Hong Kong’s Immigration Department rejected more than twice as many work visa applications in percentage terms between January and June compared to the same period in the previous two years, official figures show.

The figures provided to HKFP show that 9,751 work visa applications were received from January to June this year, of which 430 were rejected. Of 22,198 applications in the first half of 2019, 482 were rejected.

Immigration Tower
Photo: Wikicommons.

The percentage of denials in the city has effectively doubled, rising from 2.16 percent in the first half of last year to 4.4 percent this year.

Despite the steep rise, the Immigration Department said the government maintains a liberal approach to the granting of visas under its General Employment Policy. “Hong Kong has always adopted a pragmatic and open policy on the employment of professionals in Hong Kong,” it said in a statement.

Companies in several sectors of the economy have expressed concern at delays in securing work permits for foreigners, or outright refusals. Hong Kong has plunged deep into recession as the city tackles a third wave of coronavirus infections.

Press freedom activists fear the delays or rejections in the case of media companies could mark a further erosion of the city’s press freedoms.

This week the department, after a delay of almost 6 months, refused to grant a work visa for an HKFP editor originally from Ireland.

PeriodNumber of applications receivedNumber of applications approvedNumber of applications refused
January to June 201821 57620 314401
January to June 201922 19819 756482
January to June 20209 7517 717430
Work visa application figures provided to HKFP by the Immigration Department.

Other news organisations in the city have also run into difficulty. The New York Times’s Chris Buckley and Victor Mallet of the Financial Times were refused visas outright.

According to research by ECA International, an international human resources management firm, pay packages for expat workers in Hong Kong continued to rise last year.

Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.