How to Get a Hong Kong Working Visa

hong kong working visa

A Guide to getting a Working Visa for Hong Kong.

It’s time for some more of my expert visa advice on DSL as I cover my guide on how to get a Hong Kong Working Visa. I wrote before about how I originally came to Hong Kong as a backpacker, ended up with a cool job in a pub after a few days – I had already secured a working holiday visa. Things developed further for me after that and I ended up liking Hong Kong so much I have made it my base for the last three years or so. As well as just being on a tourist visa a few times I have also twice gone through a successful Hong Kong working visa application. I thought it was about time a budget cheapskate backpacker told it how it is. Here’s my easy guide to getting a Hong Kong Working Visa.

How to get a Hong Kong Working Visa.

How to get a Hong Kong Working Visa.

Transition from a Working Holiday Visa to a Working Visa.
While on my working holiday visa in Hong Kong I worked in a pub and in schools. It was by signing the job contract with the schools that I was eventually able to upgrade to a full Hong Kong Working Visa. What you need to do to get a Hong Kong Working Visa is to have a guaranteed job contract for a year. Once you have a job contract, you can apply for your official Working Visa. Just after my Working Holiday Visa ran out, I applied for my Working Visa. The timeline for me was something like:
– activated my Hong Kong Working Holiday Visa in May 2011 (valid for 1 year)
– left Hong Kong in April 2012 on that visa and came back in on a tourist visa (valid for 3 months)
– signed a full time job contract in June 2012 (for 1 year)
– activated my Hong Kong Working Visa in August 2012 (valid for 1 year)
– left Hong Kong in August 2013 on that visa and returned 5 times on a tourist visa before getting another Working Visa in March 2014 (valid for 1 year)
(during the past three years while being “based in Hong Kong” I have still managed to travel for around 4-6 months each year, to 35 countries across 4 continents as well as working full time, backpacking, travel blogging and coming in and out of the country 30+ times as my travel timeline shows).

hong kong island backpacker

Backpacking in Hong Kong on my first day after activating my Working Holiday Visa in 2011.

Making the Hong Kong Working Visa application.

OK so once you have a guaranteed job and signed a contract you will need to apply for your visa. On the first time I applied for my Hong Kong Working Visa I was still covered in Hong Kong with my Working Holiday Visa. On the second time I was merely on a tourist visa. Both are totally fine. The application should be done in Hong Kong and in person (yes it is possible to get someone else to fill in the forms for you and drop them in and later collect the visa – but you need to sign it.) I like doing everything myself, so I did.

hk working visa

With all my forms ready to hand in for my Hong Kong Working Visa.

To apply for the HK Working Visa you need to first fill in the application form for the Working Visa. You can ask your employer for this, you can pick up a copy from the Immigration Tower in Wan Chai or you can print it from the internet, it’s available on the main Hong Kong Immigration site. I just got it from my employer – your employer can also tell you the beset way to fill in the form as they will be used to having employees doing them.

hong kong working visas

Filling in the form for my Working Visa for Hong Kong.

Filling in the Application Form

If you’ve done visas before, the application form will be no problem to you. You just put your personal details, some employment and education history and sign and date it. The application form is written in Chinese and English and is four pages and you must write in English, neatly and legibly in the box. English is the most common language that you fill it in with, given the amount of ex-Pats that legally apply to work in Hong Kong. Locals don’t need to apply of course, although there are a load of mainland China applicants.

– You also need to attach a passport sized photo of yourself

hk working visa

The application form for the Hong Kong Working Visa.

Supporting Documents

This is the bit where it gets tricky and time consuming, but your employer can help. In my experience it is best to send them copies or originals of as many different supporting documents as you can. This means colour or black and white photocopies of payslips, your Hong Kong ID card if you have one, University degrees, any relevant qualifications, bank statements, a letter from your company, a job contract. Bombard them with so many documents they will know you want the visa and know you have proof you want to work hard in Hong Kong.

Bombard them with lots of documents.

Bombard them with lots of documents.

I also sent a cover letter via by employer basically saying, please find attached documents and application form for the HK Working Visa. At the end of the day they issue a visa for you to remain and work in their country for a year, so they need to trust you. Give them that trust.

The list of supporting documents with my Hong Kong Working Visa application.

