By: Stephen O’Regan Dezan Shira & Associates
Hong Kong is now facing the same ageing population crises as Mainland China. It is estimated that by 2040, about one in three Hong Kong residents will be over the age of 65. In order to help alleviate concerns about this, the Immigration Department has recently announced that a set of new enhanced measures to its immigration policy will be implemented by the second quarter of 2015. Essentially, these new measures are expected to build up “human capital" in Hong Kong by supporting the local workforce with foreign professionals and talents.
The new measures include:
- A relaxation and adjustment of the policies for migrants under the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS) in order to attract more foreign talents with international work experience or third or fourth level education;
- A relaxation and adjustment of the policies for migrants under the General Employment Policy (GEP)/Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP) in order to smooth and streamline the entry and stay of such foreign talents. Further, the measures clarify several issues relevant to foreign investment in this policy; and
- An introduction of a pilot scheme directed at second generation overseas Chinese/Hong Kong citizens in order to entice them to return to Hong Kong and seek employment.
For business investors, their initial duration of stay will be extended from one year to two years. Moreover, the extension of permits for subsequent years will go from two years to three years for the first two extensions. This new policy allows eligible investors to extend their residence after their initial stay of two years for a further three years. Start-up companies who are supported by certain government-backed programs (InvestHK, Cyberport Incubation Programme etc.) may now also apply for these extensions.
Under the new policies, a foreign employee’s initial duration of stay and extensions will be relaxed as well. Similar to business investors, the initial stay of foreign employees under the GEP and the ASMTP will be extended from one year to two years depending on the employment contract. On top of this, any extensions to residence permits will be the same as business investors, from two years for the first two extensions to three years. All of which is, of course, depends on the employment contract.
One additional measure to be introduced involves “top-tier" foreign employees. Foreign employees who are legally employed for over two years with a taxable income of no less than HK$2 million in the previous year may now be granted a 6-year extension with no conditions attached. This essentially means that such candidates will no longer need to seek the approval from the Immigration Department if they make any changes in employment. Instead, they are required to report to the Immigration Department with changes made in employment.
Quality Migrant Admission Scheme
The Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS) is a government initiative which aims to attract highly skilled or talented foreigners to reside in Hong Kong without any of the complications of securing employment before their entry. The scheme is a points-based test with a maximum of 150 awardable points. A successful applicant is required to have at least 80 points.
New measures under the QMAS include:
- Graduates from highly renowned and internationally recognized universities and institutions will be awarded an additional 30 points. Further, another 15 points will be awarded to graduates from these institutions with over two years graduate or specialist international work experience.
- The stay duration for such applicants, as well as the extension regulations, have also been relaxed. Qualified applicants who have the required amount of points may now be granted stay for a period of eight years, with renewals after the second and fifth years, for another three years. Top-tier entrants under the scheme can now stay for two years, and another six years after the renewal.
Admission scheme for Second Generation Chinese/Hong Kong Citizens
The purpose of this scheme is to attract the second generation of Chinese/Hong Kong citizens to return to Hong Kong to seek employment. Apart from the usual immigration requirements, to be eligible for certain benefits, applicants need to satisfy the following application criteria:
- Aged between 18 and 40
- Overseas born, i.e. outside of Mainland China, Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong
- Have a good educational background. This generally means a primary degree with good technical qualifications, as well as relevant work experience. In some cases proven professional achievements may be required.
- At least one parent of the applicant, who has a valid Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card at the time of the application, must prove that they were residing abroad at the time of the applicant’s birth.
- Have sufficient funds and ability to cover living expense requirements without relying on public funds.
- Proficient in English or Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese)
The applicant can be granted a stay of up to 12 months prior to securing employment, however, employment must be secured during the valid period and extension shall be granted. For those who have set up their own businesses or joined others, they are required to provide proof of their business in Hong Kong.
This article was first published on China Briefing
Since its establishment in 1992, Dezan Shira & Associates has been guiding foreign clients through Asia’s complex regulatory environment and assisting them with all aspects of legal, accounting, tax, internal control, HR, payroll and audit matters. As a full-service consultancy with operational offices across China, Hong Kong, India and emerging ASEAN, we are your reliable partner for business expansion in this region and beyond.
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