Chinese financial services professionals looking for an opportunity outside of the mainland are more likely to turn to Hong Kong than London and New York these days, but visa requirements are becoming an increasing headache for those hoping to make the switch.
“We negotiated with Hong Kong immigration for over two months,” says one bank HR professional in the city. “They kept asking questions and delayed the process. We really don’t understand what is the headache in the application.”
The issue is really, however, quite simple – and surprising for a location so dependent on expat talent – they want to make sure that local candidates aren’t overlooked.
“For a youth without actual work experience, it is hard to convince the Immigration Department why a junior from overseas is better than one hired locally, or why the bank cannot hire one with similar qualifications — also without work experience — from Hong Kong, ” comments Jade Tang, a Hong Kong-based immigration lawyer at Oldham, Li & Nie, a law firm.
Fresh graduates, or indeed junior bankers with less than three years’ experience, have been rejected many times, according to another HR manager. “It’s to do with the job and pay level of the post. Immigration might ask: ‘why can’t you hire this position in Hong Kong’?,” he says, “I think it’s mainly about retaining job opportunities for local Hong Kong employment.”
Those studying in Hong Kong who try to find a job after graduation seem to be in a better position, because they can apply for a scheme called Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates (IANG), which gives them one year’s grace to look for a job. Unlike some other visa schemes, IANG doesn’t require the applicant to have a job offer at the time of applying. And given that universities in Hong Kong nowadays admits a huge number of Mainland Chinese students, the IANG “has become a gateway for young Mainland Chinese talents to work in Hong Kong,” as one HR manager puts it.
Then there’s the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP), a programme that allows Mainland Chinese people with special skills, knowledge and extensive experience to work in Hong Kong in positions that are not easily filled by locals.
Unfortunately, it’s even harder for those from outside Mainland China to secure a Hong Kong job, according to HR managers we’ve spoken to. One South Korean banker was given two options in the end: either register for a master program with a university in Hong Kong, so that one year later he would be covered by IANG or marry a Hong Kong girl so that he could apply for a dependent visa, which is generally quicker to process.
This was a serious piece of advice from a serious HR manager.
In the end, according to the HR manager who handled this case, the South Korean banker took the choice to marry a Hong Kong girl, and got his dependent visa in a month’s time.
So, for young bankers in similar situations, perhaps it’s wise to squeeze out some time for romance out of a hugely busy schedule. It may come in handy.