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How Do I Go About Setting Up a Side Business to Complement My Full Time Hong Kong Employment Visa?

January 20th, 2020

Posted by / in Employment Visas, Your Question Answered / 28 responses


Foreign national employment visa holders in Hong Kong are quite often interested in setting up a side business


I am currently employed full-time by a company in Hong Kong. They successfully sponsored my Hong Kong employment visa and I just started my job 2 months ago. All is going very well.

But I would like to register my own business, because I see a chance to act as middle-man for service exchange between China and Europe, and would like that to be done in an official, legal manner.

A recent podcast answer of yours said it would be possible for me to request permission to join in a “side business”.

Does a “side business” involve getting others to register the company, and joining as partner?

Or does it simply mean I can register myself but there are restrictions on what I can earn or do?

Can you please advise on how I can actually go about setting up a side business and then getting the permission of Immigration here to be able to do this?

Best regards, and thank you for sharing your expertise in this manner.

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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.

  • Laura

    14 Sep 2021 pm30 6:15pm

    I’m on an employee visa and I wish to take up a side business. I recently emailed the Immigration dept and they told me that I need to also provide an ID91 form, on top of the business registration, the letter of no objections from my employer and a letter from my side company. My visa however expires in late 2022, so I’m confused… Is that expected?

    Also, do you need to book an appointment at the Immigration dept to submit the above documents or can I send them through their website or over email?


    • The Visa Geeza

      6 Oct 2021 pm31 12:45pm

      Yes in order to secure side business permissions you must get the approval of ImmD before you start the side business and ImmD use the forms ID91 even though you might not need an extension at this time. I would go in person to file the application. Their website is not designed to accommodate non routine applications.

  • Julien

    16 Apr 2021 pm30 10:48pm

    Hi! I hope you are doing well and safe.

    I am currently based in Hong Kong and sponsored by local company up to August 2022. I have quit this company one month ago to open my own business.

    I have already created my company as Limited one in 2019.

    I would like to know if I need entrepreneur visa to run my own side business? Do my working visa I got with my previous company can allow me to run my side business?

    Thanks in advance

    • The Visa Geeza

      26 Apr 2021 am30 11:49am

      I believe my colleague has spoken to you regarding this already?

  • Matt

    23 Mar 2021 pm31 1:55pm

    Hi ,

    I am currently on a sponsored employment visa in Hong Kong. I would like to create a side business conducting paid consultancy work outside of my current employment. I understand I need
    1. A letter of approval from my current employer
    2. Register a business ( Done in Wan Chai office)
    3. Set up a Sole proprietorship
    4. Get approval from the ImmD

    How do I go about setting up a sole proprietorship? And will this affect my current employment visa? Or can I keep my current employment Visa?

    Thanks in advance,


    • The Visa Geeza

      29 Mar 2021 am31 10:42am

      You set up a sole proprietorship at the IRD Tower in Wanchai. “And will this affect my current employment visa? Or can I keep my current employment Visa?”. I don’t understand this question as you’ve laid out your understanding of what you need to do visa-wise in your points 1-4?

  • CN

    25 Oct 2020 am31 10:24am

    I currently have a working visa in HK and I would like to open a side business but keep my current job at the same time.
    I’m not sure if I can do it with a working visa but probably not.
    Alternatively I’m getting married soon and my husband-to-be as a working visa. If I apply for a dependant visa can I both work for my current employer and open my side business?
    Does my current company has to know I changed my visa?

    • The Visa Geeza

      26 Oct 2020 am31 8:49am

      A dependant visa makes you lawfully employable under any configuration. You can progress your change of visa category without your employer knowing but when your employment visa date comes up for renewal you will need to disclose all to them at that time.

      • Clueless Lad

        18 Aug 2021 pm31 9:35pm

        Am I correct in saying that if I have a dependant visa I may register a business without the need to get an approval letter from my employer – as they are not the ones who sponsor my visa…?

        • The Visa Geeza

          19 Aug 2021 pm31 2:08pm

          From an immigration perspective yes that’s correct. However, you might need to check out your employment contract carefully to see if your employer has something to say about you doing this or not.

  • Nick

    3 Jan 2020 pm31 3:02pm

    Hello! Could anyone help me with whether it would be possible for to register a sole proprietorship company in HK if I am here on a working holiday visa? Or is LLC a better option?

    Trying to avoid applying and getting rejected immediately!

    • The Visa Geeza

      9 Jan 2020 pm31 2:05pm

      Sorry – rejected for what?

      • Nick

        17 Jan 2020 pm31 12:09pm

        That they wouldn’t let me register SP because I only have a holiday working visa?

        • The Visa Geeza

          20 Jan 2020 pm31 1:41pm

          Yes, that seems to be current IRD practice.

