Hong Kong Government launches Visa-Free Entry for Arbitration Participants


Generally, anyone who does not have the right of abode or the right to land in Hong Kong requires a visa to work in Hong Kong.  In the past, this requirement applied to all participants in arbitral proceedings in Hong Kong including arbitrators, witnesses, counsel, and parties to the arbitration.

On 29 June 2020, the Hong Kong Government launched a two-year pilot scheme (“Scheme”) to allow some visitors to participate in arbitral proceedings in Hong Kong without an employment visa.  The Scheme applies to visitors who are:

  1. arbitrators, expert or factual witnesses, counsel for parties, or parties to arbitral proceedings in Hong Kong;
  2. eligible for visa free entry into Hong Kong (a list of countries whose nationals are eligible can be found here); and
  3. for arbitration proceedings administered by an arbitral institution, possess a letter of proof (“Letter of Proof”) from a qualified institution or office (a list of can be found here) confirming their eligibility under the Scheme; or
    for ad hoc arbitrations, possess a Letter of Proof issued by the venue (i.e. Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre or the Department of Justice).

Persons who enter Hong Kong under the Scheme may participate in arbitral proceedings in Hong Kong without an employment visa.  The maximum duration of stay in Hong Kong for such persons would be the same as the visa free period granted to such persons according to their nationality for visitor status in Hong Kong (see here).

Although the Scheme is already in effect, any restrictions on entering Hong Kong still applies.  As at the date of this article, due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions, non-Hong Kong residents cannot enter Hong Kong unless travelling directly from Mainland China, Macao or Taiwan without having been in any overseas countries and regions in the past 14 days.  Unless certain exemptions apply, persons entering Hong Kong during this time may be subject to 14 days of quarantine.  Thus, anyone intending to enter Hong Kong through this scheme will need to be aware of travel restrictions and may need to adjust their itinerary accordingly.

If you are considering arbitration in Hong Kong or have concerns about Hong Kong immigration issues, please feel free to contact us.

Eddie Look and Pamela Mak

Eddie Look
Partner | E-mail

Pamela Mak
Partner | E-mail

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.