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Can You Freelance Or Start Your Own Business Under A Hong Kong Working Holiday Visa?

March 24th, 2024

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


Freelance or Start Your Own Business Under a Hong Kong Working Holiday Visa

The working holiday visa for Hong Kong is designed for certain types of employment activity – but does this include freelance work or starting or your own business?

First Published On April 15, 2013 – Still Relevant



I have recently moved to Hong Kong with my partner (who has an employment visa) and I obtained a working holiday visa for 1 year.

My plan was to get over here and then look for work opportunities and then transfer over to an appropriate visa. I registered my own company in Ireland and it looks like the most work I will do here would be as a freelancer.

Am I able to work as a freelancer on the working holiday visa or do I need to get another visa – say the investment visa?

We do plan to be here a few years.



The working holiday visa for Hong Kong is designed specifically to allow nationals of certain countries, not every country, to come to Hong Kong for a maximum period of twelve months with the primary intention to holiday here. And, as a result of the bilateral arrangements between several countries in Hong Kong, parties who hold a working holiday visa for Hong Kong are able to effectively work for up to four employers in that twelve-month period, and not being able to work for a single employer for more than three months at a time.

Anything more than that is a direct breach of conditions of stay. The programme is really all about sort of cultural exchange if nothing else, and doesn’t anticipate nor provide for holders of such visas to go out and work for themselves, that is ostensibly registering perhaps the sole proprietorship business and then undertaking activities as a freelancer.

Moreover, going to the next step and applying to incorporate a company and then starting to engage in business through that limited liability company is effectively not permitted activity under the working holiday visa.

So whilst you might be able to get away with your sort of plans on the ground as it were, to freelance or to start a business, if your long term intention is to stay in Hong Kong on the strength of the business that you’re planning to undertake it’s really important that you don’t be tempted to start that business whilst you’re a working holiday visa holder, and this is because if at a point of you subsequently making your application for a business investment visa, your activity whilst holding an working holiday visa will be disclosed to the Immigration Department, and they’ll know then that you’ve actively been engaged in activities which are a breach of your conditions of stay and that could lead to the Immigration Department considering a subsequent application less than favourably.

So, yes. If it’s your intention to freelance sort of starting a business, the moment that those intentions crystallise, irrespective of the immigration status you hold presently, you need to make an application for a business investment visa.

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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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