Hong Kong > Moving

How To Move To Hong Kong - The Definitive Guide

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Apply For A Visa
Find A Job
Rent Property
Buy Property
Register For Healthcare
Open A Bank Account
Learn The Language
Choose A School

Apply For A Visa

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It is to be noted that Hong Kong has a separate visa and immigration policy from China. If you are traveling from Mainland China you will need to go through Immigration and have your papers/passports checked.

If you have the right to live or have land in Hong Kong then you do not need a Visa (details in the section below) You will require a Visa if you wish to live, work or study in Hong Kong. Also if you wish to start or join a business you will need a Visa too. Visas are based on country of residence and nationality. For example, if you are a British national and reside in the UK, you will not need a Visa to visit Hong Kong, and you are allowed to remain there for up to 180 days. Your passport must be valid for 6 months before entering.

Visas are required by the nationalities listed here. Generally speaking, European, Australian and United States nationals do not need a visa to visit. Visitors are able to stay between 7 and 180 days, dependant on their nationality and residence. Visitors must have a passport which has been valid for a month.

Unconditional stay - no Visa

(Non visitors)

If you have one of the travel documents below, then you do not require a Visa to enter Hong Kong.

• Passport of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong
• British National Passport
• Hong Kong Identity Card (Permanent)
• Hong Kong Seaman’s Identity book
• Hong Kong re-entry permit (for Macau and mainland China only)
• Hong Kong Certificate of Identity
• Hong Kong Document of Identity for Visa Purposes

The following travel document information is taken from the Hong Kong Immigration Department website. Also accepted are travel documents bearing one of the following endorsements:

• "Holder's eligibility for Hong Kong permanent identity card verified."
• "The holder of this travel document has the right to land in Hong Kong. (Section 2AAA, Immigration Ordinance, Cap. 115, Laws of Hong Kong)"

The types of Visas for people entering Hong Kong to live or work are as follows:

1.Training Visa

EU and non EU

Training Visas can be valid for up to one year. Chinese applicants who reside in China are usually not included in this, unless the company that is sponsoring them is reputed in Hong Kong and is multinational. This is not available to nationals from Afghanistan, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba, Laos, Nepal, and Mainland China. Further information can be found here.

2.Working Holiday Scheme

EU and non EU

This allows adults aged between 18-30 to come and stay in Hong Kong for up to a year. There is only a certain number of people allowed, and only from these countries: Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Canada. The quota has been known to vary, so do check up to date records here. People who undertake the Working Holiday Scheme are able to work a maximum of 3 months with one employer. All of the aforementioned nationalities may also study through this Visa, aside from Irish nationals. People on the scheme must have at least HK$20,000 (convert currency here) in their bank account and have medical insurance during the time they are in Hong Kong.

3.Employment as Domestic Workers

Non EU

This is a Visa for domestic workers usually from the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. It allows for such workers to come to Hong Kong and reside with the family they work for. They work as domestic helpers assisting families with childcare, cooking, cleaning and other household jobs. Further information can be found here.

4.Supplementary Labour Scheme (Employment as Imported Workers)

EU and non EU

This is for nationals of other countries to be employed in Hong Kong under one employer without change, with the employer paying a fixed levy of £400 HKD a month. The employee can work at below, or equal to the ‘technical level’. The same restrictions on nationalities eligible apply as for the Training Visa.

Guidebook for Imported Workers

5. Employment as Professionals (EAP)

• Immigration Arrangement for Non-local Graduates

EU and non EU

Non local students who graduate from a degree from a Hong Kong Tertiary Institution do not need permission granted from the Immigration Department of Hong Kong.

• General Employment Policy

EU and non EU

The GEP is for nationals of the People's Republic of China, and non Chinese nationals who have lived overseas for in excess of 12 months. Entrants for this Visa type need permission from the Hong Kong Immigration Department to change employers.

6. Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals

Non EU

The ASMTP is for residents of Mainland China who are registered as household residents there. Entrants for this Visa type need permission from the Hong Kong Immigration Department to change employers.

Further reading can be found here.

7. Investment Visas

• Quality Migrant Admission Scheme

EU and non EU (But participants must be able to speak both English and Mandarin)

The QMAS is a system in Hong Kong that involves two points systems. One system is where points are awarded to an overseas individual for sections such as education, skills, languages spoken, experience, character and age. The second system involves an achievement based test, with such examples as scientists, musicians and olympic medalists. If successful, the participant may reside in Hong Kong with this Visa.

• Capital Investment Entrant Scheme

A person who invests money in business but does not work or live in Hong Kong. Various criteria apply, which are highlighted here.

8. Dependant Visas

EU and non EU

Those granted visas for work, study, training, investment, unconditional stay, QMAS or CIES can obtain sponsorship for their spouse and any children under 18. People with unconditional stay can opt to sponsor dependent parents who are over 60 years old. More information is provided here.

Find A Job

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The state of the job market in Hong Kong is stable, with a slowly growing economy. There has been a growth in recruitment from several industries such as Banking and Technology. Employers are happy to keep their options open in terms of recruitment, with plenty of opportunities in light of global markets remaining steady. However, changes in Russia, Europe, the Middle East, and the uncertainty of Greece’s debt may slightly reduce Hong Kong’s ability to keep doors open to hiring.

The rate of unemployment in Hong Kong according to figures in January 2016 is 3.4%. This is a slight increase from previous years, but always remains comfortably low. Information regarding unemployment in terms of regions is not available.

