This is an important question!
As a matter of fact there are some types of Hong Kong immigration status where the rules are very strict about where you have to be on the day your application is formally submitted.
For example, if you are applying for permanent residency, then you MUST be physically in Hong Kong on the day you file your application.
On the other hand, if you are making an application under the Admission of Mainland Talents and Professionals Ccheme, then you HAVE TO be outside of Hong Kong when you submit your application paperwork to the Hong Kong ID.
But, for the most part, it doesn’t really matter where you are when your application is lodged, at least not from the perspective of approvability or whether the Immigration Department will look MORE or LESS favourably on your case.
If you decide to come to Hong Kong and apply whilst you’re here, there is an advantage if you are a ‘90 day national’. By this I mean, your nationality is granted a 90 day visitor visa upon arrival in Hong Kong (or, if you’re British you even get double this).
You see, as the HKID typically need 7-8 weeks to finalise a residence visa application, the 90 days you get as a visitor will see you through the entire process so it is a relatively easy experience sitting out the time it takes for you to receive the result of your application. No sweat.
On the other hand if you are a 7, 14 or even 30 day national and have filed for your residence visa whilst you find yourself in Hong Kong, the Immigration Department will not grant you any special treatment if you apply to extend your visitor visa whilst you seek to wait out the time to case finalisation.
So, in this case, you’re going to have to do the Shenzhen Shuttle to get a defacto extension to your limit of stay as a visitor – and each time you run the gauntlet of a possible refusal of entry – not a particularly pleasant experience.
No matter what nationality you are or how long the visitor visa permissions you get, if you have applied in Hong Kong, especially if you’re trying to get an employment visa, it is absolutely vital that you stick closely to the conditions of your visitor status. Do not be tempted to start working for your future employer as that will be unlawful if your visa is not yet approved.
There is ‘Catch 22’ though, if you are applying for a business investment visa, which I discuss in detail elsewhere in this Blog (and also in the Hong Kong Visa Handbook) so I recommend you check out those resources too before you make a decision about the best way start your application.
In any event, if your visa is approved, the way you activate your new status is to receive a visa label from the HKID, leave (if you’re here as a visitor – and you can go to Macau or China, it doesn’t matter – the key is to terminate your visitor status as you go) and then enter Hong Kong with your new visa label affixed inside your passport. This will then activate your new visa and start your period of stay as a resident.