Hong Kong

If you are considering moving to Hong Kong, there are a number of important things to handle before you leave:

Generally speaking, all foreign residents require a visa or entry permit to work, study, establish a business or to take up residence. If you are not being sponsored by an employer, relocating for work, or moving inter-company, it is wise to have a job offer before moving.

The processing time for a visa application is between 6-8 weeks. Here are the different types of visas available:

Work visas: These are normally granted for the duration of your employment contract, although generally not for more than 2 years.

Investment Visa: These visas are issued to entrepreneurs starting a business in Hong Kong. You will need to provide details about the proposed business activities, capital to be invested, and the jobs it will create.

Dependent Visa: This one is for legal spouses and children (up to the age of 18) of an employment visa holder.

Freelancers’ Visa: This visa is valid for up to 12 months. You will need a sponsor and will have to explain to the Immigration Department what you will be doing in Hong Kong.

Once you get your visa, then you can start seriously thinking about all of the other logistics and steps you must take when relocating to Hong Kong.

1. A Hong Kong identity card:

All Hong Kong residents (including children over 11) require a Hong Kong Identity Card. This card contains a microchip with relevant information and a photograph of the cardholder, and the card must be carried at all times. It will be required to open accounts with banks, utility companies, etc.

2. Bank accounts and credit cards:

Once you have your visa and your Hong Kong ID card in hand, you can open a bank account and get local credit cards. Many people use either HSBC or Hang Seng Bank or other major banks such as Bank of China, Citibank or Standard Chartered Bank in the city.

3. Accommodation:

Finding comfortable accommodation is the next big challenge. Hong Kong is the 3rd most expensive city in Asia after Tokyo and Seoul.

The price of apartments is governed by three major factors: the size of the apartment, how recently it has been renovated (if at all) and the view. There are lots of new buildings, so while there is a very high demand for property, there is no shortage of places. Rent is extremely high, with very little space, as builders cram as many rooms as possible into newer buildings. Opting for a new building may mean a brand new apartment, possibly with great clubhouse facilities, but it will likely be small with cramped rooms.

4. Schools and Admission Processes:

School vacancies for children of overseas employees are at a premium and many schools have long waiting lists. English Schools Foundation (“ESF”) schools were set up for children of foreign residents, with lessons in English. Many expats also send their children to the German-Swiss, American International or French International schools.

5. Bringing your pets:

If you are planning on bringing a pet into Hong Kong, check out the quarantine requirements before arrival with the Agriculture and Fisheries Department.

6. Paying your bills:

Tax, water, electricity and gas bills can all be paid via the Jetco payment terminals at banks or directly to the concerned parties through internet banking or via direct debit.

7. Getting around the city:

Hong Kong’s public transport is modern, clean, cheap and reliable. The MTR (the local subway or underground) runs at very regular intervals. Most people buy an “Octopus” card available in various denominations which can be used on the MTR, buses, trams, ferries and even for purchases in supermarkets or the 7-Eleven. If driving, remember, that they drive on the left side of the street in Hong Kong, as in Britain. Foreign driving license holders can use their licenses for up to 12 months or apply for a local license.

Taxis are everywhere in Hong Kong. They are very cheap by Western standards. Because Hong Kong is small, travelling by taxi is quick and it is very easy to find a taxi.            

8. Nightlife and activities:

The nightlife in Hong Kong is varied. The city boasts a huge variety of restaurants and bars. Every type of cuisine under the sun can be found there. Restaurants range from cheap to extravagant. For those who like to spend the night out simply eating and drinking, the city has plenty to offer, with a variety of bars and restaurants, most of which are open till the morning hours.

If you’re an outdoorsy type of person, then don’t think that Hong Kong has nothing to offer you – there is a lot of outdoor activities to do there. You can enjoy hiking, water sports, and join sports clubs. Despite having the reputation of being a concrete jungle, there are a lot of green spaces; 60 percent of Hong Kong Island is undeveloped and the hills provide exhilarating hikes.

Hong Kong is vibrant, cosmopolitan, exciting and exotic…with a good dose of Western culture thrown in. It is a great destination to relocate to and experience, whether it be for one year or indefinitely.

Written by Einat Mazafi