The job application procedure depends on whether:
1) You are applying while in Hong Kong. This situation is very rare. For example, you cannot easily work in bars or cafes without a Hong Kong Identity card, and the added drawback of job seeking whilst there is that employers need to give reasons why they should employ you over a local person for the job. On top of this, they need to sponsor a work Visa for you, which involves legal work and expenses for them. Hospitality and education are sectors which could offer some options. It is worth looking on the job sites listed below as well as on expat job sites

Applications are usually made online, via a form or with a CV. If successful, interviews and trial days are then scheduled.

2) You are transferring to Hong Kong with your current job. If there is an opportunity to work with your current company in Hong Kong you can go via this route and be transferred, as sponsored by your company who will organise a work Visa for you.

3) You are applying from your own country to work in Hong Kong. See above and below for useful websites, as all job seeking is done online when not in the country. It will be the same procedure: an online application, most likely one or two Skype interviews and then if you are hired you will be on a probationary period for 4-6 months once you start work there.

Large multinational companies and international corporations maintain a strong interest in employing English speaking expats. The HR and legal sectors as well as digital Advertising, investment banks and IT all offer a steady flow of work.

Because most job listings are now online, they are listed in English through your search engine and if you need to go to a specific page it will simply be a case of clicking on the ‘translate to English’ button. If a company is seeking an English speaking employee, their job adverts will be in English. Not speaking the local language means you may miss out on local advertisements, newspapers and word of mouth opportunities, but if you stick to the internet you will find something appropriate to your needs.

Job search website for all employment sectors in Hong Kong, including a ‘companies hiring this week’ feature:
Job search website for all employment sectors in Hong Kong, mostly for job seekers with some work experience.
Job search website for all employment sectors in Hong Kong, ranging from entry level to experienced.

Expat job websites

Job search website for jobs in Hong Kong, some of which can be expats can apply for.

Site for jobs in Hong Kong specialising in education.

The Government of Hong Kong Job Seekers site

Government-run job site providing a list of local jobs and advice.
It is necessary to create a free account to access this information.

Temporary work is in short supply in Hong Kong due to Visa sponsorship requirements and the fact that the employer must offer a reason as to why a non local should be employed instead of a local. For temporary work, this is a lot of hassle and expense for the employer. If someone is willing to employ you without a Visa, you should never take up the job as it is illegal. It may be worth going through recruitment agencies to ensure that your work will be of a temporary nature and that the paperwork will all be legal.

The penalties for illegal work can be severe. You would be deported to your home country, your employer would be forced to pay a fine and it may even result in the employer having a prison sentence. You may not be able to return to Hong Kong again. You must have a work Visa to start work in Hong Kong.

Other useful contact details

British Chamber of Commerce
Tel: 00 + (852) 28242211
Email: info@britcham.com

Business Networking Groups:

Business Network International BNI
One of the biggest business networks with groups all across Hong Kong.

Entrepreneur Hong Kong

Networking group for Hong Kong entrepreneurs.

Meet Up Hong Kong

Professional networking events hosted by Meet Up all over Hong Kong

Rent Property

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Rent in Hong Kong is decided by location and square footage. Space is at a premium. For a furnished apartment which is the average size for Hong Kong (45 m2 / 480 square foot) in an expensive area such as Central it is $22,476HKD. For the same size apartment in a cheaper area such as Sham Shui Po it is $15,038HKD. Utilities such as gas, electric and heating would cost an individual $689HKD in the same apartment.

It is worth noting that rent comes in two forms, inclusive and exclusive. Inclusive is when a standard management fee which involves cleaning, maintenance, air con and security and government rates of 5% (which is paid every quarter) are paid alongside the rent, in one sum. Exclusive is when the management fees are not included in the total and you must set up these payments and pay them separately.

The typical lease term in Hong Kong is 2 years, which is a government applied standard lease. After one year there is a break clause. Notice periods are usually 2-3 months after the break clause and if you wish to terminate your contract before the contract is up, a request is required in writing.

Make sure that if your contract is in Chinese it is translated by a reliable source. A frequent misunderstanding is in the year long commitment of rent known as the break clause. Expats have found themselves paying out a significant amount of money on remaining rent, agency fees and administration costs to the landlords for ending their tenancy before the break clause. It may be that your landlord adds his own clauses, so it is important to check thoroughly, perhaps read it through with another person too to double check. Often contracts contain clauses listing bans on sub letting, the responsibility of tenants for repairs, and the necessity to take out indemnity insurance. If you have a pet, check that animals are allowed to be kept in the property. Check that you understand the clauses and liabilities and consequently your responsibility as a tenant.

In Hong Kong, short term lets are not easy to find without certain websites. They don’t generally involve deposits and there are really no great guarantees for tenants. Long term rentals would involve deposits and contracts in place and rights for yourself as a tenant. Usually tenants are asked to rent for at least one month minimum, so if you’re looking for anything less than that it may prove difficult. Standards may be lower and prices may be higher in the short term if you search in person. Locals usually only manage to buy one house in their lifetime, so spare properties which could be used for leasing would be rented out to local residents with guaranteed, regular pay. Now with sites such as AirBnB short term rentals are more prevalent and affordable.

Long term rentals will also be more likely to have security and maintenance done; they will be of a higher quality. Longer term rentals of a month or more will require some form of deposit which will be returned once you leave. Long rentals are widely available as there is more guaranteed income for the landlord. People seeking temporary accommodation can use Serviced Hong Kong apartments.

A deposit will be required and it would usually equal 2-3 months’ rent, which is inclusive of all extra fees such as government rates and maintenance fees.