  • Joe

    14 Feb 2019 pm28 2:10pm

    Hi Visa Geeza,

    It’s now 2019. Have the policies for side business under a sponsored employment visa remained the same or tightened?
    I’m currently to extend my own visa but the consultant my company uses says it’s not possible…?

    As I understand the visa type remains the same (Employment under GEP), but you simply get permission to also engage in a side business.


    • The Visa Geeza

      20 Feb 2019 am28 10:58am

      Yes applicants for side business permissions are scrutinized more robustly now. and yes you must have a main employment / sponsor under GEP and then layer over the side business permissions as a separate application.

  • Zoubi L

    27 Mar 2018 pm31 3:20pm

    Dear all,

    I am currently under a working Visa in Hong Kong, sponsored by my company.

    I would like to set up my own business in Hong Kong, without letting know the current company which will not accept the sideline visa as they will be afraid that I leave the company within a short terms.

    Is there any other solution to open a company in Hong Kong than the side line visa which inform the current company ?


    • The Visa Geeza

      29 Mar 2018 am31 9:39am

      Alas no.

  • The Visa Geeza

    6 Mar 2018 pm31 1:56pm

    Emailed you.

  • Nick

    5 Sep 2017 pm30 2:24pm

    Hi, I have been trying to get a sideline visa for a while now but keep running into difficulties. I have a business registered which I did in Wan Chai a month ago. My employer is happy for me to have the side line work and I have given them the ‘investment ID999B (sponsor) form but they replied to me with the following….

    “I have checked with Immigration Department. We cannot complete the form that you provided to us yesterday.

    If you submit that application form to Immigration Department, your working visa will be changed to “ Investment as Entrepreneurs” visa, then you cannot work at our company.”

    Have they been given the wrong information or have the rules changed?

    Thank you

    • The Visa Geeza

      8 Sep 2017 am30 10:30am

      Normally te ID999B sponsorship form is not needed in a side business applciation. Your main sponsorship as an employee (originally made on ID990B) remains in situ. You may have an officer who is not well versed in handling these types of cases.

      • Nick

        12 Sep 2017 pm30 12:56pm

        Thank you. I have just applied for the sideline visa without the business as the office told me it was very difficult to get this visa I should apply for this one!
        Once I have set gained this visa I am hoping to switch to the business one. I think you are correct about the officers, they didn’t seem to be able to answer my questions or advise on the sideline business.

        • angie

          9 Apr 2018 pm30 8:35pm

          Hi Nick, could you please let me know where did you find the sideline visa application form and how does it work?

          Thank you,


          • The Visa Geeza

            16 Apr 2018 am30 9:14am

            Who’s Nick? There is no sideline visa application form as such. Start the application off with form ID91 and make a case from there on.

  • Adam

    20 Mar 2017 am31 10:18am

    Thank you for this podcast answer. It has been very helpful. I am interested to start up a graphic design side business to complement my visa-sponsored full-time university job in HK.

    Do you have any example letters for 1) the no objection letter from my full-time employer, and 2) the letter of business intent and benefit to HK economy? I am guessing these are fairly straightforward letters to write, but as with any official business with HK immigration, I want to get it right the first time – so any help you can provide would be very much appreciated. Thank you!

    • The Visa Geeza

      21 Mar 2017 pm31 10:25pm

      The no objection letter simply states “We have no objection to our sponsored employee XXX joining in the side business of….” There is no template as such for business intent and benefit – that is where you write up your argument. See our template cover letter for a full investment visa application to get the gist:

  • Jason

    24 Dec 2016 pm31 12:07pm


    I am currently in Hong Kong on a sponsored visa (nearly 4 years) and have now set up a registered company in Hong Kong.

    My girlfriend is currently in Hong Kong on a 30 day visit and I would like to be able to sponsor her (through my company) to obtain the necessary working visa and start working in Hong Kong.

    Can you please advise the steps that I should be taking for this? Also, would it be easier if she applies for an Entrepreneur visa?

    Are there any special requirements that I should be considering?

    Many Thanks

    • The Visa Geeza

      27 Dec 2016 am31 9:39am

      Lots of problems here:

      1 – If you hold a sponsored employment visa yourself then you yourself need to get permission of ImmD to establish this business – your employment visa does to allow you to start this business without getting your own set of approvals (see:

      2 – As the company is newly set up you’re going to have to demonstrate that it can be a suitable and credible sponsor for a foreign nationals’ employment visa permissions. This is much like seeking approval as an entrepreneur (see:

      3 – You will definitely have to demonstrate that your girlfriend as applicant is a Professional for the purposes of the General Employment Policy and also that no local person could reasonably be expected to up take the work.

      4 – I can’t comment on whether or not she should be applying as an Entrepreneur as I know nothing about your plans for the business, the ownership interests in it nor have sufficient information to determine the likelihood of a successful outcome.


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