Employment Visas in Hong Kong – An Interesting Update

A little while ago we wrote an article about employment visas in Hong Kong (can be viewed by clicking here). With ever changing market conditions in the region, more and more people are finding themselves in slightly unusual scenarios regarding their visa statuses, particularly if they have been unfortunate to have been laid off. A recent article in The South China Morning Post provides some really useful advice on employment visas and their validity following a termination of employment and also answering questions on a couple of other scenarios. We’ve pasted the article text below and the original can be seen (with a subscription unfortunately) by clicking here.

Fired workers can remain in HK until their visas expire

Grace Shie, Head of Baker & Mckenzie’s Global Immigration & Mobility practice for Hong Kong and China


Question: I moved to Hong Kong from Australia and my employer sponsored my employment visa. My employer has just informed me that my position is being eliminated and my employment will be terminated in a month. What happens to my visa status?

You may continue living in Hong Kong until the expiration of your employment visa, even if your employment is terminated before that date. In fact, your employer is required to notify the Hong Kong Immigration Department of your employment termination and to cancel its sponsorship of your visa.

Even with that notification on file with the Immigration Department, you are permitted to remain in Hong Kong until your visa expiration date in order to look for another job, or to pack your personal belongings and close out your stay in Hong Kong. You may also continue using your Hong Kong Identity Card for travel in and out of Hong Kong during that same period. However, you are not permitted to work for a new employer without prior approval of the Immigration Department.

For example, let us assume your last date of employment is March 1, 2012 while your employment visa does not expire until September 1, 2012. You may continue living in Hong Kong and travelling in and out of Hong Kong with your Hong Kong Identity Card until September 1.

However, from March 1 to September 1, you are not permitted to start work for a new employer until that employer has taken over the sponsorship of your employment visa. The new employer will need to file a visa application for change of employment with the Immigration Department. You may commence new employment only after Immigration Department approval of the visa application is granted.

Question: Rather than look for a new employer, I have set up my own company in Hong Kong to provide consulting services. What type of visa do I need to manage and run my own business?

To operate your own business in Hong Kong, the most appropriate visa would be the employment ( investment) visa. To demonstrate eligibility, you need to provide proof that you possess a special skill, knowledge or experience of value to and not readily available in Hong Kong and that as an investor you are in a position to contribute substantially to the local economy.

How do you go about making this demonstration? Similar to the employment visa sponsored by your previous employer, you will be required to provide proof of some combination of academic credentials, technical qualifications, and professional work experience.

The purpose is to demonstrate to the Immigration Department that you have accumulated extensive experience and expertise to manage and run your business. For example, if your company will consult with financial services firms, then you might provide proof of your MBA and investment banking work experience. If, on the other hand, your company will provide IT consulting services, you might instead show that you have a Computer Science degree and a background working with technology companies.

An employment ( investment) visa application also requires proof of your investment in and ownership of the company, as well as your general financial resources to demonstrate your ability to further invest in the company as needed. The investment must be “substantial.” While the Immigration Department does not publish any guidelines as to the minimum threshold, the investment amount will likely depend on your proposed business venture.

In addition, you need to provide a robust and detailed business plan that describes the proposed business activities of your new company ( what will be your source of revenue), your place of operation ( where will your new office be located), and, significantly, your staffing plans ( how many locals you will employ). The Immigration Department will expect you to carry on a business that is beneficial to the city’s economy, which is in part demonstrated by the creation of jobs. Your visa application will have a higher chance of success if you rent an office and staff it with local employees ( meaning Hong Kong permanent residents), than if you simply work from home and operate as a one- person consulting firm.

Question: I have been successfully operating my business for a year and now have a staff of five employees. I just interviewed a candidate for a position with my company. She is a British citizen holding an employment visa and tells me she can start work immediately. Is this correct?

No. An employment visa is employer- specific. If this potential new hire holds an employment visa, she is permitted to work only for the company that sponsored her visa.

For her to be work- authorised with your company, you must take over the sponsorship of her visa by filing and obtaining approval of a visa application for change of employment with the Immigration Department. Even though she already provided proof of her academic credentials and work experience in the visa application sponsored by her prior employer, she must do so again as part of the change of employment visa application filed by your company.

Your company, as the new employer and visa sponsor, must provide its own set of companyrelated documents, such as the business registration certificate.

The answer would be different if this candidate held a dependant visa. Dependant visa holders are permitted to take up employment in Hong Kong without prior approval of the Immigration Department.

Let us assume the candidate’s husband is a British citizen holding the employment visa, while the candidate holds a dependant visa as his spouse. In this case, she would be free to work for any employer and to change employers without filing a separate visa application.

The information contained in this article should not be relied on as legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for detailed advice in individual cases. If advice concerning individual problems or other expert assistance is required, the service of a competent professional adviser should be sought.


