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Hong Kong – Work Permits and Working Legally

Necessity of Work Permits for Expats in Hong Kong

Working legally in Hong Kong as an expat often requires obtaining a work permit, commonly referred to as an employment visa. In this article, we will explore the necessity of work permits for expats, who is responsible for the application, exemptions, types of work permits, eligibility criteria, application procedures, required documents, costs, and reliable sources of information for working legally in Hong Kong.

Who Submits a Work Permit Application

In Hong Kong, it is the responsibility of the employer to initiate the work permit application on behalf of the expat worker. Therefore, the application for an employment visa (work permit) must be made by the prospective employer in Hong Kong, not the expat worker. The employer is required to sponsor the expat employee and submit the application to the Hong Kong Immigration Department.

Expats cannot independently apply for a work permit; they must secure a job offer from a Hong Kong-based employer who is willing to sponsor their employment visa application.

Exemptions from Work Permits

While work permits are generally required for expats working in Hong Kong, there are specific exemptions and categories of individuals who may not need a work permit. Some common exemptions include:

  • Chinese Nationals: Chinese nationals who have the right of abode or the right to land in Hong Kong do not require a work permit to work in the territory.
  • Visitors: Visitors to Hong Kong are not allowed to take up employment unless they have obtained prior permission from the Hong Kong Immigration Department. This permission can be granted in limited circumstances.
  • Dependant Visa Holders: Dependants of individuals holding a valid employment visa (e.g., spouses or children) may be eligible to work in Hong Kong without a separate work permit, but they must apply for a “Dependant Visa with Permission to Work” through their sponsor’s employment visa.

It’s essential for expats and their employers to confirm their eligibility for exemptions and understand the specific requirements that apply to their situation.

Types of Work Permits for Expats in Hong Kong

Hong Kong offers various types of work permits, commonly known as employment visas, depending on factors such as the nature of the work, the duration of employment, and the individual’s qualifications. The primary categories of employment visas include:


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  • General Employment Visa: This is the most common type of employment visa issued to foreign nationals who have secured employment in Hong Kong. It is typically tied to a specific job and employer.
  • Investment Visa: Entrepreneurs and investors looking to establish or join a business in Hong Kong may apply for an investment visa, provided they meet the required investment criteria.
  • Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS): Highly skilled or talented individuals who wish to work and reside in Hong Kong may apply for a QMAS visa. Applicants are assessed based on a points system that considers factors such as age, education, work experience, and language proficiency.
  • Training Visa: Foreign nationals seeking training opportunities in Hong Kong may apply for a training visa, provided they have a Hong Kong-based training sponsor.

Each type of employment visa has its own eligibility criteria and requirements, and the specific documentation needed may vary. expats should consult the Hong Kong Immigration Department or seek legal advice to determine the most suitable visa for their situation.

Procedure to Apply for an Employment Visa in Hong Kong

The process of obtaining an employment visa in Hong Kong typically involves the following steps:

  1. Job Offer: expats must secure a genuine job offer or employment opportunity from a Hong Kong-based employer.
  2. Employer’s Role: The prospective employer must submit the employment visa application to the Hong Kong Immigration Department on behalf of the expat worker.
  3. Application Forms: Both the employer and the expat employee must complete the relevant application forms. The employer submits the application form ID990A, and the employee completes form ID990B.
  4. Documentation: The employer is required to provide supporting documents, including the employment contract, proof of the employee’s qualifications and experience, and other necessary paperwork.
  5. Processing Time: The processing time for employment visas can vary, but it typically takes around 4-6 weeks or longer, depending on the complexity of the application.
  6. Interview or Appointment: In some cases, expat applicants may be required to attend an interview at the Hong Kong Immigration Department.
  7. Notification of Approval: Once the visa application is approved, the employer will receive a “Visa/Entry Permit Label” to be affixed to the employee’s passport or travel document.
  8. Collecting the Visa Label: The employee may need to collect the visa label in person or through a representative at the Hong Kong Immigration Department.

It’s important to note that the expat employee should not travel to Hong Kong to commence work until the employment visa has been approved and the visa label has been affixed to their passport.

Documents Required for an Employment Visa Application in Hong Kong

The specific documentation required for an employment visa application in Hong Kong can vary based on individual circumstances and the type of visa being applied for. However, some common documents often include:

  • Completed application forms ID990A and ID990B
  • Photocopy of the employer’s Hong Kong company registration certificate
  • Photocopy of the employee’s passport or travel document
  • Recent passport-sized photographs of the employee
  • Copy of the employment contract or job offer letter
  • Evidence of the employee’s qualifications and relevant work experience
  • Proof of financial ability to support the employee during their stay in Hong Kong
  • Additional documents as required by the Hong Kong Immigration Department

It’s essential to review the specific requirements outlined by the Hong Kong Immigration Department based on the type of employment visa being applied for and to ensure that all necessary documents are included in the application.

Costs Involved in Applying for an Employment Visa in Hong Kong

The costs associated with applying for an employment visa in Hong Kong can vary, and it’s important for employers and expats to budget for these expenses. Some common costs may include:

  • Visa application fee
  • Visa issuance fee
  • Legal and immigration consultancy fees (if sought)
  • Cost of required medical examinations or health checks
  • Translation and notarization fees for documents (if required)

Expats and their employers should confirm the specific fees associated with their application type and circumstances through the Hong Kong Immigration Department or their legal representatives.

Where to Find Reliable Information on Working Legally in Hong Kong

For reliable and up-to-date information on working legally in Hong Kong, expats and employers can refer to the following sources:

  • Hong Kong Immigration Department: The official website of the Hong Kong Immigration Department provides comprehensive information on visa requirements, application procedures, and relevant forms.
  • Hong Kong Government Information: The government’s official website offers resources on various aspects of living and working in Hong Kong, including visa-related information.
  • Legal and Immigration Consultants: Employing the services of legal experts or immigration consultants experienced in Hong Kong immigration laws can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the visa application process.

It is essential to rely on official government sources and reputable legal professionals for accurate and updated information on working legally in Hong Kong. Additionally, employers should maintain compliance with Hong Kong’s employment and immigration laws to ensure a smooth and legal hiring process for expats.


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