Visa Requirements for Hong Kong

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Many people wonder if they need a visa to visit Hong Kong, or even what country Hong Kong is a part of. Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region in the People's Republic of China, but the "one country, two systems" government model that the city uses means that even though it is technically a part of China, it uses a completely different visa system. Hong Kong treasures its place as an international hub of business and a top tourist destination, therefore, it strives to make visa regulations as relaxed and seamless as possible. In fact, the application process and fees are the same across the board regardless of the type of visa you need.

Hong Kong is one of the easiest countries to enter: Citizens of about 170 countries and territories do not need a visa to enter and receive entry passes that can last from seven to 180 days. Nationals of the U.S., Europe, Australia, Canada, Mexico, and many other countries don’t require a visa to enter Hong Kong for stays of 90 days or less, while visitors from the U.K. can visit for up to six months without a visa.

India passport holders do not need to apply for a visa and are allowed stays of 14 days, but they must complete pre-arrival registration via an online form before they can use the visa-free privilege.

You will need at least six months' validity on your passport, and you should check the requirements for your specific country. Because Hong Kong has a separate visa policy from Mainland China, any visitor intending to go onward to Mainland China must apply for a separate Chinese visa.

Visa Requirements for Hong Kong
Visa Type How Long Is It Valid? Required Documents Application Fees
Visit Visa Up to six months Roundtrip flight itinerary, proof of financial means, optional sponsor information HK$230
Employment Visa Up to two years Application from sponsoring company, proof of relevant education and work experience HK$230
Study Visa Length of studies Acceptance letter into educational institution, proof of financial means HK$230
Dependent Visa Dependent on sponsor Proof of family relation HK$230
Working Holiday Visa Up to one year Roundtrip flight itinerary, proof of financial means HK$230

Visit Visa

If your passport fails to qualify you for visa-free entry, you'll need to apply for a "visit visa," which is a tourist visa. There are two methods for applying for the visa: by mailing your application and documents directly to the Hong Kong Immigration Department, or by applying at your local Chinese Consulate.

Visa Fees and Application

Applying through a Chinese Consulate is generally easier, especially if you live near a city that has a consulate. You don't have to mail your documents all the way to Hong Kong and you can pay in your local currency, which is $30 for applicants in the U.S. If you send your application to the Hong Kong Immigration Department, you have to track down and pay for a cashier's check in Hong Kong dollars. The only downside to using the Chinese Consulate is that they charge an additional "liaison fee," which is about $20–$30 depending on the consulate.

The documents that need to be turned in are:

Having a sponsor in Hong Kong—whether it's a company or a local individual—isn't necessary for acquiring a visit visa, but it can assist your application. If you have a sponsor, they can also submit the application for you directly at the Hong Kong Immigration Department office.

The processing time takes about four weeks, regardless of whether you turn in the application through a Chinese consulate or mail it to the Hong Kong Immigration Department. In most cases, the visa is mailed directly to the applicant to be affixed in the passport.

Employment Visa

Anyone planning to move to Hong Kong for work needs an employment visa. Employment visas are granted to foreign nationals who have been offered a job already and can't be used by someone who wants to move to Hong Kong with the intention to look for work. Furthermore, the visa is tied to the job you've been offered. If you lose that job, your visa may be revoked and you'll have to leave Hong Kong.

Work visas under the General Employment Policy (GEP) are for nationals from any country except Mainland China. Chinese citizens must apply through a special visa program called Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP), unless the Chinese citizen is a legal resident in another country. In that case, they can apply for a work visa under the General Employment Policy like everyone else.

Visa Fees and Application

An employment visa can be applied for in-person at your nearest Chinese consulate or by mailing the application to the Hong Kong Immigration Department. The fee is HK$230 if you apply by mail and it must be paid via a cashier's check in Hong Kong dollars. If you apply at a Chinese consulate, you must pay the same amount in local currency (about $30 in the U.S.) in addition to a "liaison fee" for using the consulate, which is an additional $20–$30.

The documents that need to be turned in for GEP or ASMTP employment visas are:

Processing an employment visa takes about four weeks. If approved, your visa will be mailed to you to affix into your passport.

Study Visa

A study visa allows students to enter Hong Kong for schoolwork and is for students studying abroad, students who want to complete university in Hong Kong, or students admitted into a private elementary or secondary school. The visa is valid for the normal duration of studies up to six years, so a student traveling to study abroad for a year will receive a one-year visa while someone entering a Hong Kong university as a full-time student will receive a visa for the time the degree takes (usually four years with the possibility to extend).

The study visa is for students coming to Hong Kong alone for the sole purpose of studying. If the child is coming to Hong Kong with a parent who is moving for work or another reason, the child would apply under a dependent visa, not a study visa.

