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Does Choosing Not To Pay Yourself A Salary Mean It’s OK To Run A Business In Hong Kong Without Getting An Investment Visa First?

April 20th, 2024

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


There appears to be a misconception among foreign nationals that you can be living here and it be OK to run a business in Hong Kong without getting an investment visa just so long as you don’t pay yourself a salary…

Run a Business in Hong Kong Without Getting an Investment Visa


I currently hold a working visa which is still valid for almost 2 more years.

My contract has now been terminated and I would like to set up a limited liability company in order to do some freelance work.

Can I set up the company and send invoices to my customer even if I am on the old visa?

I do not need to pay myself salary at the moment, so can I wait to apply for a new visa until then?

So I would not be working for my company but my company would already get money without having an employee.

Thanks for your feedback


When you receive an employment visa, you receive two privileges: you get the privilege to work for the sponsoring employer and that employer only, and you get the privilege to reside. When you stop working for your existing sponsoring employer, your privileges to work cease, but your privilege to reside continues until your current limited stay expires, which in.

Your case is another two years from now. So the fact that you’ve got your privilege to work having ceased effectively means that you can’t take up employment for any other party, including yourself, paid or unpaid, without the permission of the director of immigration. So it really doesn’t matter that you are planning to go into business for yourself on the strength of your existing employment visa, and that you’ve decided that you don’t need to pay yourself until such a time as you think that you’ll be ready to make an application for your investment visa; as I’ve stated, the law is clear: you’re in Hong Kong today in order to do the work for your current sponsoring employer, and you’re not permitted to do anything else for anybody else, including yourself, without first getting the director’s permission.

My advice to you is to make an application for an investment visa seeking to change your category from sponsored employment through to business investment. And don’t be, in a sense, persuaded by a logic that says – well, if I’m not paying myself, then I’m not working from anybody; the truth is, it’s the action that the Immigration Department are interested in, not so much the means of compensation. As I say, the law is clear: you can’t take up any employment in Hong Kong, paid or unpaid, without the consent of the director of immigration. And that clearly includes a circumstance where you’re going to be working for yourself, given that you’ve incorporated the company, but you stopped working for your official sponsor of record.

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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