Visa policy of Hong Kong
The Government of Hong Kong allows citizens of specific countries/territories to travel to Hong Kong for tourism or certain business-related activities for periods ranging from 14 to 180 days without having to obtain a visa. Citizens of all countries require visas to undertake other activities, such as study, employment, or operation of a business, unless they have the right to land or right of abode in Hong Kong. Under the One Country, Two Systems policy, Hong Kong maintains its immigration and visa policy independently from (the rest of) China. Consequently, entering Hong Kong from (mainland) China requires passing through an immigration checkpoint. Whilst Macao and Taiwan residents have visa-free/visa-on-arrival access for short visits to Hong Kong, Chinese citizens from China need to go through a more rigorous approval system before they can obtain a permit to enter Hong Kong.
Due to the historical background of Hong Kong, immigration status in Hong Kong is determined by a combination of both nationality and residence status. Therefore, even a Chinese national with the right of abode in Hong Kong has a slightly different status to a foreign national with the right of abode in Hong Kong as well (since the former can never lose ROA status while the latter can lose it if he does not enter Hong Kong for a period of 36 months). At the same time, a foreign national with the right of abode in Hong Kong has a preferential immigration status to a Chinese national without the right of abode in Hong Kong, as the former can remain in Hong Kong indefinitely, while the latter has to have his immigration status reassessed whenever his visa/permit expires.
All visitors must hold a passport valid for 1 month.
- 1 Unconditional stay
- 2 Types of non-visitor visas
- 3 Visitors' visas and visa exemptions
- 4 Diplomatic/official passports
- 5 Visa nationals
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
Persons with the "right of abode" or the "right to land" may enter Hong Kong without holding any visa and without having any condition of stay imposed upon them, and may not be subject to a removal order. In addition, no deportation order may be imposed on a person with the right of abode. Possession of one of the following documents is sufficient to demonstrate those rights:
- Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card
- Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Passport
- British National (Overseas) passport
- Hong Kong Certificate of Identity (all of which have expired by 30 June 2007)
- Hong Kong Re-entry Permit (for entry from China and Macao only)
- Hong Kong Seaman's Identity Book
- Hong Kong Document of Identity for Visa Purposes, provided that the document is valid or the holder's limit of stay in Hong Kong has not expired
- Travel documents stating either Holder's eligibility for Hong Kong permanent identity card verified or The holder of this travel document has the right to land in Hong Kong. (Section 2AAA, Immigration Ordinance (cap. 115, Laws of Hong Kong))
A person who is "ordinarily resident" in Hong Kong for seven years is eligible to apply for permanent residency, a status which gives its holder the right of abode. However, the Immigration Ordinance's definition of "ordinarily resident" (Section 2, Subsection 4) excludes persons holding visas for employment as imported workers or for employment as domestic helpers. It is not unusual to find foreign domestic helpers who have worked in Hong Kong for fifteen years; however, regardless of their length of employment, they are ineligible to apply for permanent residency. In 2011, five domestic helpers filed applications in the High Court for judicial review of the relevant portion of the Immigration Ordinance, claiming that it contravenes Article 24 of the Hong Kong Basic Law. In response, the Department of Justice sought to enter into evidence an affidavit claiming that as many as 100,000 domestic helpers could qualify for permanent residency; along with as many as 300,000 family members, the department claimed this would cause significant economic losses due to the requirement to provide housing, welfare, and health services to them. The first case, Vallejos v. Commissioner of Registration, was heard on 22 August. Starry Lee (DAB) and tourism functional constituency legislator Paul Tse expressed their opposition, while the Civic Party issued a statement distancing itself from the cases. Justice Johnson Lam issued his decision on 30 September, ruling in favour of Vallejos; the government will appeal.
Types of non-visitor visas
Persons without the right of abode or right to land in Hong Kong, regardless of their nationality, require visas if they wish to take up residence in the territory. Persons granted these visas become "non-permanent residents". Immigration Department policy places restrictions on the ability of nationals of Afghanistan, Albania, Cuba, Nepal, North Korea, and Vietnam to apply for some kinds of visas.
Employment, investment, and study visas
Hong Kong has a number of visas issued for the purpose of allowing the holder to take up employment or employment-related training:
- Employment as Professionals (EAP): subdivided into the Immigration Arrangement for Non-local Graduates (IANG, for non-local students who have received a degree in a Hong Kong tertiary institution), the General Employment Policy (GEP, for non-Chinese nationals as well as PRC nationals who have resided overseas for more than one year), and the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP, for Chinese citizens with household registration in mainland China). GEP and ASMTP entrants require permission from the Immigration Department to change employers; IANG entrants do not. Numbers of entrants under each scheme as of 31 March 2010 were 22,280 under GEP, 34,967 under ASMTP, and 6,522 under IANG.
