Visa applications undergoing heightened scrutiny

  • Hong Kong
  • 06/23/2016
  • Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP

What is the change? The Hong Kong Immigration Department is tightening procedures and scrutinizing visa applications across the board, and is requiring additional job-advertising steps by employers applying for employment visas.

What does the change mean? Employers sponsoring foreign nationals for employment visas in the General Employment Policy (GEP) and Admission Scheme for Mainland Talent Professionals (ASMTP) categories should prepare to advertise jobs and justify why a local worker was not hired. Certain intracompany transferees in high-salaried or senior executive roles may be allowed to submit detailed written explanations instead of conducting local recruitment. All visa applicants should anticipate strict adherence to procedures and requests for additional supporting documentation at the discretion of immigration officials.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: All employment visas issued under the GEP and ASMTP categories.
  • Who is affected: Foreign nationals and sponsoring employers.
  • Impact on processing times: Employers should anticipate an additional four weeks to run job ads before applying for employment visas and an additional two to four weeks of processing time.
  • Business impact: Companies sponsoring foreign employees should plan for increased scrutiny of applications, requests for additional documents and longer overall timelines.

Background: The department signaled in April that stricter rules were on the way, following a government audit of the Immigration Department that recommended several reforms, including allowing immigration officials to consider the local labor force and market wages when deciding work permit applications.

Employers must now prove that they have advertised jobs before applying for employment visas, justify why a local worker was not hired, and provide a letter of support. Immigration officers may request additional evidence or documents at their discretion.

BAL Analysis: Hong Kong employers should be aware of the stricter environment and expect additional changes as the Immigration Department continues to implement the set of recommendations in the audit report. Employers should anticipate that employment visas may take eight weeks to process, instead of the normal four to six week, during the busy summer season.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in Hong Kong. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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