The list of supporting documents with my Hong Kong Working Visa application.

You also need a letter from your employer that proves they are a business – you should ask your employer to make sure they provide you with everything you need from their side to go along with the application. Your employer has a duty to do this anyway.

How to Apply for the Hong Kong Working Visa

There are two ways to apply:
1. By posting your completed application (realistically this could also be done from abroad)
2. By calling into the actual office and submitting your application in person
(it’s actually probably cheaper to call in in person – a bus/MTR to Wan Chai from most parts of Hong Kong is cheaper than posting an A4 size envelope). I called in both times.

The opening hours of the Immigration Tower in Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

The opening hours of the Immigration Tower in Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

Where is the Immigration Office in Hong Kong?

It’s in Wan Chai on Hong Kong Island and is called Immigration Tower.

Wan Chai, Hong Kong - this is where Immigration Tower is.

Wan Chai, Hong Kong – this is where Immigration Tower is.

The transport system in Hong Kong is easy to negotiate. Either use the MTR, a mini-bus, a tram or a bus. Get to Wanchai and head to the seafront across the big bridge on Gloucester Road. You can also get there by ferry. Here’s a map for you:

wan chai hong kong immigration tower

Immigration Tower in Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

You can’t miss it in fact – it is written in Chinese and English.

Immigration Tower, Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

Immigration Tower, Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

Once you get to the Immigration Tower in Wan Chai, things can get confusing. You can go to a reception on the second floor and ask them where you should submit your application. If you are simply dropping your application in, this can be done at a desk on the second floor.

immigration tower wan chai hong kong

The floors at Immigration Tower, Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

Once you have submitted your application, you have to wait a few weeks until they process it. If you are running out of visa time, just head across to Macau or China for a day to re-stamp your entry back into Hong Kong.

Opening Hours of Immigration Tower, Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Hong Kong as a business hub follows the rest of the world for opening hours. It’s generally a Monday – Friday daytime culture. It’s open 8.45am – 5pm weekdays. Closed on Saturdays and Sundays. However on Saturday mornings, it is open for handing in applications, but not for issuing visas.

After that it’s a waiting game.

My Working Visa for Hong Kong.

My Working Visa for Hong Kong.

How much does the Hong Kong Working Visa Cost?

The current price as of April 2014 is 160Hong Kong Dollars, very reasonable. That’s about $20 US Dollars!

Collecting the Hong Kong Working Visa

After applying you then face a wait until you have to collect your visa. The good thing about Hong Kong is, that most tourists get a 90 day stay so you’ll be covered. If you’re not – head on a ferry to China or Macau and re-enter Hong Kong while you’re waiting.

The letter for collecting the Hong Kong Working Visa.

The letter for collecting the Hong Kong Working Visa.

You will receive an e-mail or fax confirmation if the visa is approved. In most cases, this is sent to your employer first. Both times I applied, the process took around 3 weeks. Hong Kong falls into the China system of being notoriously slow at these things. Different departments, passing bucks, more forms than you’ll ever need etc. Once it is confirmed, print out the confirmation letter and head with your valid ID and payment to the Immigration Office (the same one in Wan Chai – everything with regards Working Visas is handled in this place).

Immigration Tower, Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

Immigration Tower, Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

When you collect your Hong Kong Working Visa you need to head up on a lift to the 24th Floor instead of the lower floors. It’s a separate lift for this.

hong kong working visa

Head up to the 24th Floor to collect the visa.

What will you need in order to collect your Hong Kong Working Visa?

Make sure you have these on you:

1. Your passport. The one that you will use for the HKWV.
2. The payment. It varies but is currently 160 HKD. Payment in cash.
3. Your entry ticket to Hong Kong. This is a square white piece of paper that you got on immigration when you arrived in Hong Kong.
4. The confirmation letter.

Those four things were all I needed, BUT I brought photos and all the previous documents with me just in case, as I like to be prepared.

hk working visa

The counter for collecting the Hong Kong Working Visa on the 24th Floor of Immigration Tower.

After making the payment at one of the booths, and a short wait, you will be called up to collect the Visa. You sign for it and get a receipt and that’s it! Congratulations – you have a one year Hong Kong Working Visa.

