Globalization has led to a seemingly endless trend of migration of people around the world. This includes the international movement of highly skilled workers, including specialists, researchers, business executives, managers and intra-company transferees.
Much of the motivation on the part of these professionals is the allure of the economic opportunities abroad that are greater than those available in their home countries. As a result of this migration dynamic, the countries on the receiving end of the movement of these people experience the benefits of innovation stimulation, a greater pool of skilled human capital and the exchange of intellectual dynamism. These migrants also bring new money into the country with them.
Consequently, the national immigration agencies of developed economies find themselves in a battle to attract talent to their shores and have implemented migration programmes which facilitate the admission of these skills into their countries. This includes making it much easier for foreign students to remain behind upon the completion of their formal education and take up employment or establishes or join in businesses.
Hong Kong is no exception. In the 2003 Report of the Task Force on Population it was stated that “Hong Kong must have the capacity to draw on the best and the brightest in the region and world-wide, including the populous and fast-developing Mainland”.
In the Chief Executive’s 2005 Policy Address, Mr Donald Tsang made it very clear:
“Like other world cities, Hong Kong must attract talent from around the world… the larger the pool of talent, the easier it is for a place to attract investment, thereby promoting economic development and increasing employment”.
This notwithstanding, Hong Kong has a number of “pull factors” which work to entice the highly skilled, well educated and consummately professional to live and settle in the HKSAR. These include excellent employment opportunities, good pay, a low tax rate and relatively simple and efficient visa application procedures. Geography, climate and cuisine also play a part too! Moreover, Hong Kong has world class telecommunications, easy travel, excellent security and long-established racial tolerance.
Admission of highly skilled immigrants has always been part of the fabric of Hong Kong society. Whilst the dynamic towards Mainland talent has, obviously, developed positively since 1997 under the One Country, Two Systems arrangements of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, the immigration policy on entry for employment of foreign professionals, which is known as the General Employment Policy, has been in place for more than half a century.
Employment visas are issued to professionals “who possess special skills, knowledge, or experience of value to and not readily available in Hong Kong”. Investment visas are issued to those who are in a position to make a “substantial contribution to the economy of Hong Kong”. “Quality Migrants” and “Mainland Talents and Professionals” each have their own immigration programmes designed specifically with them in mind. Moreover, anyone graduating from a Hong Kong tertiary education institute is now effectively granted an employment visa post graduation almost as ‘of right’ under the “Immigration Arrangements for Non-Local Graduates“.
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I’ve lived in Hong Kong for 25 years now. I think its an amazing place, even though it has changed its tone and tenor a few times down the years. What about you? Do you think that Hong Kong is as attractive a place to be now as when you first moved here? If you’re thinking of relocating to our fine city, what is the draw for you? Have your say!