Always view apartments first. Ask to look at the inventory if possible, particularly if you have asked and been charged for extra items. If the flat does not have white goods it may be possible to have them put in by the landlord at additional cost. Apartments will not come with curtains, so bear this in mind for privacy. Also the rentals may not have light fittings or heating. All properties must fulfil basic living conditions and have clean running water, electricity and gas. You may find Sky dishes already in place. Apartments in Hong Kong come in three forms, though their actual definitions are loose and each term can run into the other.

Furnished - What furnished means is up to the landlord's discretion. The apartment should come with all things necessary for day to day living including a bed, sofas etc. It may come with crockery, cutlery and even towels. Always check thoroughly what is included in a furnished apartment, it may be that a TV or washing machine is not present.

Part Furnished - Apartments which come with white goods and perhaps the basics of wardrobe, dining table and chairs. Tenants will need to bring or buy their own TV, bed, washing machine etc. Again, it varies from property to property, so check, ask and negotiate.

Unfurnished - Some unfurnished apartments will come with white goods, which means oven, fridge, and microwave. Some will not. You must view the apartment and check the inventory before moving in.

Buy Property

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In accordance with the Estate Agency Authority, anyone who works as an estate agent should have a valid estate agent license. The license comes in two forms: an estate agent’s license and a salesperson’s license. The difference between the two is that an estate agent’s license means the agent can work at that job and also work as a salesperson for other agencies, whereas a salesperson’s license means they can only work in their role in one licensed estate agency. Estate agents’ fees are 1% of the purchase price.

Property websites


Newspapers and Magazines

South China Morning Post - Newspaper with property for purchase section- and online version
World Property Journal - Print and online newspaper about the property market in Hong Kong
Print and online magazine listing Hong Kong property opportunities

News and advice websites

Government site offering advice on buying
Current news on the property buying market in Hong Kong
House hunting guide for expats

Expat forums

Expat forum which has an apartments for sale section.
• Site for high-end properties for sale in Hong Kong
Guide for expats about buying in Hong Kong

It is standard practice for a property agent to be assigned to you to when you buy an apartment. They oversee the prices, offer advice, help with paperwork and put in offers. You must sign an estate agency agreement with them to officially set their commission and put in writing other legal expectations on their part. A license is required when it comes to property agents and you can search the name of the property agent or license number yourself by looking on the EAA website.

Due to the transient nature of Hong Kong, expats almost never buy. Expats often have two year contracts but they need to have lived in Hong Kong for at least 7 years and be a Permanent Resident to begin the process. So, while it is still possible to buy in Hong Kong as an expat, it is rare for them to buy and consequently, though there are organisations for Mainland Chinese property buyers, such organisations do not really exist for expats. It is better to look up properties from the websites mentioned earlier in the guide and through that, find property agencies. Go in person to meet prospective agents too.

The procedure for buying a house is as follows.

1.Contact your current bank or mortgage company and make them aware of your desire for a mortgage and loan. They will assign a consultant to you to talk you through options. Have a mortgage in principle or indication of how much you can borrow ready.

2.Once you have secured a property agent who is going to oversee the house buying process and they have found a house for you, you will arrange to view the property with the agent and they will arrange it through the seller.

3.You inspect the property and see if there is room for negotiation on the price with the seller or agent.

4.Ask the agent and seller about the permitted use of the property and confirm via the Deed of Mutual Covenant and the Occupation Permit. Additionally confirmation from the Government Lease in terms of restrictions for the land.

5.Inspect the property thoroughly and decide if you wish to have a maintenance official check the property, or ask the seller if any maintenance or repairs need to be done. Ask for costs and negotiate who will be responsible for these changes before and after the property is sold.

6.Ask a solicitor about the terms for renewing the Government Lease.

7.The property agent makes an offer.

8.Hire a mortgage surveyor to assess the value of the property, usually through the mortgage company. You may need to pay for this, or the mortgage company might. This is different to a surveyor. If you wish, this is the time to book a qualified independent surveyor to thoroughly examine the property for your own review.

9.The offer is accepted. You continue the mortgage in its final stages and you may pay a deposit to the estate agents to show you are committed.

10.The seller and buyer sign a preliminary agreement provided by the agent which states the agreement to sell and buy the property - signed by both parties.

11.Yourself and the solicitor are satisfied about the surveyor's findings, the mortgage offer has been received, deposit arrangements are complete and the date of completion is known - when the keys are handed over.

12.Buyer and seller have their individual solicitors to represent them and to negotiate on your and their behalf. Both parties sign a formal agreement for purchase and sale. The lawyer of the seller provides the paperwork and the lawyer of the buyer checks it. The buyer transfers over the full deposit. Insurance is arranged on this date too. The seller arranges for final meter readings and you may now set up new utility accounts for the property.

13.Completion of sale - the mortgage lender has released the money, your solicitor has received the deeds to the land and you have been handed the keys by the seller and they have vacated.

It is definitely worth asking through word of mouth about reputable lawyers. If you get their name, look for reviews and ratings. Your best bet is through personal recommendations. If it is a Chinese colleague/friend who recommends someone to you, make sure that you will be able to communicate effectively in English. Lawyers in Hong Kong must be certified by the Law Society of Hong Kong. A very reliable way to get a lawyer other than word of mouth is to go on the LAHK website. It lists Solicitors’ Firms, lawyers’ names and contact details.

Buyers are also entitled to a free 45-minute legal consultation with firms who have volunteered the service on the site, here.

The fees for a lawyer would be 0.075%-0.125% of the property value. Independent surveyors are rarely used by expats as apartments bought by those that can afford it are generally of a high standard. Surveyors can be pricey and it is worth checking recommendations from locals/colleagues.

