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Hong Kong | Enhanced Supplementary Labour Scheme | Synposis | November 2023

November 5th, 2023

Posted in Musing, Special Programmes, The Hong Kong Visa Geeza /


Everything You Need to Know About the Hong Kong Supplementary Labour Scheme in 2023

Supplementary Labour Scheme

Are You an Employer Carrying On Businesses in Hong Kong with Genuine Difficulties in Finding Suitable Staff Locally?


The Supplementary Labour Scheme (SLS) commenced operation on 1 February 1996, and was enhanced on 13 June 2023 in order to alleviate the manpower shortage across different sectors. To reflect its enhanced features, SLS is renamed as the Enhanced Supplementary Labour Scheme (ESLS).


ESLS is a scheme that allows employers carrying on businesses in Hong Kong with genuine difficulties in finding suitable staff locally to import workers at technician level or below. There are no industry-specific quotas under the ESLS. However, to ensure the priority of local workers in employment, and to safeguard their salaries and benefits, employers must accord priority to fill available job vacancies with local workers and take active efforts to train local workers for the vacancies.


These workers are normally allowed to stay for an initial period of 24 months or the full term of the employment contract, whichever is shorter. They are required to return to their places of origin on completion of their employment contracts which are valid for a maximum period of 2 years. If the contract is prematurely terminated, the imported worker is permitted to remain in the HKSAR only for two weeks from the date of termination of contract or for the balance of permitted stay, whichever is the shorter period.


All interested employers may apply under the ESLS to import workers to fill vacancies which they have genuine difficulties in finding suitable staff locally. Applications will however not normally be considered if the vacancies fall within the job categories listed below: (current as at October 2023)

Sales Representative Presser
Sales Assistant Hair  Stylist
Waiter/Waitress Warehouse Keeper
Receptionist Cutter
Cashier Cutting Room Operative
Junior Cook Inspection Operative
Food Processing Worker Delivery Worker
Clerical Worker Driver
Teller Demolition Worker
Computer/Key Punch Operator Mason
Telephone Operator Spray Paint Worker
Linen Attendant Drain Layer
Washer Leakage Worker


Imported workers admitted under this arrangement are NOT allowed to bring in their dependants. This entry arrangement does NOT apply to nationals of Afghanistan, Laos, Vietnam, Nepal, Cuba and North Korea.


Stage ONE Application – (to Labour Department):

Employers intending to import workers under the ESLS need to first submit the completed application form (Form ESLS-1) together with the required documents and apply to the ESLS Application Office of the Labour Department for approval-in-principle.

The wages offered by the applicants should attain at least the median monthly wages.

The Application Office will inform the applicants within one week whether the wages offered are at or above the median wage level, and whether the stipulated requirements of the vacancies are acceptable. As the statutory minimum wage became effective on 1 May 2023, the amount of wages offered must be in compliance with the statutory minimum wage requirements.

Employers whose applications are accepted for further processing must undergo a four-week local recruitment exercise. During the period, employers should advertise the vacancies at least once in a week in each of the two local newspapers in the first two weeks. Concurrently, the Labour Department will also provide active job matching for the vacancies to identify suitable local job-seekers for referral to the employers for interview. If necessary, employers will be asked to organize training programmes with the assistance of the Employees Retraining Board for local workers.

At the end of the recruitment period, employers have to provide information on local recruitment efforts (Form ESLS-9) to the Application Office. Employers who have undergone recruitment procedures before submitting applications may provide information on local recruitment for consideration of early approval by the Labour Advisory Board.

In the course of application processing, Labour Inspectors of the Labour Department will visit the employer’s office premises and inspect the intended workplace(s) of the imported worker(s) to verify the information supplied by the employers concerned.

The Application Office will assess the employer’s request and make a recommendation to the Labour Advisory Board comprising an equal number of employer and employee representatives.

Upon the advice of the Board, the Government will consider whether to approve or refuse each application. All applications will be considered on their own merits, such as the genuine need for importation of labour, the size of the local workforce, activeness in business and the financial situation of the employers.

Stage TWO Application- (to Immigration Department)

Upon approval, employers may apply, within three months from the date of issue of the approval-in-principle letter, to the Immigration Department of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (Immigration Department) which will process the visa/entry permit application of the prospective imported worker.

The approval-in-principle will automatically lapse if the visa/entry permit application is not submitted on time.

Online applications for entry for employment under the ESLS in Hong Kong can be submitted here.

Completed application forms, i.e. ID 1001A and ID 1001B, and all supporting documents should be submitted by the applicant by post directly or through the employer in the HKSAR to the Immigration Department for consideration.

The employer may also be invited to provide additional information or to attend an interview. Decisions on individual applications will be conveyed to the imported worker through the employer.

Processing Time

It will normally take 6 weeks for the Immigration Department to process a visa/entry permit application for employment as an imported worker upon receipt of all the required documents, where the grant of approval-in-principle by the Labour Department with a full four weeks local recruitment exercise involved takes around 5 weeks.

Employer Obligations

Copy of employment contract

The employer must give the imported worker, free of charge, one of the four original copies of the employment contract.

Briefing session

The employer must grant leave to the imported worker to attend briefings organised by the Labour Department within eight weeks of his/her arrival.

Accommodation and meals

Employers will be requested to arrange the accommodation for inspection by the Labour Inspectors of the Labour Department during the stay of the imported workers. The maximum amount of deduction for the provision of accommodation is 10% of the worker’s normal wages, or the actual cost of accommodation, whichever is less.

Employers are not obliged to provide meals to imported workers but if they do, it must be free of charge and no deduction from wages may be made for the provision of meals.

Free medical care

The employer must provide free medical care, including hospital stay and urgent dental treatment to the imported worker if he/she suffers from illness or injury, no matter whether it is attributable to the employment or not.

Passage and visa/entry permit fee

Expenses for passage to and from Hong Kong on commencement and termination or expiry of the contract, visa/entry permit fees and subsequent extension fees should be paid by the employer.

Termination of contract prior to its expiry

The employer or the imported worker may terminate the employment contract prior to its expiry by giving to the other party notice in writing or wages in lieu of notice as stipulated in the employment contract. The employer shall notify both Labour Department and Immigration Department upon termination of employment.

No displacement of local workers by imported workers

The employer shall not displace local workers with imported workers. In the event of redundancies, imported workers should be the first to be retrenched.


Successful employers are required to pay a non-refundable levy that goes to the Employees Retraining Board to augment the provision of training or retraining for local workers who are vulnerable in the economic restructuring process to changing their employment. The levy payable in a lump sum for each imported worker is HK$400 multiplied by the number of months covered by the employment contract up to a maximum of 24 months.

Withdrawal of Approval

(a) Employers who breach the Laws of Hong Kong will be liable to prosecution.

(b) Administrative sanction in the form of withdrawal of approval for importation of labour will be taken against an employer found to have breached any statutory provision, any provision of the employment contract or any condition of the labour importation schemes, including the Enhanced Supplementary Labour Scheme.

Useful Resource 1 How to Apply Under ESLS
Useful Resource 2 Documents Checklist
Useful Resource 3 Online Application Under ESLS


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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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