- Training: for periods of up to 12 months. Applications from Chinese citizens with household registration in mainland China are generally not entertained, unless the sponsoring company is multinational and well-established in Hong Kong.
- Working Holiday Scheme (WHS), allowing persons between the ages of 18 and 30 to come to Hong Kong for up to 12 months. There is an annual quota of visas, per nationality: Australia (5,000), Canada (200), Germany (150), Ireland (100), Japan (250), South Korea (200), New Zealand (400); other nationalities are not eligible. Participants may take up any kind of employment, though not for more than three months with the same employer (six months for South Koreans). They are also permitted to study (with the exception of Irish citizens). Participants must have at least HK$20,000 in funds (HK$15,000 for Canadians, HK$14,000 for New Zealanders), and must hold medical insurance during their stay in Hong Kong. 1,376 WHS applications were approved in 2009/2010.
- Employment as imported workers, also known as Supplementary Labour Scheme (SLS): for work at the "technician level or below". Change of employment not permitted. Employer must pay a HK$400/month levy. The SLS was established in 1996. 16,418 workers were admitted under SLS during 2009/2010, of whom 1,635 were still in Hong Kong as of 31 March 2010.
- Employment as domestic helpers: see foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong. 273,609 resided in Hong Kong as of 31 March 2010, 49% from the Philippines and 48% from Indonesia.
The immigration department also grants student visas for persons wishing to study in registered private (non-public, non-aided) primary and secondary schools, and for various types of study at the degree level (short courses, exchange programmes, and certificate or degree courses). Chinese residents of the mainland and Taiwan, and residents of Macau who moved there from mainland China and settled later than 14 January 1979, are only granted visas to study in tertiary-level courses. Since the 2008/09 academic year, student visa holders in degree courses of more than a year's duration at tertiary institutions may take up short-term internships; other student visa holders are prohibited from taking up any employment at all. 14,460 non-local students (among them 8,651 from mainland China) were admitted to Hong Kong for study in 2009/10.
Persons on unconditional stay, as well as those granted visas for study, training, employment as professionals, investment, or under CIES or QMAS, may sponsor their spouse and dependent children under the age of 18 for entry into Hong Kong. Persons on unconditional stay may additionally sponsor elderly dependent parents who are over the age of 60. However, persons on unconditional stay cannot sponsor Chinese citizens with household registration in mainland China as dependents. Additionally, nationals of Afghanistan, Albania, Cuba, and North Korea are not eligible for dependent visas. Dependent visa holders whose sponsor (parent or spouse, as the case may be) holds a study visa require prior permission from the Immigration Department to take up employment; other dependent visa holders may work or switch jobs without prior approval.
Unlike Hong Kong residents in opposite-sex marriages, Hong Kong residents in same-sex marriages with non-Hong Kong residents cannot sponsor their partners for dependent visas. However, according to a July 2011 report by the South China Morning Post, the Hong Kong Immigration Department has an unpublicised policy of granting extended visitors' visas to non-Hong Kong residents in same-sex marriages with Hong Kong residents. This allows them to stay in the city for de facto family reunification, though they cannot take up employment, will not receive a Hong Kong Identity Card, and while holding a visitor's visa will not be regarded as "ordinarily resident" in Hong Kong for purposes of permanent residency applications. However, they may renew their visas without departing from Hong Kong.
Visitors' visas and visa exemptions
Nationals of the following 148 countries can enter Hong Kong visa-free. They can do so as tourists or they can undertake a limited range of business-related activities, namely "concluding contracts or submitting tenders, examining or supervising the installation/packaging of goods or equipment, participating in exhibitions or trade fairs (except selling goods or supplying services direct to the general public, or constructing exhibition booths), settling compensation or other civil proceedings, participating in product orientation, and attending short-term seminars or other business meetings". They are prohibited from taking up employment or study in the territory, or from "establishing or joining in any business". The last provision means that non-residents may not commence operating a business while in Hong Kong, and thus will be refused permission for business registration by the Inland Revenue Department unless it can be proven that the business began operation while they were outside of Hong Kong. However, the Companies Registry permits non-residents to incorporate limited liability companies and to be appointed as corporate directors (though not as corporate secretaries).
