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Working? How to Secure a Hong Kong Visa for Your Side Business

October 9th, 2023

Posted in Employment Visas, Feature Article, Investment Visas, Musing, The Hong Kong Visa Geeza /


Have you got a business opportunity you want to pursue on the side, in addition to working full time for your employer in Hong Kong? If so, you’re going to need to secure a Hong Kong visa for your side business.

1. Introduction

Having a side business is possible under your auspices of your present employment visa, but if you’re planning to start a side business in Hong Kong, obtaining a the permission of the Director of Immigration is an essential step. In this post, I will discuss the importance of obtaining a Hong Kong visa for your side business and provide a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the process.

2. Eligibility Criteria for a Hong Kong Visa for Your Side Business

To be eligible for a Hong Kong visa for your side business, you must first obtain the permission of your current employer. They must confirm in writing that they have no objection to you taking up the side business. You must also ensure your side business is registered to carry business with the HK Inland Revenue Department This will require a Business Registration Certificate either as a sole propritor or as a limited liability company with you as the sole shareholder and director (with some limited, case specific, exceptions).

3. Qualifying Immigration Status

There are different types of Hong Kong visas, but the one you must hold is the employment visa. This visa allows you to work for your current employer while also engaging in your side business once approved by ImmD.

4. Required Documents for a Hong Kong Visa for Your Side Business

To apply for a Hong Kong visa for your side business, you will need the following documents:

  • A letter from your current employer confirming their permission for you to engage in the side business.
  • A personal letter outlining your business activities, the rationale for starting the side business, and details about your sole proprietorship or other business vehicle (such as a limited liability company, as applicable).
  • Completed form ID91 stating the reason for the application as ‘seeking to join in a side business’.

5. Application Process

Follow these steps to apply for a side business visa:

  1. Prepare the required documents (employer’s letter, personal letter, BRC and completed form ID91).
  2. Mail your application to the Residents Section, 5th Floor, Immigration Tower, Wanchai (or you can go in person with your passport and stand in line followed by a short interview to get the ball-rolling; but go very early in the morning business hours if you decide to go this route).
  3. The Immigration Department will correspond with you throughout the process
  4. As these permissions are essentially ‘out of policy’, the process can take time and be a bit hit and miss in the quality of the application experience (depending on the seniority of the processing case officer).

6. Visa Fees

Approval comes via letter and doesn’t entail a fee charged by the Immigration Department.

7. Processing Time for a Hong Kong Visa for Your Side Business

The processing time for a Hong Kong visa for your side business can vary, but it typically takes several weeks. It’s essential to plan accordingly and allow ample time for your application to be processed. Please see this update I got a from a website visitor I got earlier this week:

Sorry for the delay in following up. I just wanted to thank you again for your helpful advice and insight. 

After our conversation, I contacted the Immigration Office again and re-submitted all of the documents for side work (form ID91, employer permission letter, business registration cert) together with a cover letter as you advised. 3-4 weeks later I got an email and call from the handling officer again asking for more stuff related to investment visas. I explained again, resubmitted the same stuff again, and this went on 2 or 3 more times. Each time it sounded like they were going to put the documents through even though they thought it would be rejected, but in the end just kept asking me for more “evidence”.  Eventually, now into March, I got another call from the same lady in Immigration with the same questions. I finally had enough. I said I wouldn’t be submitting anything else, that they should just put the documents through as-is, and that if it was rejected I would deal later. Somehow that worked! Less than 24h later I had the request approved!  

So, thanks again! I will certainly recommend you in future!

8. Tips for a Successful Application

To increase your chances of visa approval, ensure that your employer’s letter is clear and concise, and your personal letter effectively outlines your side business activities and rationale. Please note, ImmD are looking for side business activity that is going to be beneficial to Hong Kong and not just income-supplementary to the applicant.

9. Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Failing to obtain your employer’s written permission.
  • Providing insufficient information in your personal letter.
  • Underemphasizing the potential economic and/or social benefits to Hong Kong of your side business.

10. Conclusion

Obtaining a Hong Kong visa for your side business is an essential step in staying compliant as you pursue an entrepreneurial venture here ‘on the side’. By following this guide and avoiding common mistakes, you can increase your chances of  ImmD approval and get your side-gig moving.

More Stuff You May Find Interesting or Useful

What Exactly Do You Need to Include in a Visa Application to Join in a Side Business in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong Employment Visa Holder – Join in a Side Business or Change Visa Category to a Full Investment Visa – Which is Better

Should I Change My Hong Kong Visa Category From Sponsored Employment to Business Investment or Seek Permission to Join in a Side Business Instead?

Joining in a Side Business in Hong Kong – An Obvious Visa Solution for Certain Types of Employed Professionals

Can I Work on the Side Under a Hong Kong Work Visa (Can I Have a Side Job)?

VisaGeeza.Ai – Making Hong Kong Immigration A Lot Easier

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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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