Virginia, US
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| Edmond Wan

Opportunities with Challenges - PRC Nationals Seeking Work in Hong Kong

As a Brit, I was perhaps guilty of taking the good fortune of being an expat in Hong Kong for granted: I latterly discovered that many similarly ambitious, and undoubtedly far more talented, professionals from Mainland China cannot simply apply for a work permit by virtue of finding a willing employer.
However, not all hope is lost…
Ever the pragmatist, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (“HKSAR”) government has taken a pro-active approach to entice high calibre Mainland Chinese to relocate to Hong Kong through various immigration schemes, namely Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (“ASMTP”), Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (“QMAS”) and the Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates (“IANG”).
ASMTP and QMAS aim to attract qualified professionals or highly skilled/talented individuals from the Mainland as well as overseas for QMAS to work or settle in Hong Kong, whilst the IANG scheme targets non-local graduates who have obtained an undergraduate or higher qualification in a full-time and locally-accredited local programme in Hong Kong. 
Some isolated incidents, which have been widely publicised in both mainstream and social media, may lead you to believe the contrary.  But in fact, Hong Kong continues to be a top choice for PRC talents who are seeking employment opportunities elsewhere, and for good reason. The existence of these schemes is a further demonstration that the HKSAR government is staying true to its meritocratic roots.
Now, let’s look into these schemes in turn:
The ASMTP welcomes Mainland Chinese nationals who are not graduates of a local Hong Kong university but possess special skills, knowledge or experience not readily available in Hong Kong.  This scheme is quota-free and non-sector specific.
  • Application process: An application may be considered favourably if the applicant meets the assessment criteria, including having obtained a relevant first degree with related professional experience, and the remuneration package is broadly commensurate with the market level.  However, the Hong Kong Immigration Department (“ID”) has recently tightened the assessment under this scheme and applicants and sponsor (employer) are advised to provide adequate supporting documents so as to demonstrate to the ID that there is a genuine job vacancy and that the applicant’s related academic background as well as working experience are indeed unavailable locally. 
  • Timing: Approximately four to six weeks after application submission, provided that no additional information/documents is subsequently requested by the ID.
  •  Upon approval, the applicant will be granted an initial stay of up to 24 months which may be extended. 
  • Change of employment: This scheme is employer specific and the applicant must seek prior approval from the ID if he/she plans to change employment.
The IANG scheme aims to attract foreign and Mainland Chinese students who have obtained an undergraduate or higher qualification in a full-time and locally-accredited local programme to stay/return and work in Hong Kong. This scheme is also quota-free.
  • Non-local new graduates: Applicants who submit the application within six months after their graduation date are not required to secure an offer of employment upon application. 
  • Returning non-local graduates: Applicants who submit applications after six months of date of graduation) are required to secure an offer of employment upon application. Their applications will be favourably considered so long as the job is at a level commonly taken up by degree holders and the remuneration package is set at market level.
  • Timing: It takes approximately two weeks for non-local new graduates and four weeks for returning non-local graduates; however, the actual processing times by the ID can be longer during summer graduation season, namely June to September.
  • Upon approval, the applicant will be granted an initial stay of 12 months which  may be extended. 
  • Change of employment: An IANG visa holder can take up and change employment without the need to seek prior approval from the ID during the visa validity period.
Among these schemes, only QMAS is a quota-based scheme. This scheme aims to attract highly skilled or talented Mainland and overseas Chinese as well as foreign nationals to settle in Hong Kong.
  • Application process: Each applicant needs to fulfill the prerequisites before they can be awarded points under one of the two points-based tests (“General Points Test” and “Achievement-based Points Tests”) and before they can enter the selection exercise to compete for a quota allocation with other applicants.
  • Timing: Lengthier processing time; applicants who do not receive refusal notifications from the ID can view their applications as still in progress.  Applicants successfully admitted under this scheme will normally be granted an initial stay of two years for the General Points Test which may be extended and eight years for the Achievement-based Points Test.
  • Entry and stay: The applicant can enter Hong Kong for employment and stay, even without an offer of local employment in advance.
A Few Considerations
Successful PRC nationals of the aforesaid schemes residing in the Mainland at the time of visa issuance, must apply for an Exit-Entry Permit for travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macao (“EEP”), and a relevant exit endorsement from the Public Security Bureau office in China where his/her household registration is kept prior to travelling to Hong Kong to commence employment / residence.
Also, successful non-local new graduates under the IANG scheme residing in Hong Kong at the time of visa issuance should be in possession of a valid EEP and may apply to extend his/her exit endorsement from the China Travel Service in Hong Kong.