What is the change? Hong Kong has launched a three-year pilot program to attract international technology talent to companies operating in the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park or Cyberport in the fields of biotechnology, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, robotics, data analytics, financial technologies and material science.

What does the change mean? Eligible companies will receive streamlined employment visas to fill roles in short supply, but they must also fulfill certain ratios of local employees.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate.
  • Visas/permits affected: Employment visas under the Tech Talent Admission Scheme (TechTAS) pilot program.
  • Who is affected: Eligible tech companies operating in the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park or Cyberport.
  • Impact on processing times: The streamlined processing time is two weeks for issuance of the visa after eligibility to qualify for the scheme has been established and a quota allotment is allocated to eligible scheme participants.
  • Business impact: Companies must first apply for a quota position and demonstrate that they are recruiting talent that is in short supply, as well as meet local hiring ratios. Additionally, the program may have limited impact during the pilot phase because it is only available to tech companies operating out of Cyberport or the Science and Technology Park.

Background: The visas will be available to up to 1,000 foreign nationals or mainland Chinese in the first year of the pilot program. Eligible companies must apply for a quota at which time it must demonstrate “genuine difficulties” in recruiting for the role locally or, alternatively, advertise locally for the position. The employer must also agree to employ one full-time local employee and two interns for every three foreign employees admitted under TechTAS.

The main benefits of the TechTAS is its fast-tracked application processing. Once a company demonstrates at the quota application stage that the talent is in short supply locally, it does not need to prove it again with every visa application. The estimated processing time is two weeks from the time an application is submitted for an employment visa/entry permit. Spouses and children may follow the primary applicant as dependents.

BAL Analysis: The TechTAS program offers a fast-track alternative for eligible companies in the designated fields, but also imposes limitation such as the quotas. Compared with other visa routes, the General Employment Policy applications typically take four to six weeks and the Immigration Department generally recognizes that tech skills are in short supply locally. The Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals, however, has a higher burden for employers to prove a shortage of local tech skills, so the TechTAS program may benefit Chinese tech talent compared with other nationalities.

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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