How to Obtain a Work Visa in Hong Kong

View of Cotton Tree Drive, central Hong Kong. Banks & skyscrapers in background
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Work visas in Hong Kong are increasingly difficult to obtain, with most jobs once done by western expatriates now filled by local professionals or mainland immigrants. Don’t let that put you off, Hong Kong is still a major base for expat employment, you just need to do your research first. To get your hands on a Hong Kong work visa, you need to fulfill a number of somewhat unfixed criteria (you’ll find these below).

First You Need a Job Offer

Before you can apply for a Hong Kong work visa, you need to obtain an offer of work from a company in Hong Kong. This, ideally, should be done before you move to Hong Kong. This, however, is not always practical and while the Hong Kong Immigration Service says you should not move to Hong Kong before obtaining a work visa, they know that this is not always possible and that people need to be in Hong Kong to job search. If you obtain work while already in Hong Kong, you can apply for a work visa and the Immigration Service will rarely ask questions.

You will have to leave and re-enter Hong Kong to activate the visa.

Once you have obtained a job offer, your company will work with you in applying for a Hong Kong visa and while most applications are accepted, a significant number are rejected.

Hong Kong Work Visa Requirements

The criteria for the Hong Kong Immigration Service uses is somewhat opaque, but here are some basic guidelines.

  • Applicants need to have a graduate degree unless they have considerable technical experience in a certain area.
  • In addition, the applicant should also have relevant experience in the position they are applying for.
  • The salary offered should meet local professional standards. (the bottom threshold for this is generally considered HK$20,000)
  • The company needs to prove that the position cannot be filled by a local and/or that the applicant has a skill in short supply in the city.
  • The individual will contribute to the local economy.

    The Hong Kong Immigration Service is an extremely professional organization and work visa applications generally take between 7 and 8 weeks, although there can be considerable delays if they need to make further inquiries.

    You can find the full bureaucratic low-down at the Hong Kong Immigration Service website.​