The system goes as follows: the solicitor who is working with you on the buyer's side provides the necessary documentation and arranges it for registration. With each document is a memorial form. Memorial forms are verified by your solicitor. The documents should have a lodgement. Once compiled all of these documents plus the registration fee are presented to the Land Registry and are then entered into the Integrated Registration Information System. You will be issued then with a receipt and you will pay the fee.

You need a reliable estate/property agent and lawyer to aid in understanding and avoiding problems in the house buying process. Make sure both speak English to a level you can communicate effectively in, and make sure that they have spoken to the seller and he is not looking for a local buyer. A problem you may encounter is that banks do not like to lend to buyers interested in older properties, and also there may be restrictions on this loan, usually of 15 years. There is also a loan-to-value mortgage system wherein if buyers are purchasing an apartment under $7,000,000HKD they must put down 60% of the property price to secure it. Combined with high house prices, an unstable property market and paying Stamp Duty - which is an extra 15% of the market value of the property on top of the buying price - buying a property in Hong Kong as an expat is very volatile and extremely expensive, even before taking into consideration mistakes and litigation problems. See this site for more details.

Register For Healthcare

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QUICK LINK: Hong Kong health insurance

The phone number to call in Hong Kong for emergency medical assistance is 999. The number for the Department of Health for advice, queries and non emergencies is +(852) 29618989.

Healthcare in Hong Kong is of the highest standard. Private and public hospitals are up to date with the latest medical equipment and technology. They also have highly trained, attentive English-speaking staff.

Do hospitals provide full care or just medical care? The answer to this is centred around the services of public and private hospitals. Private hospitals centre on full medical care, ongoing care, routine check ups and so on. Public hospitals concentrate on medical emergencies. However, public hospitals do open their doors to the general public, and many people attend for medical care. While standards are very high in public hospitals, be prepared sometimes for long waits.

Healthcare is paid for in terms of eligibility. If you are eligible, you pay subsidised rates. If you are not, you pay standard rates which are substantially more. Healthcare costs are paid to the hospital, in cash only.

Below are the details of those eligible:
• Those certified to treatment by the Chief Executive of the Hospital Authority.
• Children under the age of 11 who are HKSAR residents
• Those who have a Hong Kong Identity card that has not expired or been suspended.

If you do not have healthcare insurance you will be treated at a public hospital, where the above measures apply.

Prices are shown on the Department of Health's site differentiating between eligible, non eligible, private and public hospitals and treatments.

Health insurance in Hong Kong is very much recommended. If you are not yet eligible for subsidised healthcare in the public hospitals it is well worth investing in health insurance for yourself as well as for your spouse/children over the age of 11. Initially, after an accident, an expat would be taken to the Accident and Emergency department of a public hospital. Once they are in a stable condition, if they have health insurance, they will be transferred to a private hospital.

Health Plan providers (Pre designed plans and you choose one that suits you)
BUPA HK (HK only)
BUPA (International)

Health Plan Brokers (Work for you for your best interest)
CCW Global
Alliance Group

Emergency treatment is not free. At a public hospital for example, for a non eligible person the cost of attending Accident and Emergency is $990, and an eligible person is $100.

Initially, if any emergency medical treatment is needed the visitor will go to a public hospital and they will be treated there. As above, with health insurance, the visitor will be transferred once in a stable condition to a private hospital unless the ailment can be dealt with on site, in a specialist wing. A visitor will wait with everyone to be seen and may have to wait for quite some time. Without medical insurance they may also face some heavy payments to the hospital.

Smoking is a fairly common sight in Hong Kong, particularly with more Mainland Chinese citizens relocating there. 28.1% of male and female adults over the age of 18 smoke in Mainland China. In Hong Kong it is 10.7% .The prevalence has continuously dropped over recent years and is the lowest since 1982. Government policies have been put in place to counteract smoking among the population such as raising tobacco tax, a ban on smoking in public places and a ban on advertising. While a majority of the population do not smoke, for those who do it is considered by them to aid weight loss and to manage stress. Smoking is prohibited for those under the age of 18.

Generally, Hong Kong is a healthy place with residents with long life expectancies. Males expect to reach 83.4 years and females 86.7 years of age. The leading cause of death in Hong Kong is malignant neoplasm (cancer) at 32.9%. Other health issues which the population have are listed as heart disease, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease. It’s very common for Hong Kongers to suffer from gum disease (70%) but there is more awareness nowadays through government led advertising, and more care is taken by locals as a result. With an aging population, Hong Kong finds itself with several hundred thousand cases of osteoporosis each year and this is set to rise as there is a higher percentage of adults over 65.

There are counselling services in Hong Kong; some of these are as follows

St John’s counselling service
Mental health organisation with English speaking confidential telephone service.
Tel: 00 + (852) 25257207/08
Email: info@sjcshk.com

The Samaritans Hong Kong
Multilingual voluntary helpline
Tel: 00 + (852) 2896 0000
Email: jo@samaritans.org.hk

Rainbow of Hong Kong
Multilingual helpline for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Tel: 00 + (852) 81081069
Email: info@rainbowhk.org

Open A Bank Account

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The main local banks in Hong Kong are Bank of China, DBS Hong Kong, and Hang Seng Bank.

The local banks listed can offer English speaking staff and guidance in setting up a bank account. If you are uncertain as to the level of English spoken, approach a larger bank in an area such as Tsim Sha Tsui or Central. It is possible to set up an account from your home country by contacting the bank local in the area you are relocating to and sending off an example of a bill from your home address as evidence of current residence, which can help expats have access to a bank account quickly once there and may save money in transfer fees.

