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Can I Come to Install Equipment in Hong Kong Without an Employment Visa?

January 7th, 2023

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


First Published February 4, 2019

Permitted activity under the Visitor visa category seems to be something of a grey area and in the final analysis it all boils down to the attitude of the Immigration Department for a breach of conditions of stay. However, some activities are self-evidently ‘employment‘ in nature and the answer to this questions addresses it squarely.



I work for a German company involved in the pharmaceuticals industry and I am traveling to Hong Kong for work related reasons (installing equipment) and wondering if I require a work visa?

Every place I look, it says ‘to take up employment’. If I work for a German company, do I need a visa to do business with another company there? Such as have a meeting? I will only be there for one week.”


This is a commonly asked question in actual fact because there seems to be something of a gray area between what is permitted activity and non-permitted activity under the visitor visa.

The law works in effect that if you come into Hong Kong to take up or join in any employment whether being paid or unpaid you need to secure the consent of the director of immigration in advance and that translates itself into an employment visa application.

And in my experience if for example, you were to present yourself at the airport seeking admission as a visitor and you told the officer that you were coming to “install equipment”, I believe the immigration officer will take you to task for that and quite possibly deny you entry on the basis that you didn’t have the requisite immigration permissions to engage in that activity.

There is a world of difference, however, between being compliant at law and non-compliant but being practically able to get away with things. A, because it’s a very short-term deployment and B, you may well be sort of hidden away in the depths of some commercial building somewhere out of sight of prying eyes and being practically able to sort of get on with the things that you need to do in order to discharge your duties as they were but none of that will of course would alleviate the issue of you having the incorrect immigration status to do that.

So under the visitor visa, engaging in business meetings or speaking at conferences and making sales calls, concluding contracts, fact-finding missions, participating in product orientation, all of this is primitive activity but in my experience if you are discharging your employment duties in Hong Kong for your overseas employer and then an employment visa will be needed and it seems to me that this joint discharging your employment duties in this situation will definitely cover installing equipment.

So that’s the bad news. The good news is that such visas are readily available and quite quickly issued. Of course, it’s still a process to be followed but in my experience installing equipment for sure requires an employment visa if you are to be compliant.


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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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