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Hong Kong: Working and Living 

Work Permits

The rules governing residence and employment visas in Hong Kong are extremely complex, and have become even more so since 1997.

As a general rule, any person other than those having the right of abode or right to land in Hong Kong, must obtain a visa before coming to Hong Kong for the purpose of education, taking up employment, training, investment or residence.

It is also possible to travel to Hong Kong as a visitor, and to obtain employment while there. However, it has become increasingly difficult for the employer concerned to obtain a work permit in such cases, and this method is not advised.

Transfers of specialised or managerial staff within companies for a limited period of time are usually uncontentious; but recruitment of specialised staff to enter Hong Kong is quite difficult.

The government's policy on importation of labour is:

  • Local workers must be given priority in filling job vacancies available in the job market, however employers who are genuinely unable to recruit local workers to fill their job vacancies should be allowed to bring in imported workers;
  • Employers are required to register relevant job vacancies at the Labour Department for a specified period;
  • Imported workers are to be paid at least the median monthly wages of comparable local workers;
  • Imported workers are permitted to remain only under direct employment by the same employer under the standard Employment Contract throughout their period of stay in Hong Kong and the contract is governed by all labour laws in Hong Kong;
  • Upon the completion of their Employment Contracts, they are required to return to their places of origin; and

The government operates a 'Supplementary Labour Scheme' under which it is possible to import labour. All applications have to be submitted to the Job Matching Centre of the Labour Department for initial screening to establish whether the wages and job requirements for the vacancies for imported workers are no less than those given to comparable local workers.

Each application then has to pass three tests:

  • make genuine efforts to recruit locally through newspaper advertisements for two weeks;
  • concurrently with the newspaper advertisements above, participate in the Labour Department's Job Matching Programme for four weeks; and
  • where appropriate, go through the Employees Retraining Board to see whether special courses can be organised to train up local workers in accordance with the requirements of the employers.

Upon the advice of the Labour Advisory Board, the government will consider whether to approve or refuse each application. Once an application has been approved, the employer can arrange for the imported worker(s) to submit application(s) to the Immigration Department for entry visas



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