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If You Start A Company Based In Hong Kong Do You Always Need To Have An Investment Visa To Be Able To Run It?

April 7th, 2024

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


The question of investment visa or not is actually quite straight forward. It’s all about ‘living’ in Hong Kong…

Do You Always Need to Have an Investment VisaQUESTION

Hi Visa Geeza,

I’ve a question regarding putting up a company in Hong Kong.

I’ve been reading about how “easy” it is to set up a company in Hong Kong, however, it sounds too over simplified to me.

I’m thinking of putting up an Internet business start-up (media-related, think of a web publication) in Hong Kong while running it in another country.

I don’t plan on staying in Hong Kong (as that would mean a much higher cost of living) but I do want to run this business from outside HK while occasionally flying in from time to time.

Is this possible? Do I still need a specific Hong Kong visa of sorts to set up that company, register it with the authorities and run it?

Well, basically, can I ask for basic pointers on how a foreigner can put up a small start-up company in Hong Kong and run the company from outside Hong Kong (no intentions on staying there in the long term at the moment.)

Thanks for your time.


Hong Kong has a very well-earned reputation for being a jurisdiction where it’s extremely easy to establish a business, and to use Hong Kong as a launching pad for any kind of commercial activity, whether you are a Hong Kong resident or a foreign national alike, the actual process of establishing a business is very, very straightforward indeed. It’s arguably one of the most convenient and most efficient jurisdictions to launch a new company, and there is no statutory requirement under companies law that a director or a shareholder of a Hong Kong company needs to be a Hong Kong resident; however, to be a company secretary, yes, but not to be a director nor a shareholder.

So the question is begged then is if you do establish a company in Hong Kong as you’re thinking of doing, what are the immigration implications of so doing this? Well, the bottom line is that if you are a shareholder and a director of a Hong Kong company, and your intentions in relation to that Hong Kong company are such that you believe you need to be physically present in Hong Kong for the majority of your time in order to run and direct the affairs of that enterprise, then you will need to have a business investment visa in order to fulfil those practical roles on the ground in Hong Kong, as it were.

The difference between coming here as a visitor on a frequent basis, albeit occasionally, for example, that give you the ability to oversee and manage occasionally the operations of your affairs in Hong Kong, such as opening bank accounts, having the occasional meeting, perhaps coming to solve a few sort of commercial or corporate problems that have presented themselves. That’s all permitted activity under the visitor visa that’s granted to you when you arrive at the airport. However, if your intention to reside, and that’s very important intention to reside has crystallised, then the visitor visa is no longer an appropriate immigration status for you and you need to go through the process of acquiring a business investment visa.

The business investment visa approvability test involves that you need to show that in the context of your commercial endeavours in Hong Kong, through that Hong Kong company, that you can make a substantial contribution to the economy of Hong Kong. Now, I don’t intend to labour the approvability test for the business investment here because I’ve dealt with that on many, many occasions elsewhere on the blog.

But for all practical purposes, if you intend to live outside of Hong Kong and you want to use the convenience of Hong Kong as a jurisdiction for the purposes of launching your business and you want to manage that company remotely, and when you do come back to Hong Kong to oversee the affairs of the business, you’re only going to come for a temporary basis, and your intention is not to live here in support of that business, then you do not need any particular immigration permissions. You can certainly achieve those outcomes quite lawfully as a visitor, once you have arrived at the airport, or indeed, across the land boundaries from China or Macau. So that’s it. It really is as simple as you would read on the Internet and elsewhere. Hong Kong welcomes people like you, that are determined to use Hong Kong as a jurisdiction for your international business activities. So, go for it and welcome.

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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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