Visa Fees and Application

Apply for your visa by submitting your application to your local Chinese consulate or by mailing it directly to the Hong Kong Immigration Department. The fee is HK$230, payable in a cashier's check in Hong Kong dollars (if mailing to Hong Kong) or in local currency (if using a Chinese consulate). The consulate will charge you a "liaison fee" which adds an additional cost to the visa, but the convenience is often worth it. Once you add up the costs of a foreign cashier's check and international postage to Hong Kong, the price difference becomes negligible.

The documents that need to be turned in for a student visa are:

  • Completed application form
  • Recent photograph
  • Photocopy of passport
  • Letter of acceptance into an educational institution
  • Proof of financial means
  • Letter from parents authorizing a guardian in Hong Kong (for applicants under 18)

It takes about four to six weeks for a study visa to be processed, and the visa will be mailed directly to your home address to be affixed in your passport.

Dependent Visa

If you've been accepted to work in Hong Kong or as a full-time student in a local institution, you are eligible to bring your spouse and children with you. Family members will need to apply for a dependent visa, and the sponsor of the dependent visa will be the individual who is coming for work or study.

The dependent visa is only available for immediate family members, which Hong Kong considers to be a legally married or domestic partner (of the opposite or same sex) and children under the age of 18. If the sponsor is a permanent resident of Hong Kong, a parent over the age of 60 is also an eligible family member.

Visa Fees and Application

If the sponsor is petitioning to bring family members at the time of their original application, they can include information about dependents on their own application. If the sponsor is already living in Hong Kong and family members want to join them, they will have to complete their own dependent application form. To supplement the application, it should also include:

  • Recent photograph
  • Photocopy of passport
  • Proof of family relation (e.g., marriage certificate, birth certificate, etc.)
  • Proof of sponsor's financial means
  • Proof of sponsor's accommodations

The application can be submitted to the local Chinese consulate or directly to the Hong Kong Immigration Department. If the sponsor is already living in Hong Kong, they can apply at the Immigration Department in-person. The fee is HK$230 per dependent and is payable in Hong Kong dollars to the Immigration Department or in local currency at a Chinese consulate, although a Chines consulate will also charge an additional liaison fee.

Dependent visas take about six weeks to process, longer than most Hong Kong visas. Dependent visas are also entire discretionary and the final decision rests with the Director of Immigration.

Working Holiday Visa

Foreign nationals from a group of 14 countries are permitted to enter Hong Kong with the primary purpose of travel for longer than the standard 90 days that are given to most tourists by applying for a working holiday visa. The countries that have a working holiday agreement with Hong Kong are Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, and the U.K.

The working holiday visa gives visitors the added benefit of being able to find work while staying in Hong Kong, but each country has its own guidelines, quotas, and restrictions. The maximum time allowed is one year and the working holiday visa cannot be extended.

To apply, fill out the working holiday application form and pay close attention to the requirements for your specific country. The application can be turned in to your local Chinese consulate or mailed directly to the Hong Kong Immigration Department. The usual visa fee of HK$230 is payable in local currency to the Chinese consulate or in a cashier's check in Hong Kong dollars if mailing the application to Hong Kong, with the exception of Irish, Korean, and Japanese citizens who are exempt from paying the visa fee.

Visa Overstays

The time visitors are allowed to stay in Hong Kong varies from case to case, but most foreign nationals—including U.S. citizens—are permitted to stay for up to 90 days without a visa. If you overstay by just a couple of days, you may get lucky and just get a figurative slap on the wrist at the airport, but that isn't guaranteed. The Immigration Department is very strict about visa overstays and you may be fined or even incarcerated before being deported, especially for lengthy overstays.

The good news is that if you just want more time to enjoy Hong Kong and you come from a visa-exempt country, it's easy to obtain. You just need to leave Hong Kong—Macao is a nearby and convenient option—and enter again, and your time limit will reset. But remember, visitors are not allowed to work or look for employment. If you're just visiting Hong Kong, it's the simplest way to stay for longer. But if you're using this method as a loophole for working, studying, or living in the city, that is illegal and the consequences are severe.

Extending Your Visa

If you know you're going to overstay your visa, even by just a day or two, the safest option is to go directly to the Immigration Department office—the Immigration Tower—in Wan Chai and request an official extension. If you want to stay a few days longer and you have your reserved transportation out of the city, you shouldn't have a problem. If you need to stay longer than a few days, you should have a valid reason and documentation to back it up, whether it's a personal reason like the sudden death of a loved one or something greater like a conflict in your home country. Whether or not the extension is granted is entirely at the discretion of the immigration official.

Article Sources
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  1. Hong Kong Immigration Department. "Visa Requirements." November 2019.