Whilst you will not find many of the everyday UK and US banks in Hong Kong, you will find some such as Citibank, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank with details listed below. There are a good array of ATMs throughout Hong Kong too, though withdrawal costs may apply if you take out money from an ATM other than the one your account is registered with.

Shanghai Banking Corporation HSBC
Store locator
Bank website
Email: amh.mgr.area.management.office@hsbc.com.hk
Phone:00 + (852) 2233 3000

Store locator
Bank website
Email (online form)
Phone:00 + (852) 2860 0333

Standard Chartered Bank
Store locator
Bank website
Emai(online form)
Phone:00 + (852) 2886-8868

Standard Chartered Bank and Citibank are favoured by expats because of their services. SCB allows for customers to buy currency online during internet banking. They also allow for all bank transfers when done online to be free of charge. Citibanks are open until 7pm which is useful when working; they also issue Visa Debit ATM cards which can be used at any bank, including in other countries.

Typical bank opening hours are 9am-4.30pm on normal weekdays and until 5pm on Fridays. Saturdays are usually 9am-12.30pm. Check bank websites for opening times over national holidays. Banks are closed on Sundays.

All banks’ terms and conditions differ, so it is not one size fits all. Additionally, the information below lists standard bank accounts for the everyday person, rather than specialist wealth management or investment accounts.

Savings account
A basic savings account is where you place money in the account as your ‘opening balance’. The amount depends on the bank account. For example, SCA offer a minimum opening balance of $1000HKD. You will start earning interest on your savings once you have a certain amount in the account.

Multi Currency Savings Account
This account is designed with expats in mind. The account is available in dollars, Euros or British pounds, including a debit card in US dollars or sterling. It may have a mortgage service where you can take out a mortgage on a UK property through this account if you are a UK citizen. You are able to withdraw in foreign currencies and receive foreign currencies into your account.

Current Account
Standard bank account with cheques and e-cheques, plus a debit card. It will require an opening balance, will have an overdraft facility and may have overdraft protection if a cheque were to bounce.

Credit Card Account
You may need to already have another account with the company you are applying to get a credit card with. Credit cards differ between banks. Free waivers, gifts and sometimes air miles come with credit card accounts.

What documents do you need?

Residents - if you are living in Hong Kong.
• HKID or Passport
• If you are American and opening an American account in Hong Kong, your social security number is required.
• Proof of address in Hong Kong - utility bill or bank statement
• Some banks may wish to see evidence of employment- work Visa/sponsors letter of employment

Non residents - if you are a tourist or are working temporarily.
• Proof of address from country of residence - utility bill/ bank statement
• Passport

The banking system is generally considered to be very reliable, organised and with clear communication. However, there are still areas of concern. Examples of such are when opening an an account it not being clear to the customer that their account must contain a minimum amount of money as a ‘float’. If this is not present, there are additional charges in ‘relationship banking’. Also if you regularly transfer money to another account it may be worth sending larger, less frequent sums as each transfer can be charged individual amounts, varying in price. Be watchful of some credit card accounts which are free to join but then will begin to charge after a year has passed with no forewarning.

Do check with your bank as to the terms and details of the use of your debit card online. For example, Citibank does not allow for its Citibank Visa Debit ATM card to be used in any other way than in person. Debit cards and their services do not have the same features expats may be used to back home. It can be a confusing system with Octopus, ATM, Debit and EPS cards. Do check with your bank, ask a friend or coworker.

For transport and small confectionary purchases you can use your Octopus card, which is a card you top up and beep when using the MTR and buses. When in retail shops you can pay using the EPS system, which is a swipe and pin method familiar to debit card users. You can pay bills in shops such as Circle K using EPS too. EPS can only be used in Hong Kong and can sometimes be used for online payments. A debit card can be used for online payments where EPS is not available.

Credit cards and international credit cards tend to be accepted; check for the sticker displayed outside the shop. Cheques can also be used.

Banks in Hong Kong generally have a large amount of energy put into customer service. You will be able to contact your bank on the phone or in person, and either of these methods is a great way to talk through your options. There are many types of overdrafts and loans and it may be necessary to talk through several before you can arrange an option which is bespoke to you. However, if you wish first to have a look online, all of the offers are listed and summarised clearly on banks’ sites. You can also apply for overdrafts online if you feel you are ready. A relationship manager will usually be assigned to you to guide you through the procedure for an overdraft.

Generally any person residing in Hong Kong who is not a permanent resident will struggle to get a loan, although it may vary from lender to lender. Credit history will be checked.

When preparing to take out a loan there is certain documentation you must possess:
• Proof of income - salary slips, company pass books
• Document of residence - utility bill, bank statement, tenancy agreement.

Go into the bank which you are banking with and ask to speak about loans. Bring your documentation and an explanation of your plan for the money. They will advise you based on all of these things. Try your bank before you go to personal money lenders, who may rip you off and charge higher rates.

Learn The Language

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There are two official languages of Hong Kong, as stipulated by article 9 in the Basic Law of Hong Kong. The first one is Cantonese (Guǎngdōng huà,广东话), which is spoken by 96% of residents. It is a minority dialect of Chinese, mostly from the Guangdong Province in mainland China. The second official language is English (Yīngyǔ, 英语), which 46% of residents speak. Notably this is due to English being the exclusive language of Hong Kong during the British colonial era, until 1974. Very recently, Mandarin (Pǔtōnghuà,普通话) has taken over from English as the second most spoken language in Hong Kong, with Mandarin speakers currently at 48%. Many mainlanders have moved over to Hong Kong, taking with them their dialect of Chinese. Tourists from the mainland visit frequently, and an adaptive and business-minded Hong Kong has shifted away from the colonial days by embracing Mandarin. There are also small pockets of various lesser-known Chinese dialects spoken in Hong Kong, such as Hakka Chinese or the Teochew dialect, which are specific to walled communities in the New Territories (新界).

