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Moving to Hong Kong? Guide to getting started

While it’s not the most glamorous part life in a new city, there are some admin basics that need to be taken care of. If you’re new to the city or thinking of moving to Hong Kong, we have some advice on the key areas of visas, Hong Kong ID cards and the Octopus system, all of which you’ll need to have sorted to live and work in the 852.

Moving to Hong Kong: Immigration Tower is the hub for visas and Hong Kong ID cards.
Immigration Tower is the hub for visas and Hong Kong ID cards.

Visas & Hong Kong ID cards

About the working visa

Unless you have a Hong Kong “right of abode” or “right to land”, a visa is required to work in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) if you are moving to Hong Kong. Having your company sponsor and issue your visa (and any dependent visas for your family) before you arrive is the most efficient way of entering Hong Kong. Most companies hiring foreign staff are familiar with the process and should get the ball rolling before you travel. That said, arriving as a visitor allows stays of between 14 to 180 days depending on what passport you hold. You are not legally entitled to work without a visa but you can land and then set about getting your documents if necessary. Expect the visa process to take up to four weeks.

More: immd.gov.hk

Working on a dependent visa

If one of you has obtained a working visa, then dependent visas can be issued (and are necessary) for your spouse and children under the age of 18. Holding a dependent visa gives a wide berth for spousal work opportunities since no additional working visa is needed, and the dependent is not tied to one company. Minors all need valid visas for school and to access public facilities, like healthcare.

More: immd.gov.hk

Applying for a Hong Kong ID card

Anyone residing in Hong Kong and aged 11 or over is required to hold a Hong Kong ID card, and an application must be made within 30 days of landing if you are planning to stay longer than six months. Details of the process are found on the HK SAR government Immigration Department website; it’s possible to make online bookings for an appointment, but be prepared to spend some time in person at the Immigration office when making your application. There are five locations where applications can be processed. Immigration Tower in Wan Chai is the busiest but most frequented by expats.

On the day, you’ll need:

  • Passport
  • Valid visa
  • Completed application form
  • Child’s original birth certificate
  • Photos are taken during the application, and no fee is required. HKID applications are usually processed and ready for collection within 10 days.

More: immd.gov.hk

Upgrading your current HKID

If you’re returning to Hong Kong and already have a HKID from your last stint, you might need to update it. HKID’s are being upgraded to newer cards, and replacements are being managed by year of birth. Check the government website hsmartid.gov.hk/en/to see if your card needs replacing.

Using your card

You should keep your ID on you at all times, and it’s a good idea to have the number memorised, since it’s routinely used as an identifier when calling banks or arranging services. Cards are fitted with a smart chip and as such can be used in place of a library card, as well as ensuring a swift exit through automatic gates at Hong Kong Airport and in Macau.

Moving to Hong Kong: The Octopus system is recognised globally as one of Hong Kong's great innovations
The Octopus system is recognised globally as one of Hong Kong’s great innovations

Octopus card

One of Hong Kong’s great innovations is the Octopus card and you should get one if you are moving to Hong Kong or plan on spending any length of time in the city. The card is micro-chipped, allowing you to make cashless payments on the public transport system – but it has many, many other uses. You can buy groceries at the supermarket with it, pay for parking, buy things from vending machines, and even pay for services at public hospitals. A standard Octopus card comes with a refundable HK$50 deposit, which covers the cost of the card and ensures uninterrupted service up to a negative value of HK$35 on a single trip. Children must have an Octopus card from the age of three, and everyone must have their own cards – they can’t be shared or used multiple times at one stop.

You can get an Octopus card at authorised distribution outlet:

* MTR Customer Service Centres: all stations (except racecourse station)
* Light Rail Customer Service Centres: Ferry Pier Terminus, Leung King, Town Centre,
Yuen Long Terminus and Tin Yat stations
* First Ferry Customer and Octopus Service Centres: Cheung Chau, Mui Wo Pier, Central
Pier 5 & Central Pier 6
* KMB Lok Ma Chau Ticketing Office

More: octopus.com.hk

This article appears in Expat Living’s annual City Guide. Get your free copy now!

Get more handy advice and tips in our Living in Hong Kong section:

Expats guide to where to live in Hong Kong

Handy Hong Kong smartphone apps