Before moving to Hong Kong the first thing you’ll want to sort out is your visa

If you were born in Hong Kong or have previously lived here for a long period before, you may not need to apply for a visa or entry permit in order to come back. For everyone else, you will most likely need a visa of some sort if you’re planning on coming to HK for a significant period of time – especially if you plan to work or study here. If you’re thinking of making a trip or holidaying in Hong Kong, however, you may well not need to apply for a visa at all: most EEA nationals can visit for at least 30 days without needing to apply for an entry permit of any sort. More on that later.

You won’t need any sort of permit or visa to enter Hong Kong if you hold any of the following documents:

        • Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Passport
        • British National (Overseas) Passport
        • Hong Kong Certificate of Identity
        • Hong Kong Re-entry permit
        • Hong Kong Seaman’s Identity Book
        • Valid Hong Kong Document of Identity for Visa Purposes
        • 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)
          • Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card

Trips to Hong Kong

If you’re coming to Hong Kong on holiday, to visit friend or family or for any other reason aside from work or study, the good news is you may not need to apply for a visa at all. The Hong Kong immigration website has an exhaustive list of countries and their visa restrictions, but here’s a snippet for you:

CountryVisa-Free Period Allowed
Great Britain180 Days
Canada90 Days
France90 Days
Germany90 Days
South Africa90 Days
USA90 Days
UAE30 Days

A visa is always required for passport holders of certain countries, including: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Libya, Nepal, Pakistan, Syria, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Visitors without a visa are forbidden by law to take up paid or unpaid employment whilst in Hong Kong, to join a business or to enrol on a course as a student. If you want to enter Hong Kong for any of these reasons, you will need a different kind of visa – see below. Visitors must have enough money to fund their visit to Hong Kong without needing to work, and must show onward travel or return tickets on arrival. The exception to this rule is in the case of those in transit to mainland China or Macao. If you know you want to stay in Hong Kong longer than your visa free period, you must have already applied for your longer-term visa or entry permit before travel.

All ordinary visas for Hong Kong – detailed below – cost 160 HKD to apply for, and all applications forms can be downloaded here. But first of all, let’s work out which one you need.

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Entry for study

Applicants might be favourably considered by Hong Kong immigration if the applicant is admitted to a private school registered under the Education Ordinance or Post-Secondary Colleges Ordinance. Visas are not granted for immigrants wishing to attend public or aided schools. Primary age applicants should be aged between 5 years and 8 months to 11 years, or below the age of 20 for secondary school. Older students should be admitted on exchange in a full-time and locally-accredited programme at sub-degree level for a period of no longer than six months, or for no longer than a year at undergraduate level or higher. Applicants must have a letter of acceptance from the institution applied to, and must be able to meet all course or school fees as well as maintenance and living expenses without having to work.


Entry for training

This visa permits entry to Hong Kong for no longer than 12 months for those wishing to gain skills and knowledge not available in their home country. Applications are looked on favorably where:

  • The applicant poses no security threat
  • The sponsoring firm is a well-established company capable to deliver the required training
  • A contract exists between applicant and company

The sponsoring firm will confirm in writing that they will be responsible for the maintenance and repatriation of the applicant, and that training will last until the end of the agreed visa period. This visa is not available to nationals of the following territories: Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cuba, Laos, Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of), Nepal and Vietnam. Nor does it apply to Chinese residents of the Mainland, except for mainland China employees and associates of big multinational companies with bases in Hong Kong.


Entry for employment as professionals

Foreign students who have recently been awarded a degree or other higher qualification in Hong Kong can apply to stay or return to Hong Kong under an arrangement that exists for non-local graduates. For everyone else, professionals with special skills, experience or knowledge that’s not readily or widely available in Hong Kong can also apply to work in Hong Kong under the General Employment Policy, which does not apply to residents of mainland China.

A list of criteria exists for non-local graduates but we will focus on applications under Hong Kong’s General Employment Policy, the one you’re perhaps more likely to be applying for if you’re reading this article. See also details of the APEC Business Travel Card Scheme which may be of interest if you’re a business traveller from a non-European economy. Here are the rules for these applications:

  • There must be a specific job vacancy and applicants must hold an offer employment in writing from the employer in Hong Kong
  • This job must be relevant to the applicant’s experience and qualifications, and must be a role that could not be filled locally
  • Applicants must not pose any security threat or hold a serious crime record
  • Applicants must have a strong academic record, usually a first degree in their field. Otherwise, good technical accreditations, proven professional capabilities and relevant experience are all essential
  • The job must offer salary and benefits in line with professional pay in the HKSAR


Entry for investment

This visa exists for those wishing to enter Hong Kong to start up or join an existing business, and the visa lasts as long as the period of employment. Children and spouses can come to Hong Kong with you under this visa, if relationships can proven and as long as you can prove that you are able to support them financially. Chinese mainland residents and nationals from Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cuba, Laos, Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of), Nepal and Vietnam cannot apply for this sort of visa.

  • Applicants must not pose any security threat or hold a serious crime record
  • They must be able to make a significant contribution to the HKSAR economy
  • Applicants must have a strong academic record, usually a first degree in their field. Otherwise, good technical accreditations, proven professional capabilities and relevant experience are all essential


Entry for dependents

Spouses, unmarried children under the age of 18 and parents over the age of 60 can apply to come to Hong Kong as a dependent of a Hong Kong permanent resident, or someone who otherwise has permission to stay here unconditionally. This visa is not available to mainland China residents or those from Afghanistan of North Korea. Those admitted to the HKSAR for study, employment or investment (see above) can bring a spouse and unmarried children with them, but not their parents. Applicants are looked favourably upon where the HKSAR sponsor can prove their ability and willingness to support their dependent applicants.


Working holiday scheme

Hong Kong is one of the participating territories in this popular scheme, enabling nationals of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to spend up to a year travelling in Hong Kong, supplementing their travels with incidental, and not full-time, employment. This visa lasts twelve months, and applicants must be able to prove that their main intention is to travel and that they have adequate funds to support themselves during their visit, plus sufficient medical insurance.