Outside of the most commonly used languages of Cantonese, Mandarin and English, in the widely diverse multicultural society of Hong Kong you will almost certainly hear Korean, Japanese, Filipino, Indonesian, Thai and Vietnamese. This will probably be even more the case in the urban, populated areas. South Asian languages can be heard in shopping districts such as Tsim Sha Tsu (尖沙咀/尖沙), where for example you will hear Urdu, Hindu or Punjabi. Additionally, Arabic is spoken in Muslim communities, but this is less common.

English speakers very much depend on the area. Because just under half of the population speak English to various levels of competency, it would be easy to assume communication would be easy. It is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, so it is important to remember that you should not expect English to be spoken everywhere you go. One day you may have a taxi driver who speaks English, the next you may not. Location is a key factor in understanding whether people around you may communicate in English with you. Like many places, the more remote and rural you get, the less English is spoken. If you travel far north, you may not meet anyone who can speak English at all. The more urbanised the surroundings, the more English is spoken.This rule is mostly true of Hong Kong, and it is useful to divide it into its three regions, comprised of 18 districts, to explain geographically.

The first region of Hong Kong is the New Territories, in the north, and the islands in the South West. The New Territories districts are comprised of: South-Western Islands, Kwai Tsing, North, Sai Kung, Sha Tin, Tai Po, Tsuen Wan, Tuen Mun, Yuen Long. Within these districts English is less frequently spoken.

The second region is Kowloon. This region is comprised of the districts of: Kowloon city, Kwun Tong, Sham Shui Po, Wong Tai Sin, Yau Tsim Mong. You will find English is spoken frequently in Kowloon City and less in the other areas.

The third region is Hong Kong Island (香港島). This region is comprised of the districts of: Central & Western, Eastern, Southern, Wan Chai. This region has a large number of expats living and working there, so speaking English is commonplace.

There is a gap between the generations in terms of speaking English. You will most certainly find that young children aged 4-10 will know very basic English: a small amount of vocabulary, numbers and key phrases. Teens aged 11-18 will know competent English, with some being proficient. This age group, particularly the older ones, will be keen to practise their English with a native. University students will almost certainly be fluent, as university tuition is conducted in English, and for those who go on to further education, it will be the same. This is perhaps the peak, aside from natives who speak English in their job, policemen, shop workers, waiters etc where it is in their job descriptions. Once you leave school in Hong Kong and do not need to speak English to get by, it can fast be forgotten without practice. You will find older Hong Kongers will very rarely speak English.

English is the chosen language of use in the sectors of tourism, government and business. When it comes to legal or commercial matters, English is also used.

If you are in an international bank or a finance-related international workplace, English will be the language spoken. Chinese customers who require Mandarin or Cantonese will speak to bilingual speakers. If you are working within a university, English will be the first language. If you are working in a local kindergarten, English will not be the first language.

It is currently a hot topic of debate among people relocating to Hong Kong as to whether they will learn to speak Mandarin or Cantonese. American (ABC) or British (BBC) born Chinese expats may speak Mandarin and English, but many want to know if learning some Cantonese will aid them in their job. Hong Kong is highly adaptable and practical, and in this forward-thinking place, the real language is business. Business in Hong Kong adapts its spoken word to demand. Mandarin is edging in as a favoured language for bilingual expats, as they can communicate with mainland China, which creates a business bridge. If you work in the finance or education sectors as many expats do in Hong Kong, and are not from a Chinese background, there is much less expectation for you to speak Chinese at work at all.

It should be said that speaking Mandarin in everyday life, outside of business will not be met well by patriotic locals.

Broadly speaking, as the language spoken by the everyday HongKonger is Cantonese, it would benefit you more to learn this for getting around. It means wherever you go in Hong Kong, you have a better chance of communicating your needs and navigating around. It would also be kindly received by locals who are patriotic about their local dialect. People who relocate to Hong Kong are fine getting around the many districts, thanks to its colonial roots. This is because signs and public transport are written bilingually, the MTR is bilingual, and is a familiar sign which is clearly signposted wherever you may venture. It would be a mistake to assume that the signs and transport equate to a general level of fluency from the natives though.

If you reside on Hong Kong Island, you can easily survive without using Chinese aside from a few words you pick up, and even these can be said out of habit rather than necessity. It is possible to exist on the bare minimal standard of Cantonese providing you do not travel to other parts of Hong Kong. Realistically however, you are probably going to travel around, and due to the varying amounts of English spoken, you should learn basic phrases, numerals and words in Cantonese which can help you eat, drink, direct a taxi driver and go shopping. As Cantonese contains 9 tones and to the untrained ear many words sound the same, learning small amounts well is ideal.

Hong Kong is brimming with opportunities to learn Cantonese/Mandarin. Even without using the internet or newspapers to search, simply through word of mouth you will be able to have several tutors or institutions recommended to you. Education is a large and important industry in Hong Kong and is well respected.

Cantonese Courses:

The Chinese University of Hong Kong

For serious study. Offers full-time, part-time and evening courses, official Level 2 qualifications and Elementary and Intermediate Cantonese classes for non natives.

