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Can You Study In Hong Kong If You Only Possess A Visitor Visa Here?

April 16th, 2024

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


What kind of activity is permitted if you are in Hong Kong on a Visitor visa? Does this include informal study?

Can You Study in Hong Kong If You Only Possess a Visitor Visa Here


My wife and I are spending some time here in Hong Kong.

We do not work here and we do not intend to.

We just enjoy living here, enjoying the city.

We have sufficient savings to support ourselves financially. So yes, we are both here on a Visitor visa.

My wife would be interested in studying English to keep herself busy and improve upon her English.

She contacted the British Council but was informed she could not enrol because she did not have a Hong Kong ID card or a study visa.

Do you have any advice on how to proceed?

Applying for a study visa could be an option, but it will probably be too long before it is granted – if it is granted at all.

Thanks for any insight you can offer us.


As a general rule, it is not permitted activity to remain in Hong Kong as a visitor visa holder if it is your intention to study here. Therefore, you need to make an application for student visa, and there are essentially two tracks for the grant of the student visa: there is a track which is followed when you intend to follow a course of study in a university that will lead to a degree qualification, and then there’s a course of study for less formal study that doesn’t result in a formal degree and, in fact, can be offered by other properly incorporated and established learning institutes in Hong Kong that are not full blown tertiary education institutes, and many of the English schools and other language schools around town are very familiar with the process of proceeding with the grant of a student visa in support of actually what is representative of economic activity in Hong Kong. The Immigration Department will try to avail permissions for people to enrol in those less formal courses of study and will lead to the grant of a three or a six or possibly even a nine-month period of stay, depending on the nature of the programme and how the party that is offering the study programme is received or acknowledged by the Immigration Department as being properly empowered and orchestrated and constituted to support foreign nationals in their applications for student visas to participate in their programmes.

These student visas take 4-6 weeks to finalise and whilst I appreciate the British Council haven’t played ball with you this far, that’s more than likely because of the, in a sense, British government mandated-orientation of the British Council. But if you look around Hong Kong and find other properly established language institutes, you may find that they have all the expertise and indeed experience to assist you secure a study visa for your wife while she’s in Hong Kong.

I wouldn’t give up on the idea of a student visa just because the British council have taken one orientation towards you. Shop around, have a look, see what’s going on elsewhere and anticipate that there’s a very good chance that your wife will be able to get a student visa so that she can engage in her studies of English while she’s in Hong Kong and while you remain with her as a visitor.

Okay, 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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