Visa policy map
- European Union and EFTA citizens (except British Citizens)
- Antigua and Barbuda
- New Zealand
- Papua New Guinea
- San Marino
- South Korea
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United Kingdom (British Overseas Territories Citizens, British Overseas Citizens, British Subjects and British Protected Persons)
- United States
- Cape Verde
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Saudi Arabia
- South Africa
- United Arab Emirates
- Macao (for non-permanent residents of Macao not travelling with their own national passport)
- Albania (with a biometric passport only)
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Burkina Faso
- Equatorial Guinea
- Holy See
- Marshall Islands
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- ^ The visa exemption for the Philippines applies to ordinary passport holders only; visas are required for official & diplomatic passport holders beginning in February 2014, as part of the Hong Kong government's response to the 2010 Manila hostage crisis.
- Macao (when presenting a Macao SAR passport in transit to third country only; proof of onward journey will need to be shown to the immigration officer)
- China (when presenting a Chinese passport in transit to third country only; proof of onward journey will need to be presented to the immigration officer)
Visa free for 14 days for holders of diplomatic or official passports of the following countries:
- Angola (diplomatic/official passports only)
- Armenia (diplomatic/official passports only)
- Azerbaijan (diplomatic/official passports only)
- Bangladesh (diplomatic/official passports only)
- Belarus (diplomatic/official passports only)
- Burundi (diplomatic/official passports only)
- Cameroon (diplomatic/official passports only)
- Congo (diplomatic/official passports only)
- Ethiopia (diplomatic/official passports only)
- Ghana (diplomatic/official passports only)
- Pakistan (diplomatic/official passports only)
- Sri Lanka (diplomatic/official passports only)
- Togo (diplomatic/official passports only)
Nationals of the following countries are required to possess a visa for any type of entry into Hong Kong (including as tourists), but are not required to have a visa to transit airside if they remain within the airport transit area:
Nationals of the following countries are required to possess a visa for any type of entry into Hong Kong (including as tourists) and for transit airside (even if they remain within the airport transit area):
- Angola (except for diplomatic/official passports)
- Bangladesh (except for diplomatic/official passports)
- Burundi (except for diplomatic/official passports)
- Cameroon (except for diplomatic/official passports)
- Central African Republic (beginning 21 July 2014)
- Congo (except for diplomatic/official passports)
- Ivory Coast
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Ethiopia (except for diplomatic/official passports)
- Ghana (except for diplomatic/official passports)
- Sierra Leone
- Sri Lanka (except for diplomatic/official passports)
- Togo (except for diplomatic/official passports)
Pakistan: Pakistani nationals are required to possess a visa for any type of entry into Hong Kong, with two exceptions. Pakistani nationals holding diplomatic/official passports are not required to have a visa for airside transit if they remain within the airport transit area. Also, Pakistani nationals holding ordinary passports are not required to have a visa for airside transit if they remain within the airport transit area, their connecting flight departs within 12 hours and they hold a valid visa or residence permit issued by Australia, Canada, New Zealand, a Schengen Area member state, South Korea, the UK or the USA.
Visa requirements for persons holding certain kinds of travel documents
The above visa waivers apply only to citizens of the countries in question travelling on standard national passports. Persons using other kinds of travel documents, in particular those which are issued to non-citizens (especially under "investor passport" programmes) or which are issued as emergency travel documents in case of the loss of a passport, are required to obtain visas. The Hong Kong Immigration Department specifically lists the following kinds of travel documents as not entitling their holders to enjoy visa-free access, notwithstanding that they are issued by countries whose citizens normally enjoy visa-free access:
- Albania (only with non-biometric passport)
- Costa Rica (Costa Rican provisional passports and "Documento de Identidad Y Viaje")
- Peru (for special Peruvian passports)
- Tonga (for Tongan National and Tongan Protected Persons passports)
- Tuvalu (if nationality is stated is I-Tuvalu)
- Uruguay (passports issued under Decree 289/90)
In addition all holders of stateless persons' travel documents are also required to obtain visas.
Since 27 April 2009, Taiwan residents who hold a Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents may enter Hong Kong for up to 30 days without obtaining an entry permit in advance. Otherwise, a valid entry permit must be applied in advance. Currently only airlines and appointed travel agents are authorised to this application while a fee of HKD50 applies. From 1 September 2012, ordinary people may apply the entry permit online free of charge. The entry permit is not a visa and it is not affixed to the ROC passport. Hong Kong immigration officers do not stamp the ROC passport; rather, stamps will be placed on the entry permit.