Tel: 00 + (852) 3943 8224
Email: clc_upd@cuhk.edu.hk

Cantonese Corner

Relaxed study, private or group lessons for Mandarin and English speakers, lessons arranged to suit Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced learners.

Tel: 00 + (852) 31242817
Email: info@cantonesecorner.com

Hong Kong Language Learning Centre

Language school for Mandarin speakers and expats learning English where you can purchase blocks of learning time for individuals or more. Special packages for Law, Office, Banking in Mandarin.

Tel: 00 + (852) 23855331
Email: hkllc@netvigator.com

Private Tutors - Many tutors advertise and keep details secure on websites which require members to login - see below. Ask other expats for private tutors who go by word of mouth recommendations and have less of an online presence.

Tutor aggregators


You are able to chose a tutor based on price and location who suits you. This site is also useful for general questions you have about expat life.


Learn Cantonese on Skype with a native tutor or select on price and ratings, book lessons for times that suit you. Tutors display timetable of availability. It can be started before you move to Hong Kong.

Useful websites for learning Cantonese and language discussion:

Cantonese Phorum: Discussion on cultural, grammatical, written, verbal aspects of Cantonese.

Omniglot: A site where basic phrases are written in English and Cantonese, with a clickable audio facility for pronunciation. There are also informal and formal variations of words.

Cantonese.ca: Useful and thematic vocabulary for many situations such as office, restaurant and health.

Gong: A site that tackles the tonal language of Cantonese, which has 9 in total but 6 separately classed.

Regarding television, you do not need a license for a TV. If you move somewhere with a standard TV and aerial you will find most channels do not broadcast in English or have subtitles. There are two channels which do; these are listed below

TVB Jade: English subtitles to drama shows and news broadcasts with subtitles and other programmes.

TVB Pearl: News broadcasts, weather and bulletins with subtitles and other programmes.

Expats commonly purchase different packages so they can watch sports and other programmes in English. Hong Kong Cable, Star TV, and Now Broadband TV are examples of such providers.

It is very common for English speakers to use their skills as means of employment. TEFL is an ever increasing sector with an ever increasing demand. Jobs range between teaching English in preschools to teaching at university level. Schools may be local/government-run or private/international. Most frequently, English teachers are placed in kindergartens. Expats can also work in Learning Centres, which is where students study extra classes outside of school. Additionally, you can find regular work by registering and working at a Tutor Centre, where you can privately tutor children individually or in small groups.

Expats also work at special Business Academies/Learning Centres and also TEFL Centres, where they can teach CertTESOL CELTA or other ESOL certifications.Those that teach during the day often subsidise their income with ad hoc tutoring through word of mouth. Sometimes expats work in schools during the week and Learning Centres at weekends.

Translation and interpreting jobs are almost exclusively for Chinese speakers translating to English, as it is uncommon to find English speakers proficient enough to translate to Mandarin or Cantonese.

Choose A School

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Children must attend school once they are 6 years old. This is the compulsory age. Kindergarten is not compulsory to attend. However, many children attend nursery for half days from the age of two, and most attend Kindergarten from the age of three.

The types of school and ages in Hong Kong are as follows:

Age 2 - Nursery - Pre school education. The curriculum refers to this age group as N1.
Ages 3-5 - Kindergarten - Pre school education. The curriculum refers to this age group as K1-K3.
Ages 6-11 - Primary school (Junior school) - Primary education. The curriculum refers to this age group as P1-P6.
Ages 12-17 - High school - (Secondary school/ Middle school) The curriculum refers to this age group as S1-S6.
Age 18 - Local undergraduate scheme.

Hong Kong schools are divided into:

Government schools - These are known as comprehensives and they are run by the government

Caput schools - Subsidised in accordance with the number of children who go to such schools

Private schools - Private schools are privately run and funded by organisations. Such schools accept mostly local Chinese students and admissions favour academic ability

Private International Schools - High tuition fees for students and with a mix of international students. Lessons are mostly taught in English, although some may be in other languages such as Japanese, French and German

Aided school - One type of aided school is comprehensive subsidised. These schools are religious or charity based, and funded by the government

Aided school- A second type of subsidised schools are grant schools, which are like comprehensive schools in that they are subsidised. These schools are run by charities and religious organisations and receive funding from the government through Codes of Aid

English Schools Foundation - Schools to educate English speaking children. Tuition fees are lower than International schools and some receive financial support from the government. Funds are also raised by the Parent Teacher Association for facilities

Direct Subsidy Scheme - These are schools run privately by non government organisations. Secondary and primary schools that attain high academic achievements are invited to join the DSS. They are allowed to choose their own curriculum, entry requirements and fees under certain restrictions.

Education in Hong Kong is generally of a very good standard. Schools are organised, have an importance and standing in the community and they have high expectations of their staff and students. Behaviour is excellent. A lot of emphasis and value is placed on education in Hong Kong and teachers are well respected. Expat teachers are very graciously accepted, and especially in local schools may find themselves being seen as somewhat of a celebrity. Whilst the quality of teaching in the US, UK and Hong Kong is of a similar level, it is appreciated and valued the most in Hong Kong.

Schools are pressurised and competitive in terms of academic expectations, but currently schools are looking for less emphasis being placed on constant exams; a shift from the US and UK. Hong Kong with its colonial roots had a curriculum and syllabus that shared some same features as the UK system. However, recent changes have modernised the curriculum and it is more in line with the US. The US applies the No Child Is Left Behind model wherein standardised testing occurs yearly. Hong Kong allows assessments for students regularly and tests in Primary 5+6. They also go on to study for HKDSE, the equivalent of the UK GCSE and American SATs. The US, UK and HK all share a similar approach to report cards as a form of monitoring behaviour and achievement.

