The Hong Kong Immigration Department (HKID), under the leadership of the Chief Executive, actively reviews immigration policy to better suit the ever-evolving economic development of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. One of the most significant policy changes in 2015 is the suspension of the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme (CIES) effective January 15, 2015. The CIES has been a popular vehicle for residence in Hong Kong since its launch in October 2003 with the objective of facilitating the entry of investors willing to make a substantial passive investment without having to play an active role in a business.
At the end of 2014, 41,802 applications were received and 25,504 applicants have made the requisite investments and were granted formal approval to reside in Hong Kong. Additionally, 2,493 applicants were granted approval-in-principle to enter Hong Kong to make the requisite investments.
In a recent press release, the HKID made clear that when the CIES was first implemented, Hong Kong’s economy was in recession and new capital was required to stimulate economic growth. However, attracting capital investment entrants is no longer a priority for the Hong Kong government in view of the latest economic situation in Hong Kong, and the focus is now on attracting and retaining talent, professionals, and innovative entrepreneurs to contribute to Hong Kong’s economy.
The HKID has announced that it will introduce a series of measures in the second quarter of 2015, including a pilot “Admission Scheme for the Second Generation of Chinese Hong Kong Permanent Residents” (ASSG), to attract second-generation Chinese Hong Kong permanent residents from overseas to return to Hong Kong. In this scheme, the applicants are not required to have an offer of employment in Hong Kong upon application and will be granted an initial stay of one year without other conditions. The applicants may then apply for extensions of stay if they have secured offers of employment at a level common for degree holders and with a remuneration package at market level.
Other measures include relaxing the duration-of-stay pattern under various visa schemes, including the General Employment Policy (GEP), the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talent and Professionals (ASMTP), and the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS). Entrants admitted under the GEP, the ASMTP, and the QMAS under the General Point Test (GPT), will be relaxed from the current initial stay of one year to two years, and the extension pattern will be changed from the current “two-two-three” year pattern to the “three-three” year pattern.
Additionally, top-tier entrants under these immigration schemes, subject to fulfilling specified criteria, which include having worked or resided in Hong Kong under the respective schemes for at least two years, and having an assessable income for salary tax above a certain level in Hong Kong (not less than HK $2 million or approximately US $250,000), may be granted a six-year extension on time limitation only without other conditions of stay upon application for the first extension. Those successful QMAS entrants under the Achievement-Based Point Test (APT) will be granted upon entry eight years of stay on time limitation only without other conditions of stay. The HKID will also enhance the scoring scheme of the GPT to attract more talent with outstanding academic backgrounds and international work experience to work in Hong Kong.
The immigration policy in Hong Kong remains open and flexible to highly skilled people and responsive to the labor needs of businesses, to ensure that Hong Kong remains a unique “world city” while gradually being reintegrated with the mainland.