What is the change? A government audit of the Hong Kong Immigration Department has been released and its recommendations are expected to lead to stricter enforcement of visa applications for foreign professionals, intracompany transferees, foreign graduates and entrepreneurs.

What does the change mean? Companies and foreign applicants should expect stricter adherence to existing guidelines on timely submission of supporting documents, closer scrutiny of their efforts to hire local workers and pay foreign workers market-rate wages, and enhanced verification of the authenticity of documents submitted by nonlocal graduates. Additionally, intracompany transferees will be vetted more carefully on the required one year of previous experience.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing. 
  • Visas/permits affected: Employment visa.
  • Who is affected: Employers and foreign applicants applying under the General Employment Policy (GEP) stream, the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP), the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS) and the Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates (IANG).
  • Impact on processing times: The changes may make processing more efficient, but applicants will be required to submit all documents when they begin their applications.
  • Business impact:E mployers should anticipate tighter rules and procedures for work permit applications and plan to begin the process 60 to 90 days earlier than usual in order to account for document gathering and additional vetting procedures.

Background: The audit was conducted to assess the efficiency of the Immigration Department and to find ways to improve procedures. The department agreed with all recommendations made in the audit report. The key findings and recommendations are:

  • Applications by foreign professionals and nonlocal graduates should be monitored for long processing times.
  • Intracompany transferees should be better vetted for the requisite one year of experience.
  • Immigration officers should consider the availability of local employees and market wages in processing applications by foreign professionals and nonlocal graduates. The Immigration Department should issue guidelines setting out the required procedures.
  • Supporting documents submitted by nonlocal graduates under the IANG stream should undergo stricter verification of their authenticity, and case officers should document the factors considered in assessing IANG applicants’ job qualifications.
  • A talent list from the labor authorities should be incorporated into the QMAS to attract high-quality foreign talent.
  • The investor stream should be monitored for processing times and for breaches of the rules. The processing time for 58 percent of these cases exceeded 90 days.

BAL Analysis: Employers and foreign nationals should anticipate tightening of existing rules, new guidance in some areas and closer scrutiny of work permit applications.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in Hong Kong. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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