Hong Kong – tightening of job market

Following the Immigration Department audit in April 2016 which has caused authorities to look more closely at employment visa applications, Berry Appleman & Leiden offer some key findings and recommendations for applicants.

Downtown Hong Kong. Berry Appleman & Leiden immigration update
Hong Kong is one of Asia’s largest financial hubs, with a great number of foreign nationals working in the country. In response to the April 2016 release of the government’s findings from its Immigration Department audit, immigration authorities have agreed to adopt recommendations to improve the overall processing of employment visas. Immigration authorities are now therefore examining employment visa applications more closely.Although the process continues to be fairly straightforward, the Immigration Department is expected to impose stricter enforcement of the existing requirements and processes for foreign workers.The Immigration Department has yet to release an official statement on any changes to regulations, but it agreed with all the recommendations made in the audit report.

Key findings and recommendations are:

  • Intra-company transferees should be better vetted for the requisite one year of experience. 
  • Immigration officers should consider the availability of local employees and market wages in processing applications from foreign professionals and nonlocal graduates. The Immigration Department should issue guidelines setting out the required procedures.
  • Supporting documents submitted by nonlocal graduates under the IANG stream should undergo stricter verification of their authenticity, and case officers should document the factors considered in assessing IANG applicants’ job qualifications.
  • A talent list from the labour authorities should be incorporated into the QMAS to attract high-quality foreign talent.
  • Applications from foreign professionals and nonlocal graduates should be scrutinised more carefully, which may result in longer processing times.
  • The investor stream should be monitored for processing times and for breaches of the rules. The processing time for 58 per cent of these cases exceeded 90 days.
Apart from these upcoming changes, there is now more scrutiny of the steps that employers must take when advertising job positions before hiring foreign nationals. In such cases, employers should factor in an additional four weeks in order to run a job advertisement before they can recruit and apply for an employment visa for a foreign national. In some cases, an employment visa application may be considered even without a job advertisement if the application is for intra-company transferees in high-salaried or senior executive roles. However, employers may be required to submit a detailed written explanation to qualify for this exception. Hong Kong companies sponsoring foreign nationals are now required to attest to their efforts to employ local workers. The Immigration Department recently updated its application form for certain employment visa categories. On the last page, sponsoring companies must complete and sign a Declaration Form to verify their local recruitment efforts. This new requirement applies to companies hiring foreign employees under the General Employment Policy (GEP) or the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP) categories. Currently, this added verification step is not required for employment visa applications under the Immigration Arrangement for Non-Local Graduates (IANG) category.In some cases, the Immigration Department is also requesting additional information or documentation upon filing an employment visa application. However, the requests occur randomly and at the discretion of immigration officers, thereby making it challenging to predict the documentation the Immigration Department may request.Hong Kong employers and foreign nationals should anticipate additional changes. The Immigration Department has signalled that it will continue to tighten rules and regulations in response to the recommendations in the audit report; when and how remains to be seen.

For further information go to the BAL website 

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