Hong Kong, the bustling metropolis known for its vibrant culture, thriving economy, and global connectivity, has long been an attractive destination for individuals seeking new opportunities. If you’re traveling for leisure, seeking new opportunities as an entrepreneur or investor, pursuing a new job, or aspiring to study at the region’s world-class educational institutes, Hong Kong offers a range of visa options tailored to meet diverse needs and ambitions.
In this article, we delve into the different types of visas that Hong Kong offers, covering the requirements, benefits, and opportunities each visa category presents.
Visa-free travel and visitor visas to Hong Kong
Hong Kong allows visa-free travel to citizens of over 150 countries and regions, with the duration of permitted stay ranging from seven to 180 days, depending on the traveler’s passport.
However, citizens of around 50 countries and regions are required to obtain a visitor visa before they can travel to Hong Kong. Indian passport holders must complete pre-arrival registration before traveling to Hong Kong, which can be completed online.
Hong Kong’s visa requirements and visa-free policies for different countries and regions are summarized in the table below.
Hong Kong Visitor Visa Requirements by Country
|Afghanistan, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Moldova, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Togo, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen||Required||Varies|
|USA||Required for diplomatic passports||Varies|
|Albania, Serbia||Required for holders of non-biometric passports||NA|
|Albania, Serbia||Not required for biometric passport holders||14 days|
|Algeria, Benin, Bhutan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Haiti, Kazakhstan, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Micronesia, Mongolia, Montenegro, Mozambique, Niger, North Macedonia, Palau, Philippines, Russia, Sao Tome and Principe, Suriname, Ukraine, Vatican City||Not required||14 days|
|India||Visa not required, pre-arrival registration required||14 days|
|Armenia, Bahrain, Belarus, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Samoa, South Africa, Thailand, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates,||Not required||30 days|
|Andorra, Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bermuda, Botswana, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Eswatini, Falkland Islands & Dependencies, Faroe Islands, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Greenland, Grenada, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kiribati, South Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Montserrat, Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie & Oeno Islands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, St Helena, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, The South Georgia and The South Sandwich Islands, The Sovereign Base Areas Of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Türki̇ye, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tuvalu, Uruguay, United States Of America, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe||Not required||90 days|
|United Kingdom||Not required||180 days|
|Other countries and territories||Not required||7 days|
|Note: The above information is provided for reference only. As requirements change periodically, always check the latest entry requirements for specific passports and countries before traveling.
Source: Immigration Department of the Government of Hong Kong SAR.
Note that visitors who enter Hong Kong either visa-free or on a visitor visa are not permitted to engage in employment (paid or unpaid), conduct business activities or join a business, study, or enroll themselves in an educational institution during their stay.
In most cases, they also can’t change their immigration status (that is, switch to another visa or stay permit) when they have entered Hong Kong on a visa-free status or on a visitor visa; however, you may be able to extend the stay while in Hong Kong. Visitors are permitted to visit friends and family on a visitor visa or through visa-free entry.
Applying for a Hong Kong visitor visas
Citizens of countries that are required to apply for a visitor visa can do so either through the local Chinese mission in their place of residence, or the local Chinese Visa Application Service Center. Whether the visa application is completed through a Chinese mission or visa service center depends on the country or region, so it is important to check with the local Chinese mission before applying.
For instance, in Ghana, visa applications are handled by the Chinese Embassy in Ghana, whereas in Pakistan it is handled by the visa service center.
Citizens of some countries may also be able to complete the visa applications online, whereas some will be required to present themselves in person at the Chinese mission or visa service center.
Requirements for visa applications also vary from country to country but generally include:
- A valid travel document (usually a passport);
- Recent photo of the applicant;
- If traveling to visit friends or family, an invitation letter from the family member or host living in Hong Kong, and proof of relationship with the local host (for a family visit);
- Hong Kong identity card and/or travel document and/or latest “e-Visa” (for non-permanent residents of Hong Kong only) for applications in which the sponsor is an individual;
- If traveling for leisure, proof of the proposed leisure visit to Hong Kong, such as a receipt of joining a package tour to Hong Kong, itinerary, and so on;
- If transiting through Hong Kong (and leaving the airport), proof of the proposed visit to the next destination after visiting Hong Kong, itinerary, and so on;
- Proof of sufficient funds to cover the duration of stay, such as bank statements, savings accounts passbooks, tax receipts, and so on, and proof of employment (if any), such as company leave letter, salary slips, and so on;
- Flight or other transport tickets to Hong Kong; and
- Other supporting documents.
Note that you may be asked by the Hong Kong Immigration Department to supply additional supporting documents.
Costs and processing time of visas vary from country to country.
Work and talent visas
All foreign nationals are required to obtain a visa if they wish to work in Hong Kong. However, obtaining a work visa for a foreign national can be quite difficult, as companies need to prove that there is a genuine need for foreign talent and the vacancy cannot be filled by a local professional.
However, in order to attract and retain highly skilled and sought-after talent, Hong Kong has introduced several talent visa schemes to facilitate the process of obtaining a work visa. This includes visa schemes for foreign graduates of Hong Kong universities and highly skilled and experienced talent.
The different work visa policies and talent schemes are summarized in the table below.
|Hong Kong Work Visa Policies and Talent Schemes for Foreign Applicants|
|General Employment Policy*||General work visa applications for foreign professionals taking up a genuine job position that cannot be filled by a local professional.||
||No specific requirements for the applicant’s educational institute.