Mainland China and Macao
Regarding persons living in mainland China or Macao who do not possess the right of abode in Hong Kong, non-Chinese nationals are treated on the basis of their nationality, while Chinese nationals are treated based on the region in which they have a right of abode or household registration.
Chinese nationals with a hukou registration in China are required to obtain an entry permit from the Public Security Bureau for any type of visit to Hong Kong (short visits and long visits alike, including settlement), as well as a visa endorsement for the purpose of travel. However, an exemption is made for Mainland Chinese passport holders who are transiting through Hong Kong to a third country: they may enter Hong Kong for a maximum of seven days if they have proof of their onward journey.
Chinese nationals with the right of abode in Macao can enter Hong Kong visa-free for a maximum period of 180 days using their Macao permanent identity card. Non-permanent identity card holders can enter visa-free for up to 30 days only.
- Exit & Entry Permit (Republic of China)
- Visa policy of Macau
- Visa policy of the People's Republic of China
- Immigration Ordinance
- Hong Kong Immigration Department: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Visit/Transit
- "Visa Information – Hong Kong". Timatic. IATA. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
- Hong Kong Immigration Department: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Right of Abode in HKSAR
- Immigration Ordinance, Section 2a
- Immigration Ordinance, Section 2aaa
- Hong Kong Immigration Department: Visit Visa / Entry Permit Requirements for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
- The United Kingdom, which issues BN(O) passports, no longer has authority to grant the right of abode in Hong Kong, which since 1997 is a territory of the People's Republic of China. However, in practise BN(O) is a status that was only ever granted to persons "hav[ing] a connection" to British Hong Kong as defined in the Hong Kong (British Nationality) Order 1986, and as such all holders of BN(O) passports are persons who enjoyed the right to land or right of abode in Hong Kong before 1997, and under the Immigration Ordinance continue to enjoy one of those rights.
- Immigration Ordinance, Section 2
- Population and Political Theory, p. 227
- Lee, Diana (26 July 2011), "Stopgap moves a 'way out' in helper residency case", The Standard, retrieved 2 August 2011
- Benitez, Mary Ann; Lee, Diana (2 August 2011), "Maids 'flood' warning", The Standard, retrieved 2 August 2011
- Benitez, Mary Ann; Tse, Winnie (29 July 2011), "House of cards", The Standard, retrieved 2 August 2011
- Wong, Cecil (30 September 2011), "Govt to appeal against maid ruling", Radio Television Hong Kong, retrieved 2 October 2011
- Hong Kong Immigration Department: Guidebook for Employment as Professionals in Hong Kong
- Hong Kong Immigration Department: Annual Report: Chapter 1
- Hong Kong Immigration Department: Guidebook for Entry for Training in Hong Kong
- Hong Kong Immigration: Guidance Notes on Working Holiday Scheme and Footnotes
- Hong Kong Immigration Department: Guidebook for Entry for Employment as Imported Workers in Hong Kong
- Hong Kong Immigration Department: Guidebook for the Employment of Domestic Helpers from Abroad (ID 969)
- Hong Kong Immigration Department: Guidebook for Entry for Study in Hong Kong
- Hong Kong Immigration Department: Hong Kong visas
- Hong Kong Immigration Department: Quality Migrant Admission Scheme: Scope of the Scheme
- Hong Kong Immigration Department: Capital Investment Entrant Scheme : Scope of the Scheme
- Hong Kong Immigration Department: Guidebook for Entry for Residence as Dependants in Hong Kong
- Hong Kong Immigration Department: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Hong Kong Visas
- "Gay partners given 'relationship visa'", South China Morning Post, 10 July 2011, retrieved 10 July 2011
- "Visa and Health". Timatic. IATA. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
- "Business" Required to be Registered and Application for Business Registration, Inland Revenue Department, retrieved 2 August 2011
- Frequently Asked Questions: Incorporation of a Local Limited Company, Companies Registry, retrieved 2 August 2011
- "HK to cancel visa-free arrangement for PHL officials – report". GMA Network. 29 January 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2014..
- "入境處取消中非共和國訪港免簽證" [Immigration Department cancels Central African Republic's Hong Kong visa exemption]. Sing Tao. 18 July 2014. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
- Hong Kong to provide free online visa services for Taiwanese
- Boehler, Patrick and Saikou Ceesay. "West Africa a shortcut for rich mainland Chinese to Hong Kong residency." South China Morning Post. Thursday 20 June 2013.