Something extremely rare happened to us yesterday.
For the first time in yonks, we had a business investment visa approved on the strength of a single submission.
Yep, one single lodgment of the application bundle with none of the normal to-ing and fro-ing with the Hong Kong Immigration Department over the course of the usual 12- 16 weeks through to case outcome notification.
An all-too-rare slam dunk application!
This is almost unheard of in actual fact (at least in my experience), although there was one instance at the end of the 1990’s where we had a single submission investment visa approved in just 2 weeks.
However, that case was uniquely individual and not really a like-for-like comparison with the case that came to the good for our client some 24 hours ago.
Whilst we have lots of investment visa applications pending at any one time with cast entirely in a mould of its own, this case was particularly noteworthy so I thought I’d share with you an essay of its characteristics and, hopefully, shed some light for you on the qualities of an investment visa case that met a home run on the very first ball pitched.
‘Simon’ initially booked a Consultation with us via Skype on May 29 of this year.
During our one hour session, I learned that he was a US citizen, had been a resident of Hong Kong for 2 years and that his then current employment visa was due to expire, along with his employment contract, on the last day of July, some 9 weeks later.
Simon had a 30 year background in the international not-for-profit sector and had come to Hong Kong originally in an education role.
Whilst he had received an offer to extend his employment contract, indeed on more favourable terms this time around, he had identified an unmet niche in the Hong Kong market for his long-standing area of special interest and wanted to understand his immigration options to remain in the HKSAR to be able to undertake this activity.
After having discussed the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme (beyond his means), the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (too uncertain and too long to case outcome) Simon agreed that the only real option open to him was a business investment visa.
As Simon was due to go on a business trip, we set a date to meet to discuss next steps a couple of weeks later, on June 14.
At that meeting, Simon agreed that, after having given complete consideration to the challenges associated with an investment visa application, he wished to go ahead and we made preparations to commence work on his case accordingly.
The first thing Simon needed to do was to incorporate a Hong Kong limited liability company and secure a Business Registration Certificate.
We introduced him to our partner colleagues who undertook this on his behalf and the entire process, including the opening of a company bank account to receive his investment funds, was completed by the end of June.
In the meantime, we prepared a customized, detailed checklist of requirements which we would need from him, along with indications on the list of materials that we would be able to help him craft to properly manifest his business plan to the Hong Kong Immigration Department.
Some 2 weeks later, in the middle of July, we met once again to review where we were on the documentation and argument crafting exercise and made ready to plan the submission strategy.
Simon’s last day of work for his then current employer was the same day that his employment visa was due to expire (2 weeks down the track).
This, together with his continuing travel-for-work responsibilities meant that we needed to be strategic about how we filed his application.
So we settled on the following:
(a) On his last day of his work/visa limit of stay (July 31) he would travel to Macau and re-enter as a visitor (which he did, getting 90 days upon arrival).
(b) We would submit his application on August 14, (which we did), 1 day after his company bank account had been funded with the HKD1 million he was prepared to finance the business with.
(c) He would leave for a 10 week visit to the US on the August 15 (which he did).
The essential cut and thrust of his application was the following:
(1) His special niche was unmet in Hong Kong and he had the experience and resources to meet it.
(2) Whilst the business itself was for profit, beyond paying himself a reasonable income from it and eventually receiving the return of his investment capital, he planned to reinvest all additional profits back into the business as they were realised.
(3) His projections envisaged the following local jobs to be created:
– 1 x Full Time staff after 7 months.
– 2 x a further 2 Part Time staff after 10 months.
– A total of 4 x Full Time jobs after 24 months.
(4) Expected turnover end Month 15 was HKD1.8 million & end Month 24 was HKD2.5 million.
(5) Cash available to the business was HKD1 million.
(6) Business would start out with a virtual office and would upgrade to dedicated, standalone commercial premises (budget HKD40,000 per month) in month 7.
(7) Simon’s own monthly stipend was HKD33,000 per month.
(8) Simon had received formal and semi-formal agreement from trade partners of business to be transacted, which supported the revenue projections.
Case Consideration Experience
After submission of the application on August 14, I received a call from the Immigration Department on the 18th asking of the whereabouts of Simon as they suspected that he had inadvertently become an overstayer.
I advised the Officer that, in fact, Simon had made his Macau exit and re-entry on July 31, had been a Visitor in Hong Kong on the day the application was submitted AND that he had subsequently left for the US on the 15th where he planned to remain until October 4 before returning to Hong Kong.
So no, Simon was not in fact an overstayer (which speaks volumes about the HKID computer systems!)
On the 24th of August we received the official receipt for the application along with the file reference number.
On September the 28th, we received the approval letter.
Er… that’s it.
Moreover, the Immigration Department did not stipulate that Simon’s next extension would be subject to Business Review either.
Takeaways From This Case Study
The Hong Kong Immigration Department were obviously smitten by Simon’s intentions in respect of the subject matter of his business.
He clearly had the money, the connections and the experience to allow the business to stand a good chance of success.
Worthy jobs were also being created.
The really interesting thing is that it’s not even just about the amount of money involved.
In the last few months we have had (and have) cases on going with significantly greater sums involved, very compelling stories and the same quality of case preparation.
They either went on to approval or are yet awaiting application finalisation but have required the usual back and forth’s with requisitions for further and better particulars.
No slam dunks.
My sense is that it boiled down to the essentially not-for-profit nature of Simon’s endeavours and the approvability test element of ‘substantial contribution’ being expanded by the Department to take in benefit to society more widely than just advantage to the economy.
Hong Kong is worthy of Simon’s planned contribution and Simon is worthy of his visa approval.
Especially in a super-fast time!