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Do You Need a Visa to Operate a Business in Hong Kong if You Are Not Yet Resident Here?

December 13th, 2017

Posted in Employment Visas, Investment Visas, The Hong Kong Visa Geeza, Your Question Answered /


Great question today with a simple answer and an opportunity to shed some more light on the Catch 22 and  your ‘intention to reside’…SMALL-keep-calm-and-ask-the-visa-geeza


Who we are: We are a UK pharmaceutical wholesale distributor in business for 15 years, currently selling into Hong Kong. 

Objective: To establish an office and register 3 pharmaceutical products with the Department of Health  for distribution in Hong Kong, and eventually, other Asian countries.

Current plan: The registration process takes 12-18 months, and during that time, we intend to establish a virtual office (assigning a local representative), until the time approaches when the product registration has been completed and approved. We will also have the support from a local pharmaceutical wholesale distributor for the registration process. 

Our business plan would eventually add local jobs, and would fully rely on local vendors.  As a matter of fact, we are looking into the possibility of handling all imports, after successful registration, through local vendors/distributors to avoid the overhead of a receiving facility for a while, using Hong Kong as a jurisdiction/launching pad, until sales build up enough to open our own receiving center. 

Upon the time that it becomes essential for us to personally oversee the Hong Kong business, we (UK nationals) would relocate there, and of course establish a permanent office space.

Question: It seems like passing the business investment approvability test should be at the forefront of our business plans in order to conscientiously “build our case”.  You mention that it’s best to have an application in the system from the onset (empower the HKID to take an early view), in order to protect yourself from the risk of prosecution. 

When you say from the onset, does that refer to the date when you incorporate your company, from the date that you launch your business in Hong Kong (actual sales), or from the date you intend on taking residence in Hong Kong? 

I am confused on this matter because it is my understanding that HKID frowns on applications for investment visas that are submitted after all is moving forward (Catch 22).

If the answer is from the date you incorporate your company, how do they expect your buisiness to show any strength or growth if you aren’t yet authorised to sell?

Does the strategy of a virtual office (running it from the UK with occasional visits to HK), establishing firm lines of business, and employing a few people to assist with sales and customer service, strengthen your application, or does that place you at risk for prosecution from the HKID?

You also mention the need to provide capital and living expenses at the time of application.  For how long is that money inaccessible?  Does the business plan, and current standing of your business determine the amount of the deposit they require?

Thank you for your advice.

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The Hong Kong Visa Geeza (a.k.a Stephen Barnes) is a co-founder of the Hong Kong Visa Centre and author of the Hong Kong Visa Handbook. A law graduate of the London School of Economics, Stephen has been practicing Hong Kong immigration since 1993 and is widely acknowledged as the leading authority on business immigration matters here for the last 24 years.

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