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Can I Sponsor Myself For Freelance Work ‘On-the-Side’ Whilst Working For My Current Hong Kong Employment Visa Sponsor?

April 17th, 2024

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


This is joining in a side business albeit in another name…and a solution for certain types of Hong Kong Employment Visa holders thinking about freelancing in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Employment Visa Sponsor



-NZ Passport holder

-Working in Hong Kong for three years with an employer.


I would like to know how I would go about starting a business in Hong Kong. I would like to start a freelance business. I am worried about my visa with this if I sponsor myself.

Should I create my business now, and apply while I am with my current job to be safe?


This question really gives us an opportunity to discuss the possibilities of getting independent visa permissions for “freelance work” and, given the circumstances, as I understand them, the best possible way for you to bring about the outcome that you’re looking for, firstly, the thing to appreciate is that you presently have a Hong Kong employment visa sponsored by a third party employer.

If you wish to leave that employer and then go into business for yourself as a freelancer, as you state it, then you’re going to have to make an application for what’s known as a business investment visa. So you’ll be changing your category from sponsored employment through to business investment, and at that time you’ll have to show to the Immigration Department that you can make a substantial contribution to the economy of Hong Kong. Now, I’ve dealt with the elements of that approvability test elsewhere on the website, just do a search under business investment visas and you’ll find a lot of information about that.

The problem therein lies that you are going to be freelancer, which means it’s a one-man business, and such businesses normally are not in a position to make a substantial contribution to the economy of Hong Kong because there’s only one person ultimately going to be advantaged, that’s you as an individual freelancer.

So, I would urge you to look very hard and carefully at your plans to leave your employment and then go and start out working for yourself and making that application as a freelancer. Because unless you are in a position to create local employment opportunities, have a properly set up office and are particularly well resourced, you may find that the Immigration Department don’t buy into your argument and therefore you may not get the appropriate approval that you’re looking for. So, that really is probably the riskiest part of the proposition, as I understand it.

You can, on the other hand, take another path where you effectively maintain your current employment and, with the written permission of your existing employer, you request the Immigration Department to approve an application from you to join in a side business; and in doing those freelance activities on the side, the Immigration Department will arguably give you the approval that you’re needing. And, as I say, as long as you’ve got the permission of your current employer to be able to do that things should be okay.

So in summary, my best advice would be if you really are going into freelancing, in a sense, abandon the idea of being a self sponsored employee by getting a business investment visa.

I think it’s just probably too hard and possibly beyond your initial expectations of what you want to do commercially and how you go about earning a living and stick with the full time sponsored employment if it’s possible. Therefore, get the permission of your current employment visa sponsor to freelance on the side and then secure a business registration certificate as sole proprietor and then make an application to the Immigration Department for permission to join in the side business with your current sponsoring employer’s consent. That way you will be able to achieve your objectives, and at some stage in the future, you never know, your freelance business might grow to the point where you do need to create local employment opportunities and you are going to need independently a properly set up office and you might have the requisite resources in play, both financial and other commercial resources, to the extent that the time spent as a freelancer on the side could be a proving ground for a bigger application subsequently, where you would be able to pass the approvability test and show that you can make a substantial contribution to the economy of Hong Kong.

I hope you found that useful.

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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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