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What’s A Suitable Hong Kong Visa & Immigration Strategy For A Highly Accomplished Professional Trailing Unmarried Partner?

July 12th, 2024

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


It’s only natural to wish to iron out all the immigration wrinkles prior to a relocation to Hong Kong when you’re joining your loved one who’s transferring here. This question provides a great opportunity for a discussion of the various options available in terms of a Hong Kong Visa

Hong Kong Visa


I have been offered a job with a large multinational company in Hong Kong which I have accepted.

As my girlfriend and I are not married the company are unable to help with her visa. We plan on moving there indefinitely.

She is however a highly skilled architect and scores 110 on the General Points test for the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme visa.

Are they currently accepting architects in this capacity?

What are the chances of the visa being approved?

We would also like to ask, can you apply for 2 visas? Eg. Working visa and Quality Migrant visa at the same time?

How long does it usually take to have a working holiday visa approved?

If you receive a holiday working visa can you then apply for a Quality Migrant visa whilst you are living in Hong Kong under a working holiday visa? 


I’m really grateful for you asking this question because the challenge for professionals who are following their loved ones to work in Hong Kong and who don’t yet have a job offer, the immigration status that they face could be somewhat daunting before arrival if you’re not familiar with how Hong Kong immigration operates; once you find yourself on the ground here, you’ll quickly understand that visas for Hong Kong don’t have to be the major challenge that you would expect them to be because you haven’t become familiar with the place yet.

But that notwithstanding, there’s a lot of good stuff here that we can discuss, and I’m pleased that you’ve asked the question. It gives me an opportunity to essay the answer for you.

Firstly, if you were married, you would be able to get a dependent visa sponsored by you; however, you’re not married, it’s not available, we don’t need to labour it. The one question that I’d just like to clear up, though, is the issue about the company helping with the dependent visa. Actual fact, the application would be promoted by you. Even though they may do the paperwork, they may do the running around on the ground, you would sponsor this application and you would be in the hot seat of showing that you could put a roof over your spouse’s head and putting food on her table. And the interesting thing about the approval fund of the dependent visa regime is that she would be lawfully employable at the point of the visa being granted to her. That would mean that she could work for somebody else, she could join in her own business. In a sense, in that regard, she’d have immigration status that was actually better than yours, other than the fact that her limit stays directly connected or would be directly connected to yours. So the moment your employment visa permission is ended, her dependent visa permission would end at the same time. But she’s got a lot more flexibility or she would have a lot more flexibility than you have if she did have a dependent visa. Okay, that’s out of the way.

If you are deemed de facto spouses and you’re cohabiting together overseas, you could secure a prolonged visitor visa. A prolonged visa visa is the same visa that you get granted to at the airport when you arrive, be it on a prolonged basis, that is up to six months at a time.

There is no greater immigration advantage in having a prolonged visa visa other than the fact that the process of applying for it puts the Immigration Department on notice as to the rationale for your partner being in Hong Kong with you, and it means that she doesn’t have her own.

The gauntlet of entering and exiting Hong Kong upon the expiry of her visitor visa, which can be a little bit disconcerting for people because they’re never quite sure whether or not they’re going to be readmitted when they do make an exit for a visa and as it were. So that’s another option for you.

Turning to the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme which forms a great part of your question and the fact that she’s got 110 points; the problem with the Quality Migrant Admission Schemes are myriad, frankly speaking. Firstly you have no visibility whatsoever whether or not in this instance architects are being selected. The Immigration Department genuinely don’t put out any data on the type of professionals and talents that are being admitted under the scheme, and it’s very much a crapshoot. The one hundred and ten points is a good start, but it just gets you into the selection pool. Once you’re in the selection pool you’re not going to know who you’re competing against. And the selection committee that meets ostensibly twice a year are going to have a whole array of different other professionals that they’re looking at in tandem with your girlfriend.