The 24th Floor in Immigration Tower, Wan Chai where you collect the visa.

The 24th Floor in Immigration Tower, Wan Chai where you collect the visa.

Activating the Hong Kong Working Visa

To activate the Hong Kong Working Visa, you need to leave Hong Kong on your tourist visa (or current visa) and re-enter the country. If you’re pushed for time, hop on the ferry to Macao and back on the same day, or get a mainland China Visa and cross the border into Shenzhen.

how to get a hong kong working visa

My Working Visa for Hong Kong – head over to Shenzhen or Macau and back to activate it.

On arrival back into Hong Kong you just place the visa into your passport and show it to immigration. You’ll be stamped entry and the visa will last for one year. It’s a multiple entry visa so you can come and go as you wish during that year. If you end your job contract, the visa will also be cancelled, although not every company will do this. Please note that on both occasions I applied for the ONE YEAR Working Visa and therefore have explained here how to get it. I have not applied for a two year working visa before, so am not aware of the procedures for that – it could be different.

I highly recommend trying to live in Hong Kong for at least a year – it’s a great city to be in, always something going on!

Good luck and safe travels.

Join 15,017 Monthly Readers! If you enjoyed this article and LOVE travel and SAVING money, get e-mail updates from Don’t Stop Living – a lifestyle of travel! (It’s Free) 😉 Jonny

31 thoughts on “How to Get a Hong Kong Working Visa

  • Hi hi, thanks for your comment. This is for foreigners – foreigners need a valid working visa (or working holiday visa) as well as a HKID card to start employment. Locals don’t need a permit as they are permanent Hong Kong residents. Safe travels. Jonny

  • hi jonny,

    Thank you for your website,

    It’s very useful,

    I just have one question,

    Did you need after the end of your working holiday to go back to Ireland or you just go and back to HK almost right away and then get a tourist visa ?

  • Hi Eric, I certainly didn’t go back to Ireland lol – I’m a full time traveller, when the visa ends you can go wherever you want! I ended up going into China overland and I toured Laos and Cambodia too and then headed back into Hong Kong as a tourist again. I later got another Working Visa for Hong Kong (which I reactivated after leaving to Vietnam/China and back). It would be my advice that once you leave Ireland, you stay out exploring the world while you can, hope this makes sense and best wishes. Jonny

  • Thank you jonny for your quick answer, it’s very useful.

    And again, thank you for this website, it’s very well done!

  • Hi,
    Is it possible to apply for a Hong Kong Work Visa while abroad? It seems like a big gamble to quit a job, book a flight to Hong Kong and do the application there especially if one can be denied. I imagine finding an apartment to rent when technically the immigrant would be un-employed would be a difficult task as well.
    Thanks!

  • Hi Amanda, When I applied it was ONLY possible to apply for the Working Holiday Visa while abroad, you can read all about that here: http://dontstopliving.net/how-to-get-a-hong-kong-working-holiday-visa/. I was in Australia and applied for mine then I flew to Hong Kong and got a job within 2 days – there are always bar jobs in Hong Kong going, trust me.

    However the Working Visa is different, the one in this article is not a working holiday, so I did mine in person as at the time I was still on the Working Holiday Visa and it was easy to visit the office in Hong Kong and get the working visa confirmed.

    Safe travels and good luck. Jonny

  • Hi,

    I just got my working visa sent from my HK employer.
    I peel it off and stick it in my passport already.

    Upon arriving at HK airport, besides that visa sticker, do we need to show the letter that came with it? I threw it away but I’m about to travel in less than 24 hours!

    Thanks&Regards
    S.

  • Hi Swatakit, I only had a visa inside my passport when I first moved to Hong Kong. There was a simple stamp on entry and I didn’t have to show any letters. I arrived by flight. It might be different if you go by boat or overland. Safe travels. Jonny

  • Hi Jonny,

    This site answers some of my queries.

    I just have a few questions.

    I was hired by an agency in HK and I’m still waiting for the HKWV. Questions are:
    1 -Do they need my original passport? As it was indicated in this blog when collecting the visa.
    2 – Entry ticket to HK. What does it look like?

    Adding to the information, I’m living outside HK.

