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Visas and Passports in Hong Kong

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: July 2013

Since 1997, the Hong Kong has been politically part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC or mainland China). However, Hong Kong has Special Administrative Region (SAR) status, which means that in some ways it is still a separate territory. For example, the territory issues its own passports. Indeed, the PRC has guaranteed autonomy and self-government to Hong Kong until 2047. As a result of this, Hong Kong’s laws and policies are often radically different from those of the PRC, and immigration is certainly an area where this is true.

The first stage of preparing for immigration is to make sure you have the correct entry documents. To enter Hong Kong, you will always need a Hong Kong passport (a Chinese passport will not give you entry) or an equivalent travel document if you are a stateless person or refugee.  Passports and other travel documents must be valid for longer than your planned stay in Hong Kong: at least one month and at least two months longer, respectively.  Depending on the reason for your stay, you may also need to provide various other documents and passport-style photos of yourself to complete the immigration process.

One area in which Hong Kong has a considerably more liberal immigration policy than mainland China is its informal approach to short-term visitors. If you are from one of around 170 of the world’s countries and territories, you are allowed to stay in Hong Kong for a certain period without a visitor visa.  This period varies from 7 to 180 days; in many cases, a 30 or 90 day stay is permitted. To be eligible for this free stay, you must have what the Immigration Department regards as enough money to support yourself.
Note that this free stay is business-friendly. You will be able to perform some light business activities, such as conducting negotiations, signing contracts and attending conferences without violating the terms of your entry into the territory.

The main Hong Kong visas include the common types such as Visitor (this is mostly for nationals who come from countries which do not qualify for a free stay), Transit (to qualify for this visa you must have already bought an onward ticket to a destination other than mainland China or Macao), Working holiday, Study and Dependant. There is also a Training visa, in which you can gain training, which, particularly in areas such as banking and finance, will be from highly knowledgeable trainers. This is a fixed-term visa which is valid for 12 months.

Another important visa type is the Investment visa. This is issued to non-resident entrepreneurs who want to start their own business in Hong Kong. The main requirements for this type of visa are a sound, economically viable business plan, and proof that the business will bring an economic benefit to the territory. The visa lasts for one year, but can be renewed after that. You are free to bring your family with you on this visa, so the Investment visa is a good basis for anyone who wants to settle in Hong Kong.


Hong Kong does not have its own embassies. To apply for a visa, you will first need to visit your country’s nearest Chinese embassy or consulate to obtain the correct application form and complete the rest of the application process. You will need your passport and a passport-sized photo, and various other documents depending on the exact type of visa you are applying for. Once the form is filled in and all the documents are processed, the Chinese embassy will forward your application to the Hong Kong SAR Immigration Department.



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