Hong Kong is a notorious metropolis with a world-class infrastructure; once you settle down here, you quickly realize that everything is just fingertips away. Whether you’re still in research mode and considering moving to Hong Kong or you’ve just arrived – in which case, welcome – here’s a checklist of all the matters you need to prepare for before you can enjoy everything this amazing city has to offer.
1. Apply for an appropriate visa
Make sure you’ve gotten the right paperwork in place and applied for the appropriate visa before you relocate to Hong Kong. The main Hong Kong visas are the following:
- Unless you have a Hong Kong “Right of Abode” or “Right to Land”, an employment visa is compulsory to work in Hong Kong. Having a sponsoring company and your visa issued (and any dependent visas for your spouse and children if any) before your arrival is essential. Please expect 4 to 8 weeks for the Hong Kong Immigration Department to process your visa application.
- Note that you are not eligible to work without an employment visa, although you could have easily, in a pre-Covid era, land as a visitor and then set about getting one. The problem now with this solution is that once your work permit is approved by the Hong Kong Immigration Department, you still need to travel out and back into Hong Kong to “activate” your new visa and status. In the context of Covid however, the compulsory 21-day (or 14-day at best) quarantine period upon arrival needs to be factored into your decision.
- This visa is specifically for those who look to start a business, join or take over a Hong Kong company (by shareholding). It is subject to much higher standards than an employment visa and is assessed within the larger business context of Hong Kong. For example, the business plan, the amount of investment, the projected annual revenue, the number of local jobs created, any new technologies introduced, etc. will be considered in the adjudication process by the visa officer.
- The estimated processing time of the Investment as Entrepreneur visa by the Immigration Department is at least 8 to 16 weeks upon receipt of all the required documents. This is longer than the performance pledge indicated on their website; so please plan ahead. Any request for supplementary information by the visa officer will even lead to additional processing time.
- Dependent visas are compulsory for your spouse and children under the age of 18 if they will be staying with you in Hong Kong. Holding a dependent visa allows your spouse to find any job at will and work without being tied to a sponsoring company.
2. Shipping arrangement and insurance
Occasionally, damage or loss occur during such a big move. When coordinating overseas packing, shipping, clearance and delivery to your Hong Kong accommodation or new home, you should always protect your belongings – especially if you have valuable furniture or other movable properties – with reputable international insurance. Carefully check the insurance coverage to ensure that it will compensate for any type of damage or loss to your shipment.
3. Get a local mobile phone number
If you have just arrived Hong Kong, the cheapest way to stay connected is to get a local sim card. You will need an unlocked sim-enabled mobile phone.
You can buy a sim card from any mobile phone shop around Hong Kong, but the easiest way is to visit a convenience store such as 7-eleven or Circle K. You can even do this as soon as you touch down at the Hong Kong International Airport. Once you’re more settled, move to a monthly tariff with one of Hong Kong’s major telecommunication service providers. Be sure to check whether data access is included when you purchase a phone card.
4. Obtain Hong Kong ID card
If you will be staying in Hong Kong for more than 180 days, an application of HKID card must be filed within 30 days of landing. Residents in Hong Kong aged 11 or over must hold a valid Hong Kong ID card. You are not always guaranteed an appointment as a walk-in applicant, so it is recommended that you make an appointment online before going to the Immigration Office. Details of the procedures along with the 5 immigration offices where applications are processed can be found on the Immigration Department’s website
. Remember to bring your passport, your valid visa with the landing slip and the completed application form to your appointment.
After receiving your Hong Kong ID card, always carry it with you. In accordance with Section 17C of "Immigration Ordinance" (Cap 115) of Hong Kong Law, any person who fails to produce proof of his identity for inspection as required by the law commits an offence. HKID Cards are fitted with a smart chip, and it is a library card too. Once your fingerprint has been registered on the chip, you can also use your HKID for quick immigration access via the e-channel in and out of the Hong Kong and Macau borders.
