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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Where is the Immigration Office in Hong Kong?
It’s in Wan Chai on Hong Kong Island and is called Immigration Tower.
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:
You can’t miss it in fact – it is written in Chinese and English.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.