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Expats Working in Hong Kong

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: July 2013

Permission to Work

While it is possible to enter Hong Kong on a free stay and look for work, it is probably not a good idea, as you will need to obtain sponsorship from your potential employers. It is better to apply for an employment visa first. In addition to an application form completed in English or Cantonese, you will need copies of the following documents:

The visa may take four to six weeks to be processed. There are several criteria that it desirable to fulfil in order to make a successful application; the more you fulfil, the better your chances of success will be.

First, many jobs require you to be fluent in Cantonese. Fluency will always help your prospects and get Hong Kong generally; besides, there are not a great number of jobs for non-Cantonese speakers. Second, you will almost certainly be required to have a degree, and it is preferable that this should be at first level. Failing that, a professional specialism or specific skills may suffice. If possible, you should be bringing something new, conferring a special benefit on your fellow employees, such as teaching new skills and sharing experience from other areas. In addition, you may have to prove that the job for which you are applying cannot be done by a Hong Kong citizen. Temporary, unskilled positions in Hong Kong are mostly taken up by locals.

In certain circumstances, you may instead be eligible to apply for a visa under one of the several government employment visa schemes. These are designed to attract immigrants who have know-how and experience, especially in areas in which there are in short supply in Hong Kong. Mainland Chinese who were not educated in Hong Kong may be able to apply under the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals. There were 10,304 visas issued under this scheme in 2012. If you are not from mainland China and have similar qualities, you may be able to apply for the General Employment Policy. Before you can be considered for this scheme, you will need a confirmed offer for a job with a competitive salary, that is, one of around US$40,000. Around 30,000 visas are issued under this scheme per year.

Another scheme is the Immigration Arrangement for Non-Local Graduates. This is for foreign graduates who were educated in Hong Kong and may have subsequently moved away. Within the first six months of your graduation, you will not need a confirmed offer of employment to apply. The initial visa period for this scheme is one year.

Working Conditions

For most expats, working in Hong Kong is exciting, flavourful and educational and provides an excellent experience. Especially in the banking and finance sectors, you will be working in a highly-skilled environment with high pressure and concomitant rewards. Employment conditions are guaranteed by the Employment Ordinance, and employers are legally obliged to take out insurance to provide further sureties for their workers.

In general, working conditions in Hong Kong are at a good standard. However, expats (particularly European ones) might be surprised that certain benefits such as annual leave and maternity leave entitlements are at the lower end. According to the Employment Ordinance, workers in Hong Kong are legally entitled to one rest day per week and a minimum of 7 days of annual leave; this entitlement increases for each year of service, up to a maximum of 14 days. Additionally, there are 12 bank holidays per year.

In case of illness, employees can take sick leave, provided that they have accumulated enough sick days. These are accumulated at the rate of two paid sick days for each completed month of employment in the first year of employment, then at four sick days per month, up to a maximum of 120 days. Employees are entitled to sickness allowance if they are ill for longer than 4 days and can present a medical certificate. Mothers are generally allowed to take 10 weeks paid maternity leave, provided that they have been with the same employer for at least 40 consecutive weeks before the leave period begins.

Salaries vary greatly, depending on the sector, position and region where you work. However, on a positive note, Hong Kong introduced a statutory minimum wage in 2011. In August 2013, the rate for the minimum wage stood at HK$30 per hour. For an overview of average salaries for specific occupations, see the statistics provided by the Census and Statistics Department.

For more information on working conditions in Hong Kong have a look at the Employment Ordinance and simplified information provided on the Labour Department Website under Frequently Asked Questions. For further information about working in Hong Kong, see our Employment and Business articles.




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