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Why Do Hong Kong Technology Startups Mostly Struggle To Win Investment Visa Approvals For Their Founders?

March 13th, 2024

Posted in 60 Second Snapshot, Employment Visas, Investment Visas, The Hong Kong Visa Geeza /


I’m often asked how feasible business investment visas are for foreign nationals seeking to establish a new technology start up here.

Bootstrappping and running Lean can be a double edged sword as a foreign national starting up in Hong Kong…

The actual extent of the challenge is, in fact, no more onerous than it has always been – namely the foreign entrepreneur needs to be able to show that he or she can make a substantial contribution to the economy of Hong Kong in order to have a business investment visa application approved.

To this end, the normal three legged business investment visa approvability test must be satisfied, namely that the business must be homed in premises suitable for the business, there must be a clear pathway to the creation of local employment opportunities and the business must be properly resourced, meaning sufficient cash and other business-critical resources present so that the Immigration Department can be satisfied that the business will go on to become a solidly entrenched commercial enterprise.

But here’s the problem with most technology start ups.

Unless very well funded from the outset, most of them are boot strapped, most of them are run according to the Lean philosophy – and most of them fail, and the Immigration Department know this.

Where the present approvability criteria demand a ‘substantial contribution to the economy of Hong Kong’ the vast majority of technology start ups are simply unable to pass the test – making Hong Kong a very hard place indeed for foreign blood to come in and help Hong Kong transition into a fully fledged connection economy.

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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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