The Hong Kong Market Entry Playbook: Foreign Investment and Immigration


Hong Kong has a long history of being a business-friendly location to set up both as a regional business hub and to access the sophisticated local market. In the next of a series of articles exploring the attraction of Hong Kong as a regional and international business centre, Pádraig Walsh of Tanner De Witt explains the open policies that apply in respect of foreign investment and immigration.

Foreign investment

Free market: Hong Kong policy promotes free trade and free market principles with minimal government intervention. Generally, there is no distinction in law and practice between investments by foreign-controlled companies and those controlled by local interests. In most conditions, foreign companies and individuals can incorporate their operations in Hong Kong without discrimination and undue regulation.

No exchange controls: The Basic Law of Hong Kong provides that no foreign exchange control policies can be applied in Hong Kong and that the Hong Kong dollar must be freely convertible. The Hong Kong government is also required under the Basic Law to safeguard the free flow of capital within, into and out of Hong Kong. Consequently, there are no regulations in Hong Kong regarding exchange control, currency and foreign remittance of profits.

Free port and trade: The Basic Law also requires that Hong Kong is maintained as a free port, and that Hong Kong pursues a policy of free trade that safeguards the free movement of goods, intangible assets and capital. Consequently, no tariff is charged on import or export of goods. Licensing is only required for the import and export of certain limited classes of dangerous or controlled goods (such as optical disc mastering and replication equipment, and radio transmitting apparatus).

No foreign investment restriction: In general, there are no specific laws and designated regulatory authorities to govern foreign investment unless specified. For instance, there are no restrictions based on nationality to distinguish between domestic and foreign ownership of property in Hong Kong. One specific restriction is that foreign ownership must not exceed 49% in respect of businesses seeking a sound broadcasting or domestic television programming service licence.


Immigration: Hong Kong is a separate travel area from Mainland China. Hong Kong has visa-free entry for residents from about 170 countries and territories for trips ranging from seven to 180 days. In broad terms, short-term visitors may conduct business negotiations and sign contracts while entering Hong Kong on a visitor or entry permit.

Employment visa: All persons having no right of abode or right to land in Hong Kong, must obtain an entry permit/employment visa before coming to Hong Kong for the purpose of employment. Applications should be made through the sponsor (usually the employer company in Hong Kong). It must be demonstrated that the proposed employee has special skills, knowledge or experience not readily available in Hong Kong.

Investment visa: This requires the applicant to establish or join in business in a Hong Kong registered company. The applicant will be required to produce details on the viability of the proposed business and demonstrate that the applicant is in the position to make substantial contribution to the economy of Hong Kong.

Top Talent Pass Scheme (TTPS): This scheme seeks to attract talented persons with rich work experience and good academic qualifications to enter Hong Kong. This top talent includes high-income professionals and graduates from the world’s top universities.

Dependant visa: Persons who are successful in receiving one of the above visas may also bring their spouse or civil partner (including the other party to a same-sex civil partnership, union or marriage) and unmarried dependant children under the age of 18 to Hong Kong provided there are sufficient funds and suitable accommodation for them. The limit on their stay is the same as that of the applicant sponsor. Normally, dependant visas are issued as a matter of course as long as the requisite relationship exists. A person holding a dependant visa is allowed to undertake any type of lawful employment in Hong Kong.

Timing: It normally takes four to six weeks to process a work/employment/TTPS visa application.

Hong Kong Identity Cards: Every person aged 11 years or above who enters and is permitted to stay in Hong Kong for more than 180 days must apply for a Hong Kong Identity Card within 30 days of arrival. Applying for the card from the Immigration Department is simple and is free. By law, you should carry your identity card with you at all times.

Pádraig Walsh

* This article is an expanded version of our contribution to the iTech Law global publication “Startup Legal Playbook”, which can be accessed on this link.

If you want to know more about the content of this article, please contact:

Pádraig Walsh

Partner | Email

Disclaimer: This publication is general in nature and is not intended to constitute legal advice. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication. This article was last updated on 14 February 2024.