Depending on their nationality and the purpose of their stay, expats may need a visa in order to enter, work, study or live in Hong Kong. Fortunately, visa requirements aren't as stringent as in many other countries and the application process is relatively straightforward.

Citizens from more than 160 countries can enter Hong Kong without a visa for a limited amount of time. How long a tourist visa is granted for depends on the applicant’s nationality. Visa-free visits are usually permitted for 14, 30 or 90 days, again, depending on nationality.

Those that need a visit visa can apply for one at their local Chinese embassy in advance of their trip.

working visa
There are a number of visa options for Hong Kong which allow the holder to take up employment, the most common being the General Employment Policy (GEP) and Working Holiday Scheme (WHS) visas.
  • General Employment Policy Visa

Well-qualified and experienced expats wanting to work in Hong Kong will likely apply for a General Employment Policy (GEP) visa. No quota restrictions are in place for general employment permits, and they are not sector-specific.

These work permits are relatively easy to come by if expats can prove that they have a high level of education or possess a highly specialised skill set that will be of value to society and isn't readily available locally. However, expats will need to have a confirmed offer of employment and an employer sponsor before applying for this type of work permit.

  • Working Holiday Scheme Visa

Working Holiday Scheme (WHS) visas allow expats from certain countries aged between 18 and 30 to work in Hong Kong for up to 12 months (six months for Austrian nationals). There are annual quotas of Working Holiday Scheme visas for each of the eligible countries.

Participants of the Working Holiday Scheme are allowed to take up temporary employment, but may be obligated to change employers after three, six or 12 months depending on their nationality. Most nationalities are also permitted to study while in Hong Kong, though again, the number and length of courses that may be taken varies according to country of origin.

To be granted a WHS visa, expats are required to show that they have sufficient funds to support themselves while in Hong Kong and show proof of valid medical insurance. They must also hold a return air ticket, or show that they have the financial means to purchase one.

Expats in Hong Kong can apply to bring their dependants to Hong Kong, including their spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 18. Once an expat becomes a permanent resident of Hong Kong, they are also able to apply for a dependent visa for parents over the age of 60.

Expats will have to provide proof of their relationship to their dependants, and must be able to show that they can financially support and accommodate these individuals while living in Hong Kong.