Hong Kong recently expanded its talent admission scheme to 51 professions to attract top-notch professionals in support of economic and social development, while also expanding the requirement for a criminal conviction declaration to additional visa schemes.

Expanded talent list. The government announced the expansion of its talent list on 16 May 2023, extending the welcome mat from 13 to 51 professions to attract a wider range of high-quality talent to Hong Kong while supporting social and economic development needs. The talent list was initially introduced in 2018, in a targeted manner, identifying professions most in demand in Hong Kong. The updated list now includes two new industry segments, namely healthcare services, and development and construction.

Newly added professions such as nurses, doctors, midwives, dentists, architects, land surveyors and various engineering roles have been included to ease a manpower shortage in the healthcare and construction industries.

The expanded list applies to applicants under the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS), the General Employment Policy (GEP), and the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP). Under the GEP and ASMTP, employers who wish to fill vacancies from the talent list may be exempted from taking a market availability test, while qualified applicants can receive additional points under the QMAS scoring system.

However, applicants still must meet certain requirements before joining the workforce – particularly in the medical and construction industries – including attaining the required university degrees, passing relevant exams and obtaining pertinent work experience.

Expanded criminal conviction declaration. The government also announced that everyone seeking entry to Hong Kong is required to declare any criminal convictions when they apply for entry visas, providing relevant details.

This declaration not only applies to the talent admission schemes, but all visa or entry permits includ ing student visas, working holiday visas, training visas, dependent visas, and entry visas for foreign domestic helpers and imported workers. It came into effect in June. But such declarations are not required for the extension of stay applications.

Foreign domestic helpers changing employers or renewing contracts with the same employer are also exempt. However, if their contract ends and they return to their home countries, they will need to provide this declaration if or when they return to Hong Kong.

Due to this new disclosure requirement, additional background checks may be conducted by handling officers at the immigration department. As a result, applicants may experience longer processing times in their visa or entry permit applications. Applicants who fail to disclose serious criminal convictions or offences may have their applications rejected or visas cancelled.

The government will continue to adjust and review various visa policies and related procedures from time to time, and make timely adjustments based on the prevailing situation.

Business Law Digest is compiled with the assistance of Baker McKenzie. Readers should not act on this information without seeking professional legal advice. You can contact Baker McKenzie by e-mailing Howard Wu (Shanghai) at howard.wu@bakermckenzie.com