activity’ under your continuing privilege to reside to look for and indeed interview for work. However, it is not ‘permitted activity’ to take up that employment. Therefore, prior to joining in a new company (sponsor) in Hong Kong, you will have to make an application to change your sponsorship so that the Immigration department can apply the approvability test in the context of the new job offer that you’ve got in hand and will then, once applying that approvability test, determine whether you should be able to take up that employment and in the process re-invoking your privileges to work for that new employer. So that’s how all of that works.

In terms of an ex-employer contacting the Immigration Department and ask that your privilege to reside in Hong Kong be suddenly be immediately revoked, the Immigration Department tend not to get involved in issues associated with reasons as to why an employment might have come to an end.

In other words, an employer does have an obligation to inform the Immigration Department of material change in circumstances as regards their sponsorship charges – and so normally an employer will write to the Immigration Department to advise them of the official date of employment termination (and the Immigration Department just hold that on file and the termination date of your prior employment becomes a matter of your record), but the employer cannot sort of overreaching themselves and saying that you should not be allowed to remain in Hong Kong for reasons such as  you having not have done your job well or any of this kind. The Immigration Department won’t take on board any of that, as they just look at the circumstances dispassionately and will just reflect the fact of your cessation of employment with that sponsor, rather than taking any steps towards, in a sense, punishing you for what might have passed during your prior employment, and not making it possible for you to make an honest application to change your sponsorship and continue your lives in Hong Kong on the basis that you’ll be able to get that change of sponsorship application approved.

In a nutshell, the answer to your question is: an employer can’t effectively kick you out of Hong Kong just because they happen to be your employment visa sponsor of record.

I hope you find this useful.

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31

Mar 2024

How Can I Bring My Chinese Girlfriend To Hong Kong To Live With Me While I Work Here?

Posted by / in Family Visas, Feature Article, Your Question Answered / No responses

Having a relationship with a Chinese partner resident on the Mainland can be problematic if you wish to share your lives together in Hong Kong…

Chinese Girlfriend to Hong Kong to Live With Me

QUESTION

I am looking to take up employment in Hong Kong from November 1st.

My biggest concern is the ability and feasibility for my girlfriend from Mainland China to be able to join me in Hong Kong.

Please can you advise on possible options.

She only graduated just over a year ago, so a Mainland Talent visa, I assume, is definitely out.

Thanks for your time, much appreciated.

ANSWER

As you have identified already the mission of Mainland Talents and Professionals Scheme which provides an opportunity for mainland graduates who are deemed to be talents or professionals to come to Hong Kong to take up employment on the strength of having received a job offer here from a suitable employer.

This visa programme is not going to be suitable for you in your circumstances because of the fact that your partner is a new graduate. So because of the floodgate mechanism that works in Hong Kong, in a sense to keep down the numbers of mainland residents taking up residence here, realistically, having looked through the options available to you, I would suggest that your best possible chance of being able to carry on your joint lives in Hong Kong is for her to get a student visa, potentially go ahead and participate in a master’s degree programme from a Hong Kong university – and it must be a graduate degree in this respect, or she could take an undergraduate programme as well if she wanted to take another bachelor’s degree on board. However, my advice would be to apply to do a master’s degree and thus get a student visa that would then allow you one year together until she graduates. And then at the end of that one year upon graduation, she could apply for a visa under the immigration arrangements for non-local graduates, which effectively gives her a carte blanche visa to go and work for anybody, no questions asked, for another year, and at the end of that year, as long as she’s got and employment with a suitable and credible sponsor, and the compensation that she’s receiving for the work that she does is broadly commensurate with market rates, then she’ll be able to carry on getting extended in Hong Kong under those arrangements on an indefinite basis through to seven years, as long as she’s in full time employment each time that she makes an application to extend her visa.

So, really cutting to the chase, if you want to carry on your lives in Hong Kong, really the only option you’ve got is a student visa, then immigration arrangements for non-local graduates. I hope you found this useful.

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30

Mar 2024

If I Have A Hong Kong Dependant Visa Can I Work Here For A Foreign Company Even Though They Have Not Registered As A Business In Hong Kong?

Posted by / in Family Visas, Your Question Answered / No responses

This question mainly relates to business rather than immigration law but is still an important question nonetheless…

hong kong dependant visa

QUESTION

Hello

I have a Hong Kong  dependant visa that gives me the right to work in Hong Kong. I have been offered a Regional Asia role based out of Hong Kong by a Canadian company.

This company is not registered in Hong Kong.

Can I work for them as sole proprietor under my Hong Kong dependant visa ? Or do they need to register as a limited company?

If they register here can I work for them on my Hong Kong dependant visa?

Appreciate your help.

ANSWER

Strictly speaking, from an immigration perspective, there is no preclusion to you taking up employment with any party in Hong Kong, because the legal dependent visa effectively gives you carte blanche approval to engage in any kind of activity in Hong Kong so long as it’s lawful and as long as you continue to remain under the sponsorship of your spouse – the principal employment visa holder.

The issue really here is the question of how you go about ensuring that you personally and the activity that you engage in is lawful from the perspective of your income, because you do need to be reporting the results of your work activity to the Inland Revenue Department.

And normally, if you’re an out and out employee, your employer is registered as a business here, and the act of registering as a business allows the Inland Revenue Department to be put on notice that you should be sent a tax assessment for the work that you do working for that registered business in Hong Kong, and given that your proposed employer doesn’t have a registered business in Hong Kong, the question is begged as to how you will be able to ensure that your income is reported to the Inland Revenue Department so that you are compliant with revenue law. And as you’ve alluded to in your question, registering as a sole proprietorship is the way forward, simply because there is no other way for the Inland Revenue department to understand, essentially how you’ve been earning your living, and by registering as a sole proprietor, getting a business registration certificate, the money that you receive from that overseas entity will be recorded in your hands as income, and after due allowances have been made for expenses as a registered sole proprietor, then you’ll have at the end of the exercise an accessible income to tax and you’ll pay a tax on that.

But insofar as the registration requirements of the proposed employer in this regard, as long as they are not going to be carrying on a business here and the work that you do will be as an independent contractor representing the interests of that foreign business, then there is no preclusion or issue at all in terms of how you will be working for them so long as you yourself is registered as a sole proprietor, and you report your income to the Inland Revenue Department in that fashion. I hope you found that useful.

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