5. Set up a bank account
For your salary and other financial needs, you have to set up a local bank account. Most banks offer the same generic services such as current, savings, time deposits, and payroll accounts. Credit and debit cards are widely used here. HSBC and Hang Seng Bank are the most popular banks in Hong Kong and therefore the ones with the most branches and ATMs across the city. Nowadays, there is also a growing number of virtual banks
you could consider, which offer better interest rates on your savings and lightning-fast transactions. As a general guideline, you will need to bring the following to open an account:
- Your valid official government-issued ID, such as your passport with your valid visa and your HKID card
- Proof of address, such as a utility bill (up to 3 months)
6. Research on districts for accommodation
Accommodation is one of the biggest decisions when considering a move to Hong Kong. No doubt, this will be your greatest financial expense here. Fortunately, there are many kinds of properties to suit all needs and budgets.
Most of the expatriates will prefer to live in the central-western of Hong Kong Island, for the first two years at least. If you are looking for an exciting lifestyle with plentiful of leisure, sport, dynamic cultural activities, Hong Kong Island will be a smart choice for you. Hong Kong is strongly influenced by British colonization and offers a well-integrated western lifestyle. However, the living cost on Hong Kong Island will be slightly higher than in other districts (e.g. rental fees, food cost, leisure memberships, transportation, etc.)
Compared with Hong Kong Island, Kowloon will be the best choice for those who love traditional culture. Kowloon is a multifaceted integrated community with comprehensive urban planning. As Kowloon is the cultural hub of Hong Kong, you can find an intriguing combination of traditional temples alongside high-end luxury shopping centers. There are plenty of colonial-style mansions in some of the Kowloon districts with outstanding school networks. If you put in the research time, your living cost in Kowloon can be noticeably lower than on Hong Kong Island.
If you already know you are keen on a quiet life, you may choose to live on Lantau Island (Discovery Bay) or Lamma Island, which offer downtempo, slow-paced residential areas with beautiful beaches and green open space. Yet, abundant amenities are available although your daily commute will be longer than a 15-minute MTR (one of the most efficient subway networks in the world) ride. A large community of expatriates from around the world live on these islands.
7. Get an Octopus card
It would be an understatement to describe the Octopus card as a widely used debit-style card for public transport. It is literally omnipresent in Hong Kong, from public transports to convenience stores – or any kind of stores –, car parks, vending machines, groceries, utility bill payments and now receiving government subsidies. This card can be bought at any MTR station and topped up easily at any convenience store, or installed as an application on your mobile phone. You may also apply for the automatic top-up service with your local bank, so you will never run out of credit, and might even accumulate award points.
8. Hong Kong international schools’ search
There is a multitude of options in Hong Kong when it comes to schools and curriculums. They range from local public, government subsidized to fully international kindergartens, primary and high schools which can educate your child from age 3 right through 18. We strongly recommend you research on and apply for school for your children as early as possible because popular schools receive a huge number of applications and have only a limited number of annual seats. You may even need some good luck.
9. Join a club
Being a member of a private club in Hong Kong is a luxury. It is a great place for networking and provides a change of scenery when it feels like your small apartment is closing in on you. Clubs also offer the chance to be involved in sports like sailing and golfing, plus access to good value food and drinks (most clubs offer good value for money on this front). If you have kids, access to children’s activities and events will also be much welcome.
10. Hire a domestic helper
If you will likely be too busy with your assignment and have no time to tidy up your own place, you may hire a foreign domestic helper (typically from the Philippines or Indonesia) to help you out with your house chores. A foreign domestic helper may only be employed on a full-time and live-in basis on a 2-year contract. Most ex-pat (particularly those with children) families will hire a domestic helper or nanny to assist with their housework and the caring of their children.
11. Bring your pet with you
Maybe you already have one or more pets in your domicile country. Depending on where you choose to live, Hong Kong is remarkably pet friendly. Unlike its reputation, Hong Kong is not an all-concrete jungle; there are bountiful of parks and an open area to set your four-legged friends free. There are also an unbelievable number of magnificent trails both on the Island and the New Territories, providing sumptuous places to exercise yourself and your pooch. Plus, there are pet-friendly cafes and open-areas, notably around Stanley
in Southside, or the new hotspot for expats in Tseung Kwan O.
Obviously, you will need to thoroughly verify the pet type, quarantine rules and the related costs before bringing your pet here.
Hong Kong offers a wide range of world-class healthcare services, and you may elect to go public and pay extra dollars for private service from privately owned hospitals and clinics. Holding a HKID will entitle you to public healthcare services at an affordable price. You may also have private health and dental coverage if you are employed by a large or multinational company. Do check with your sponsoring company.