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Case Studies

Hong Kong Visa Application – Student to Investment – With a Twist!

September 19th, 2012

Posted in Case Study, Investment Visas, The Hong Kong Visa Geeza /


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Our client was UK national who had, prior to deciding to study in Hong Kong, redomiciled his relatively new, yet manifestly profitable business, here from the south of England.

Britain’s loss, Hong Kong’s gain.

His business partner, also a UK citizen, had independently applied for an investment visa some months earlier and had been approved to come and run their business in Hong Kong.

Whilst still small, the company was obviously going places.

Our client, on the other hand, was more interested in furthering his engineering studies in Hong Kong and initially had no desire nor intention to participate in the affairs of the business.

Consequently he enrolled in a Masters Degree programme on a full time basis in a Hong Kong university and was granted a student visa.

This client initially approached us for advice in respect of the lawfulness of him receiving dividends from the business whilst he was in possession of a student visa.

At the time we advised him that, so long as he was not engaged in the management, direction or administration or the affairs of the company, the Immigration Department would perceive the money received as investment income and not an emolument resulting from the holding of any office nor undertaking any work in his business.

Several months later the client contacted us once more.

Whilst he was a full time student, it had transpired that the material he was learning about in his post graduate programme, was directly relevant to his business and, conversely, the activities of his company were now directly relevant to what he was preparing for his thesis.

So he wanted to join in his business in an active way and adjust his study mode from full time to part time.

This required an application to the Immigration Department for him to adjust his status from student visa to an investment visa with special dispensation for him to convert his Master Degree studies from full time to part time.

After about 12 weeks the process of satisfying the approvability test in respect of the investment visa element of the application was effectively complete.

Now it came down to the approval of the university for a change in study mode from full time to part time.

The first run at documenting this change of study mode, resulted in a letter from the engineering faculty, not from the university registrar, and was crafted to appear conditional on the HKID approving this new scheme of arrangement.

For their part, the HKID would not accept this faculty level communication as it was merely conditional and it needed to be definitive.

Our client then went back to the Registrar who communicated with the Head of Faculty who agreed that the change of study mode was acceptable and therefore the Registrar issued the requisite letter.

Consequently,  our client’s case was finalized positively and he was granted his investment visa with the requisite dispensation to study.

Here’s the twist.

Had our client been able to read the tea leaves he would never have applied to study for his Masters Degree full time.

He would have, instead, secured an investment visa from the get go and applied to undertake his studies on a part time basis AFTER his investment visa was approved as, under current immigration policy, a student visa is needed only for a full time course of study.

If you are holding a Hong Kong employment visa or an investment visa you are lawfully able to take up a part time course of study without any specific permission from the HKID to do so.

So going from Student visa to Investment visa turned into a complete palaver as the university knew full well that any part time course of study would not require their participation in an immigration scenario.

As our client was a full time student under their immigration charge, the university became an integral facet of the application which went on to add several weeks and a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with the HKID to get the visa approval over the line.

Complex yes, but credit to the Department, the right immigration outcome was achieved in the end.

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The Hong Kong Visa Geeza (a.k.a Stephen Barnes) is a co-founder of the Hong Kong Visa Centre and author of the Hong Kong Visa Handbook. A law graduate of the London School of Economics, Stephen has been practicing Hong Kong immigration since 1993 and is widely acknowledged as the leading authority on business immigration matters here for the last 24 years.

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