So in terms of what the likelihood of approval is, frankly speaking, you know, your guess is very much as good as mine because my crystal ball doesn’t work in relation to this programme anymore. However, it can be said if you look at the data that the Immigration Department have put out, particularly recently, the odds are stacked against you because 77% of all Quality Migrant Admission Scheme approvals historically have gone to Chinese nationals, with a further 10% having gone to Canadian, Australian and US nationals. So that effectively means that 87% of all approvals are going to Chinese, Canadians, Australians and US citizens. The balance 13% is being split up against all other nationalities.

So just looking at where you stand on the nationality scale, if you’re Chinese you’ve got a much better chance of getting in under the programme, and the further you move away from the middle kingdom, from a statistical perspective, the odds suggest tha you’re going to struggle to get approved.

Another problem with the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme programme is it takes seven to twelve months for it to play itself out. That’s seven to twelve months of waiting around not quite knowing whether or not you’re going to get approved under the programme. And I’ve been dealing recently with a number of Quality Migrant Admission Schemes successful visa holders who are coming up for their first extension. We didn’t do the work for them initially but they’ve approached us for assistance on the extension exercise, and the stories that I’m hearing out there in the field from such applicants really do mirror our own personal experience in dealing with Quality Migrant Admissions applications.

So I’ve always been loathe to recommend it and nothing that I’ve seen recently suggests to me that it’s an application that you might want to prioritise over the other options that are available to you. So, yeah, basically what I’m saying here is be prepared for it to take a long time and don’t be surprised if you don’t get approved at the outcome of the process.

Now your question then sort of moved on to whether or not you can apply for a Quality Migrant Admission Scheme visa and apply for other immigration statuses at the same time. In this particular instance, yes, it is possible to have two concurrent applications ongoing, one in relation to Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS), and another in respect of a visa issued under one of the other aspects of Hong Kong immigration arrangements. So, yes, QMAS and an employment visa, for example, or a prolonged visitor visa, or indeed a dependent visa if you were married. All perfectly doable.

Then you ask a question about the working visa and whether or not you can apply for working visa at the same time as a Quality Migrant Admission Scheme visa. And it’s to this particular visa that I think that your long term future effectively belongs. Because if she’s a qualified professional – architect, understanding the kind of cases that are coming across our desks at the moment, a lot of construction professionals, a lot of professionals such as architects and interior designers and others of that ilk are quite frequently finding themselves in Hong Kong as a visitor, are going through the job interview process which is perfectly lawful under the visitor visa regime and are getting job offers extended to them.

And on the basis that your girlfriend can find herself in Hong Kong as a visitor, perhaps register with a series of recruitment agents or headhunters and then goes on to secure a job offer as a result of that recruitment exercise, in all likelihood she’s going to be able to secure an employment visa.

The approvability test for an employment visa is to be able to show that you possess special skills, knowledge and experience of value to not readily available in Hong Kong and that in all the circumstances of the case the employer is justified in engaging the services of the foreign national professional rather than the services of a local person; and, as I said, recent experience suggests to me that if she is indeed a highly qualified architectural professional she’s going to get an employment visa in her own right. So, that’s certainly something that, I’ll be steering you in the general direction of as we get to the conclusion of this question.

Just turning quickly now to the working holiday visa. I’m not quite sure whether or not you’d be eligible for a working holiday visa because you haven’t stated your nationality in the question, but on the basis that you do qualify, it takes about 4-6 weeks to be able to get that visa approved on the basis that the quota for the year hasn’t been expended by the department.

The problem with the working holiday visa is that it’s going to get you on the ground for twelve months but you can only work for a single employer every three months at a time, which for an architectural professional isn’t going to be very, very good. It is possible to have a working holiday visa at the same time as you make an application for a Quality Migrant Admission Scheme visa.

In a nutshell, those essentially are all of your options, and, as I’ve stated a little bit earlier, I think that the practical reality of the situation that you find yourself in, even though you’re trying to sort of rule out or rule in, I should say, the best immigration options for you before you make your relocation here is, for all practical purposes, come to Hong Kong as a visitor, get yourself registered with a headhunter or recruitment firm – I have very little doubt that in due course, sooner if not later, a job offer will materialise,  and on the strength of that job offer, she’ll be able to get an employment visa in her own right.

I hope you find that helpful.

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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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