You might be surprised to learn that, for an entrepreneurial driven economy such as Hong Kong’s, there are only comparatively few investment visas granted annually.
The 200-300 approvals recorded are very modest matched against the 25,000 work visas issued yearly and indeed, the 1,300 capital investment visas which were granted in 2010.
As the HKID don’t provide statistics on the amount of applications received, it does appear safe to say that the low number of business investment visa approvals is less a suggestion of the interest of foreign nationals who want to create or join in a business in thus part of China but more a reflection of the reality that getting an investment visa approved is among the most challenging of all the HKSAR visa processes.
Even in spite of this, foreign nationals arrive in droves to take part in the wonderful business opportunities which the city has to offer and, naturally enough, the Director of Immigration doesn’t deter applications from folks to start up new, or join in existing, firms in the HKSAR.
The most significant difference between the 2 sorts of visa lies in the character of the approvability tests and the basic issue of whether the candidate has got value at risk in the firm wanting to deploy his work in their business operations.
Hence the HKID look closely at the shareholding structure of the company that applicant will be engaged in and, as a general guide, anything greater than a 10-15% stock holding position in the hands of the visa applicant will steer the HKID toward the applying of the more burdensome business investment visa approvability test rather than the work visa approvability test.
Covering up the shareholding to attempt to find a way around this general rule is laden with difficulty as the Immigration Department will peer under each nook and cranny in an attempt to completely understand the business ownership arrangements.
Consequently, the utilisation of nominees solely for immigration purposes isn’t advised. If the company is a totally new start up, a fully fledged plan for the business is mission-critical to visa approval.
Hong Kong business investment visas often take between four and six months for formal approval to eventuate (compared with the maximum 6-8 weeks for out and out work visas) and the explanation for this is to permit the new business to produce early commercial results and avail the chance for the HKID to appraise if the business plan is a practical one as measured by new ‘facts on the ground’ ensuing right from the tangible implementation of business activities.
Only very few Hong Kong business investment visas tend to be granted based merely on a paper plan; indeed such approvals are customarily limited to very well resourced organisation extending their operations into Hong Kong from overseas.
However, where the business investment visa-applicant is in-country, sometimes as a visitor, though occasionally intending to change visa status from employment, the HKID expect to see the business moving forward before they will authorize a business investment visa.
This creates a Catch 22 situation: you can’t join in a business till the approval of the HKID is secured. You cannot secure the agreement of the HKID without showing contribution to Hong Kong. You cant show contribution to Hong Kong without joining in a business!
The Immigration Department is extremely well informed about this conundrum and are practical in their work -around.
Fundamentally, if you have already made an application for a business investment visa, they’ll close their eyes to the technical breach of conditions of stay implicit in running a brand new business before having had your visa application approved.
The danger lies in not having an application in the system.
So to provide yourself with protection from the danger of prosecution, you want to empower the HKID to take an early view of your activities and sign up for your Hong Kong business investment visa right at the outset of your commercial endeavours not later on, after ‘its all moving forward’.