Opinion Poll: March 2012

It’s that time again! This month we would like to know how you feel about the companies you work or have worked for and what percentage you feel know how to motivate their staff. All votes are anonymous and please also tell us where you are based so we can get a feel for the geographical spread of the votes. We’ll comment on the results at the end of the month with some examples we have recently experienced!

Monthly Update: February 2012

Market News

Analysts last month confirmed that Hong Kong’s housing market has been cooling with rents in December 2011 falling more than 3% from November. That said, in the last month many are saying that prices may have bottomed out with a more positive sentiment in the market in the last few weeks. Read this all to mean that nobody is very sure what is going to happen in 2012!

Record tourist numbers over the Lunar New Year raised casino revenues by 35% from one year ago. Many of the big names in Macau released their results in the last few weeks and almost all beat experts estimations to post new record profits and revenue.

Office rental prices in Beijing have for the first time overtaken prices in New York to come in as the 5th most expensive prices in the world. Unsurprisingly, Hong Kong remains top of the list alongside Tokyo but more cities in China are expected to impact the list in the coming years.

The IMF had a pretty grim view on Chinese growth should Europe plunge into the abyss. In a report, it was claimed that growth in China could be cut by more than half if Europe should suffer a severe downturn. It encouraged the Chinese government to implement a huge stimulus package before adding that it actually expected growth to be around 8.2%. At the same time another think tank predicts that China will experience a soft landing with growth at a maximum of 8.5% on the back of a growth in domestic demand. Finding out who is right will take time but most people on the ground here in the region think that 2012 will be a strong year in the 2nd half.

Whilst lower residential rents fell in Hong Kong, higher end rental rates in 2011 rose by more than 15%! Hong Kong’s position as the world’s most expensive city looks to be relatively secure in the coming years with prices set to increase “by only around 10% this year” – alright if you can afford it!


Poll Result

This month we ask for your views on interviews and what you looked to get from them:

The results were quite varied. Most people (32%) voted to say they use an interview to find out information regarding the position. Secondary to this people voted to say they use an interview to get an offer or 2nd meeting – we think this is the most important thing people should be focusing on at an interview. Whilst you can find out about the company, culture, position, people and all manner of other things, unless you actually get an offer or 2nd interview, you have nothing to actually decide on. We often coach people to put their predetermined opinions to one side and get 2-3 offers – that way they are able to choose which suits them best. Thankfully a smaller number of you (4% each) decided that an interview was the time to look at salary information, test the market or position yourself to bargain with your current role! We generally advise against all three of these as they have the tendency to blow up in people’s faces if the only focus at interview is this.

What’s Hot

We are extremely busy across all sectors from interior designers with hotel experience (we need lots of you!) to design directors and team leaders within specific sectors. What we have noticed with our roles is that our clients are more willing to wait for the right candidates than they perhaps have been in the past. This does mean they are more selective about who they will interview and won’t tend to look outside the remits of their job specs when considering applicants. Senior candidates with China experience, language skills and leadership experience are need in Hong Kong and in China for architecture firms. We are also looking for a few business development type candidates for design firms.

On the developer side we have many opportunities in China for project managers and in the last month have seen an uplift in the roles we have filled for Hong Kong based candidates. We still need architects, PMs, SPMs and people willing to be stationed in China. For those that are willing to be based in China, there are some extremely interesting projects and senior positions available. These are positions which will really stand out on a CV and provide someone with an opportunity to reach a senior level within a top developer very quickly.

We will keep updating you all via Twitter as new roles come in but check our website for more details.

Most Urgent Requirements

We have outlined below the urgent vacancies we have had through from clients over the last month.

  • Director of Architect – Shanghai – A leading international architecture company
  • Mandarin Project Architects – Shanghai – great roles with an award winning design firm
  • Interior Design Leader – Retail and Hotels – Shanghai – head up the new interiors team in this growing successful office
  • Landscape Designers – Shanghai – one of our best clients offering some great opportunities for those with hotel/resort experience (still need more of these!)
  • Senior Project Manager – Beijing – top tier developer with a luxury hotel project
  • Deputy Project Managers – Hong Kong – The top tier Hong Kong developer with exciting locally based projects
  • Deputy General Manager – exclusive – Hong Kong – one of the regions most desirable developers looking for lots of people – we found one person, now we need another!
  • Hotel Interior Designers – Hong Kong – top design firms needing a few good hotel interiors candidates at all levels
  • Business Development Managers and Directors – China and Hong Kong – people required for a number of the world’s top design names
  • Workplace Team Leader – Hong Kong – a number of opportunities for top corporate interior designers who want to design rather than business develop!

We also have many, many more roles posted on our website and these are only an overview of our top positions at this time. Please check back regularly. The easiest way to stay up to date with our latest positions is to follow us on Twitter.

Please visit our website for more information on the above roles and our other vacancies:


If you wish to enquire about a position please send an email and your CV to apply@ellicottlong.com.

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