In independent schools, like in US and the UK, extra classes and streams are put in place for children whose first language is English. Age groups and years are very much in line with English schools, with some schools even offering GCSEs and A-levels to study, which are part of the English education system. The UK system also uses Key Stages in primary schools, as does Hong Kong. All children wear uniform while in education in Hong Kong, and the same applies in the UK. This does not apply to the US. In the US and UK teachers must have a PCGE and equivalent so that they are qualified to teach. In Kindergarten/Early years they must hold PGCE specialising in early years. There has been some concern over teachers in Hong Kong not holding official qualifications. Routes into teaching are now into place easily for those working in schools where they can pursue degrees in education such as ‘Permitted Teacher’, wherein an individual has a degree but it is not specific to education. Through applying for PT they can study while working.

The average class size in Hong Kong for a primary school is 27. There is more money available through government funding in the UK and US for children with mild learning difficulties or disabilities in mainstream education that is not available in public education in Hong Kong. This is something of a taboo.

The enrollment process for ESF schools starts by children living in the local geographical region filling out the application form and providing the information desired. You can only enroll for these schools if you do not speak English. Enrollment can be extremely competitive and there are advantages to siblings of current students and children of alumni. If a student is chosen after the application process, they will be required to attend an interview, even if the child is of primary age. Online applications are required and the link is provided below.

Documents required are your child's HK ID, passport, date of birth and birth certificate number. All of these documents should be provided for a sibling if they have one too. Also needed is a photo on your computer of the child, the name and address of their old school and grades attained. You will also need your bank card in case you have to pay a registration fee.

Likewise, applying to International schools is very competitive. Both International and ESF schools have applications completed a year before school begins, usually the summer before. There is a range of criteria such as family background and academic achievements, and some require a deposit to be placed when applying, which could be 50% of the yearly school fee. Debentures are sold to businesses or individuals, and though they do not guarantee a school place, they do aid in being considered.

To apply, you need to fill in the online application at the link below. You will also need to pay around $1500-$2000 dollars for the application process. The documents you will need are: health history, admissions report, student questionnaire for grades 6-12, high school maths placement grades 9-12, progress reports for the last two years, SAT results (if from the US). Debenture information can then be provided if you have one. For students under P2 they are requested to attend an interview or assessment. Students above this age group must go to the school to sit an Independent School Entrance Exam (P2-Year 12). If your child is accepted, the final documentation involves the tuition fee being paid, grades 6-12 providing their visa stamp and copies of their details on their passport or HKID and then a physical examination. After this, all is completed.

The enrollment process for locals who want to send their child to government-run schools involves a quick application process listing their preferred schools. Aside from this they will always be assigned a school in their catchment area easily, as such schools are open to new students. It is not competitive because every child has a right to state-run free education, and space for new students is always found.

School hours for whole days are 8.30am - 3.30pm. For AM schools it is 7.30pm-1pm and for PM it is 1.30pm- 6.30pm. Many schools host Saturday lessons in the morning, usually consisting of English lessons from 9-30am-12.30pm, one hour per age group. Holidays are generally as follows but ESF and International schools have their own variations of holidays too, so it is worth checking with your specific school to make sure.

September 13th- Public Holiday
October 5th - Public Holiday
December 22nd - 2nd January -Christmas and New Year Holiday
January 23rd - 31st January - Chinese New Year Holiday
April 4th - April 14th Easter Holidays
May 1st - Public Holiday
July 2nd - Public Holiday
12th July - Summer Holiday begins

Extra-curricular activities are generally offered only by fee-paying schools. Government funded schools can host English lessons on Saturdays and support breakfast club but generally do not have extra curricular activities. In ESF and International schools there are many to choose from and these vary from school to school. Clubs may include volleyball, basketball, Brownies, Scouts, road safety, football, art, choir, craft, drama, chess, computer club, ballet, and martial arts. You will need to pay a yearly fee for such activities.

Students can drop out of school at 15 to pursue work. However, if they are evaluating where they want to go at this age in terms of higher education options they can choose to stay on at their school if they have a 6th form or transfer elsewhere. They can then achieve their Diploma of Secondary Education which is required to get into university. If they are in a private or international school, they will study and get their International Baccalaureate or A levels. Places in higher education depend on academic results achieved. Students who do not have English as their first language may need to take English courses such as IELTS or TOEFL as post secondary institutions; universities teach usually in English.

Hong Kong has 20 post secondary institutions who have sub-degree programmes on offer. Examples of these self-funded institutions are Hong Kong Art School and The Hong Kong institute of Technology. Students can learn vocational tertiary subjects and work in the community in placements. They can achieve sub degrees, which are half undergraduate degrees, and either continue into work, or study abroad and then try to gain a full degree elsewhere.

Very recently students who complete three years of junior and senior education (3+3+4) have become eligible to apply for a four-year university course in Hong Kong and can go through the application to attend university for academic study. There are publicly funded degree-awarding local universities like The Chinese University of Hong Kong and self financing local degree awarding institutions such as Tung Wah College. Available at these universities are undergraduate and postgraduate degrees such as law in PCLL, PHD, Masters, PDGE/ EdG etc. Many universities offer UK qualifications. Some students from Hong Kong travel to and study their full degrees in the UK, US, Australia and so on, as they attend these universities as international students. Some attend partner universities in an exchange system, going abroad for one year's study, and others can go for summer courses. In Hong Kong undergraduate degrees last four years.

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