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Is It Ever Possible To Swap A Foreign Domestic Helper Visa Into A Regular Employment Visa In Hong Kong?

July 2nd, 2024

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


Can you swap a Foreign Domestic Helper visa into a Regular employment visa? This is a reasonable question that has an obvious answer although not for the reasons you might typically expect. In 20 years of practising Hong Kong visa and immigration consultancy, the only successful change of status application from FDH to residence visa that I have ever experienced, naturally enough, is from FDH to dependant visa where there has been a legal marriage.

Swap a Foreign Domestic Helper Visa into a Regular Employment Visa


“I have an Indonesian furniture retail and design store in Aberdeen.  I was wondering if I could apply for a work visa for an existing domestic helper to come and work in my business. My shop is specialized in Indonesian furniture, both standard design and also bespoke.

She is Indonesian and has immense knowledge and skills in this field, having been educated to Bachelor level in design and with 7 years of experience working for a producer in Bali. Our store is an interactive and educative shop where we educate the local community on design possibilities and ways to get excellent value for money in buying furniture from Indonesia.

I have advertised locally extensively for a shop assistant but no great response. I got only one response and have had to hire her despite the person not being qualified.  It has been very hard to recruit.

This FDH is good and has good qualifications. Is it possible to apply for a work visa for my business?”


This question actually comes up more often than you might imagine, and unfortunately the answer is – it’s not possible to convert from a foreign domestic helper visa through to an employment visa issued under the General Employment Policy. You see, the problem really is twofold. Firstly, it is now impossible to secure employment visa permissions for any kind of retail sales position in Hong Kong simply because, let’s face it, Hong Kong is driven by primarily a Chinese population and the retail industry as such is serviced primarily by a Chinese population.

So, in principle, in our experience it’s been very difficult to persuade the Immigration Department of the merits of issuing an employment visa under the General Employment Policy for any kind of retail position. So that’s problem number one. Problem number two actually drives to the heart of the foreign domestic help visa permissions that your helper is holding.

You see, in securing the foreign domestic helper visa initially, she had to satisfy, believe it or not, the Immigration Department that she was kind of qualified to be a foreign domestic helper. And so the profile which the Immigration Department has on her is in relation to providing domestic duties.

So now if you were to go back to the Immigration Department and argue that, notwithstanding, she is actually incredibly experienced in the design and the display of retail furniture in an Indonesian context, the Immigration Department, I think, would be loathe to buy into that anticipating that there may be misrepresentations either on the case of the foreign domestic helper visa application, or in fact on this application where you’re now stating that she is qualified to undertake this retail job.

I think thirdly, the problem is that retail jobs typically don’t command the kind of salaries that the Immigration Department expects to see for probability purposes under the General Employment Policy. So even if the first two challenges could be overcome, you’d still be looking at paying this lady in the region of HKD200,000 a month for the work that she’s doing for you. Whilst that might be possible, I suspect you’re going to probably struggle tremendously under the first two challenges that we’ve already discussed.

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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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