Job offer required.
|Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates||Foreign graduates of a Hong Kong university or a joint Hong Kong-Mainland China campus in one of the Mainland cities of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA).||
||Specific requirements for the applicant’s educational institute.
Job offer not required.
|Top Talent Pass Scheme||Foreign professionals with rich work experience and good academic qualifications, including high-income talents and graduates from the world’s top universities.||
||Specific requirements for the applicant’s educational institute.
Job offer required.
|Technology talent admission scheme||Non-local technology talent to undertake research and development (R&D) work in specific high-tech industries, subject to quota application by the company.||
||Special requirements for applicant’s educational institute.
Applicant must work in a specific position and industry.
Job offer required.
|Quality Migrant Admission Scheme||Highly skilled or talented persons to settle in Hong Kong in order to enhance Hong Kong’s economic competitiveness and fulfill a set of prerequisites||
||Job offer not required.
Specific language requirements.
|Foreign Domestic Helpers||Foreigners working as domestic helpers in Hong Kong, subject to the employees’ eligibility requirements.||
||Workers can only perform domestic duties.
Job offer required.
|*Some companies may be eligible for facilitation measures under the General Employment Policy, consult the Hong Kong Immigration Department for details.
Note: Information provided for reference only, consult the Hong Kong Immigration Department for specific requirements.
Source: Hong Kong Immigration Department.
The processing time for work visas is generally between two and six weeks depending on the scheme under which the application is filed.
All foreign citizens are required to apply for a student visa to travel to Hong Kong for study, regardless of the study duration.
The normal eligibility requirements apply to study visas, which include having a valid travel document and providing proof of financial solvency. Note that starting from June 19, 2023, students will also have to provide a clean criminal record in their applications.
In addition, applicants must have been accepted by a school or educational institute in Hong Kong before they apply for a study visa, and must provide a letter of acceptance from the educational institution in the application.
Students must also nominate a sponsor in Hong Kong. This can either be the educational institute they will be attending or an individual. If it is an individual, that person must be:
- Aged 18 or above;
- A resident of Hong Kong;
- Acquainted with the applicant; and
- Financially capable of supporting the applicant and providing them with accommodation.
If the applicant is under the age of 18, then one of their parents or legal guardian must authorize the sponsor to be the applicant’s legal guardian in Hong Kong, which requires producing a consent letter.
The processing time for study visas is normally six weeks.
Business and entrepreneurial visas
Hong Kong has introduced a range of visa schemes to enable people to come to Hong Kong for business or investment without having to work for an existing company. One such scheme is “Investment as Entrepreneurs”, which enables people to relocate to Hong Kong while working for their own businesses.
In order to be eligible for this type of visa, applicants must be able to prove that their business can make a substantial contribution to Hong Kong’s economy. The immigration authorities may consider factors, such as business plans, business turnover, financial resources, the investment sum, the number of jobs created locally, and the introduction of new technology or skills. Details of these factors can be found here.
Other types of business visas include:
- Training visa: A visa of up to 12 months in duration for applicants traveling to Hong Kong for training to acquire special skills and knowledge not available in the applicant’s country/territory of domicile.
- Working holiday visas: Citizens of participating countries between the ages of 18 and 30 whose main intention in traveling to Hong Kong is for holiday, but want to take up short-term employment or short-term study or training. Subject to a quota by country.
- APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) Scheme: Citizens of the 21 APEC member economies are eligible for the ABTC, enabling them to travel to any of the APEC member regions for a period of two to three months for business purposes, including Hong Kong.
In general, people traveling to Hong Kong for short-term business visits are not required to apply for a visa if they are from a country that is eligible for visa-free travel to Hong Kong. Citizens of countries that don’t have visa-free access to Hong Kong can apply for a general visitor visa for short-term business trips.
For people who have a “genuine need” to travel to Hong Kong frequently, Hong Kong has introduced a “Travel Pass”. This document is valid for three years and allows holders to enter Hong Kong multiple times a year for up to two months each time.
To be eligible, applicants must prove they have a genuine need to travel to Hong Kong frequently. This means they must have visited Hong Kong at least three times without hindrance (excluding trips to and from the Chinese mainland) in the 12 months immediately preceding the application. Proof of genuine need may include a letter from the applicant’s employer or a letter from a major Hong Kong business contact if visits are for business purposes.
New requirements for criminal records
The Hong Kong Immigration Department has begun expanding requirements for criminal records for the application of various types of visas.
In February 2023, the Immigration Department announced that applicants for the following visas and talent schemes are required to declare a clean criminal record:
- The Top Talent Pass Scheme (from February 22, 2023);
- The General Employment Policy (from February 26, 2023);
- Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (from February 26, 2023);
- Technology Talent Admission Scheme (from February 26, 2023);
- Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates (from February 26, 2023); and
- Admission Scheme for the Second Generation of Chinese Hong Kong Permanent Residents (from February 26, 2023).
In May, the Immigration Department further expanded this requirement for people applying for the following visas and permits from June 19, 2023, onward:
- Dependents of foreigners residing in Hong Kong;
- Foreign domestic helpers;
- Imported workers (foreign workers);
- Training; and
- Working holidays.
The new requirements do not apply to those applying for extensions of current visas or entry permits, or for foreign domestic workers currently working and applying for a contract renewal in Hong Kong.
China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done so since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at [email protected].
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