    Thank you & Regards,
    Aeo
    Aeo recently posted…Backpacking in Belarus: Top 5 Sights in BobruiskMy Profile

  • Hi Aeo, Thanks for the comment. I can only answer on what I did 5 years ago:
    1. Yes they need the original passport – copies will not do, at least not 5 years ago when I applied. It may have changed since then.
    2. It is the visa photo I showed in the article from my passport, it takes up just half a passport page.

    Safe travels to Hong Kong. Jonny

  • It’s crazy to me how you first went to Hong Kong as just a backpacker! I would love to get a working visa and go! Thanks for sharing your experience with us! I’m going to try and do what you did and make a living in Hong Kong!

  • Hi Westly thanks for the e-mail. Yes I just randomly got a job in my first few days there, though really there are so so many non-Chinese also doing that, so neither of us are alone. Safe travels and enjoy the Kong. Jonny

  • Hi Jonny,

    Thanks for sharing all your experience with us!

    I am from Austria but I did my BA and MA in the UK and have been living in English-speaking environments for the last 10 years. I also have a TEFL certificate and more than 4 years experience in ELS teaching.

    So I have come across the problem that in many countries in Asia you actually have to hold a passport from an English-speaking country to teach English. You mentioned in your blog that you worked with teachers from other countries in HK. Do you have any advise on certain institutes where I have a chance of employment? And how far in advance should I start applying if I want to start working in January/February with already a job and visa lined up?

    Thanks for your help!
    Eva

  • Hi Eva, As usual the best option is to get over there first and you’ll get a job no problem. I rarely heard of someone getting a job in advance, especially not for the Kong. I worked with Polish, Peruvian and French people who taught English as well as Spanish, French and Polish. Teaching German is also an option for you, but English is most sought after. Get to Hong Kong first and prove your desire and passion and belief and you’ll easily get a job! Safe travels. Jonny

  • Hey Jonny! I just read your posts and comments and I noticed you said that you worked with Polish people who were teaching English and Polish. Any chance you can tell me where? I’m in fact from Poland and I’m trying to find a job in HK with no success so far. I would never expect that they would want to learn Polish in HK, that’s why it would help me a lot if you told me where was it that they needed it 🙂 Also, being non native English speaker and with no English certificates, is it actually possible to find a teaching job? I’m working in company in Dubai atm, so English is the only language I use, and I did two semesters abroad (one in Ireland – Trinity College, you know it probably :D), but I’m thinking this might not be enough for them to hire me.

    Thanks in advance for replying ;))

  • Hi Kasia, thanks for the comment and apologies for late reply. I don’t work at Don’t Stop Living any more sadly and only log in once or twice a month. i think we have been connected on Facebook since and hope you enjoy a safe and easy trip to Hong Kong. For sure the best way to get a job is to go there first. Safe travels. Jonny

  • Hey Buddy,

    Its been great to share such post.I really appreciate your content.Work visas in Hong Kong are increasingly difficult to obtain, with most jobs once done by western expatriates now filled by local professionals or mainland immigrants. Don’t let that put you off, Hong Kong is still a major base for expat employment, you just need to do your research first.Before you can apply for a Hong Kong work visa, you need to obtain an offer of work from a company in Hong Kong. This, ideally, should be done before you move to Hong Kong. This however, is not always practical and while the Hong Kong.

    keep sharing
    Have a great day

  • Hi Clay, thanks for the comment and apologies for the delay – I have had depression and just answering these all now. Yes, I had fun in Hong Kong – a great base for a budget backpacker who wants to see all of Asia and still earn money. Safe travels. Jonny

  • Hey, thanks for all the information. I want to ask, because I have a working visa and I plan to go to Macau this sunday, do I have to stick it to my passport before reentering hongkong or just let the immigration official do it?

  • Hi Angelo, Sadly I can’t really help with that one as I was there about 5 years ago and am not sure how it works now. I remember having the visa on a page in my passport and they activated it on arrival for me. Best wishes and safe travels. Jonny

  • Hi Jonny! Could I ask if you know how strict the immigration department is with photos? Mine fit all of the requirements except that the background colour is light grey rather than white. Will it be an issue?

    Have a great day and thanks in advance!

  • Hi Anna, thanks for the comment. It was not strict at all with me, but this was in 2011, so things may have changed since then. Safe travels. Jonny

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