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What’s The Difference Between Unconditional Stay And Permanent Residence In Hong Kong?

April 28th, 2024

Posted in Long Stay & PR, The Hong Kong Visa Geeza, Your Question Answered /


When would unconditional stay be an appropriate Hong Kong immigration status as opposed to the right of abode and, in any event, what’s the difference?

Unconditional Stay


We’re considering to apply for a business investment visa, but we don’t really intend to live in Hong Kong in the near future.

If our application gets approved, we’ll get 2-3-3-year-visa, renewable up to 7 years.

My question is since we can’t be resident in Hong Kong during these 7 years, we only can apply Unconditional Stay after 7 years.

But then if one day we decide to really live in Hong Kong, after living in Hong Kong for a period of time (how long is required?) can we change our status applying Hong Kong permanent residence?

What will be the requirements to submit such request?

What are the differences between unconditional stay and permanent residence?

I read unconditional stay visa holder need to come back to Hong Kong once per 12 months period. But other than that, I didn’t find any other info.

I would like to know particularly the differences on income tax filling and social benefit for above two status.

Thanks a lot for your kind advice!


When you secure an employment visa in Hong Kong, you are lawfully employable by the employer which has successfully sponsored an employment visa for you. Once you stop working for that sponsoring employer, insofar as your continuing employment visa permissions go, in essence, all bets are off until you make an application to the Immigration Department to change your sponsorship from your old employer through to the proposed new employer.

In preparing for this application, you need to anticipate that it’s a process that’s very similar to the application that you underwent the first time, insofar as getting the visa approved for the status that you’ve got right now. In the Hong Kong Visa handbook, employment visa section, I’ve set out the documentary requirements that govern these types of applications, whether it’s a new application or in fact it’s a change of sponsorship application.

Now, the way that the process works is that you go to the Immigration Department with your completely assembled bundle, and you file your application to change your sponsorship without at this point, if this is in fact the case, having stopped working for your present employer and during the currency of your new employment visa application, your current employer really shouldn’t be privy to what’s going on because the Immigration Department certainly won’t correspond with your existing employer.

All that will happen is that whilst the Immigration Department are considering your application, which by the way happens on the 5th floor Residents Section, not the 24th floor Entry Visa Section, so whilst the Immigration Department are considering your application, they’ll correspond with you directly and they’ll raise any questions or request for information or other requisitions that apply in the context of the application before you.

And um, insofar as the chances of approval go, you need to anticipate that as long as it’s a like for like employment and as long as you are clearly a professional under the General Employment Policy and the new employer is justified in engaging your services as opposed to the services of a local person, then it’s reasonable to assume that your change of sponsorship application will be approved.

Normally the Immigration Department respond positively to such applications. Now, the way it works once you’ve got sort of nine tenths of the way through the application process is that you’ll see that the Immigration Department will call for a document from you that demarcates the date of last employment with your current employer so that they can then when they finalise your approval, set a line between your previous sponsorship and your new sponsorship, they will need a line in the sand, as it were, a date from which the new sponsorship obligations of your new employer will prevail and at the same time, relinquishing your old employer, your past employer, of their continuing sponsorship in relation to you. And it’s when the Immigration Department call for this document that you will get a sense that they’re about to finalise your application positively. And at that stage, what you do is you submit your resignation and give a copy of the resignation documentation that sits between you and your current employer, which in turn will denote what your final date of employment is with that old employer.

And you submit copies of that documentation to the Immigration Department, and they will then, as I say, be able to demarcate the old sponsorship from the new sponsorship and then after you’ve been approved, you should receive a letter from the Immigration Department stating when your new employment arrangements are going to commence from that is your new sponsorship.

Employment visa sponsorship arrangements are going to commence from inviting you down to go and process an extension to your current limit of stay because at the moment you have six months less you have less than six months left on your current limit of stay, in these circumstances, rather than put Immigration Department resources through, on the one hand, a change of sponsorship application, and then a few weeks or months later, because your current limit of stay is going to expire, put the Immigration Department resources through a second application insofar as giving you an extension to your current limited stay.

Usually the Immigration Department, as I say, if you’ve got six months or less remaining on your current limit of stay, they normally endorse your passport at the same time as they give you the new approval, and normally that twelve-months limit starts from the expiry of your current limit of stay, which in this instance would be July.

So, in effect, that’s how that process is handled and that’s how that process is managed. And included on this post are a lot of other resources where I’ve dealt with challenges associated with the change of sponsorship application that you’re looking to accomplish. And again, I refer you back to the Employment Visa Section of the Hong Kong Visa handbook where all the documents that you need – checklist, templates and all the rest of that good stuff that will apply in allowing you to go through that process, you can find them all there. And just to remind you, because you’re an existing resident, you would submit the application and the Residence Section on the 5th floor of Immigration Tower, not on the 24th floor, which is the Entry Visa Section which is where applications for the very first time time for the employment visas are considered.

I hope you find this 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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