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Writing at the beginning ...
Whether you are about to get on the flight to HK, or you are just thinking about which country to go for studying or sightseeing, I hope this section can help you.
Moving away from home is not easy for many people, especially if you are moving to a country where the culture, language, and lifestyle are totally different. It is a very big decision. Anxiety and frustration are expected and surfaced. However, it could be quite an adventure at the same time. Excitement and unforgettable memories could be imagined. For we are young, we should take every opportunity to experience as much as we can, and find out the meaning of life. And if you think you are not young anymore, you should take this opportunity right away indeed. You may not have another similar opportunity again.
Once the decision is made, just embrace it. I cannot guarantee you will fall in love with HK although 99.9% of the people I have met did. What I can guarantee is that when you return home, you will become a better person.
Applying Visa and HK Identity Card
If you come to HK other than sight-seeing, you may need to apply for a visa - such as study visa and work visa
Student Visa of HK - If you are coming as an exchange student or you are doing a full-time study, you may need a student visa.
The hard way is, to apply a student visa in a local Chinese Embassy, which would be more annoying, expensive, time-consuming, and inconvenient; because even HK is a part of China, but there are still many differences. And the immigration in HK may question about your visa since it is issued by 'China' but not HK. There were cases which the border officer did not recognize the visa and the student had to apply for a new one after he / she has entered into HK. If you want to escape from all these problems, you should ask the school you are going to in HK to apply a student visa for you.
Actually, the Chinese Embassy in your country does not have the power to grant you the student visa to HK. As I have mentioned before, It is the immigration office of HK (Immigration Department, HK) which has the sole authority in all the immigration matters of HK, that will grant you the (student) visa; definitely not the Chinese Embassy or the school you are going to. So, if you apply through the Chinese Embassy, they will simply refer your application to the Immigration Department of HK. It is thus, easy to understand why it would cost more money and time.
Still not convinced? Well there was a case which a student from Albania was trying to study in HK and in fact people from Albania, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Afghanistan and Nepal are not allowed to study in HK in general. The Immigration Department had already rejected his case at the beginning; but the student was very eager to go, which was a good thing. So he tried to ask the Chinese embassy at Albania to apply the visa for him again. The Chinese embassy did not know what he went through with the Immigration Department of HK before and just received his application at first. The student thought it was a good sign; but unfortunately just to find out the Chinese embassy refused to help him after talking to the Immigration Department of HK.
On the other hand, if you apply the student visa through your school in HK - you may be guaranteed a less than 6 weeks processing period of your application if everything goes smoothly. Once you get the visa, REMEMBER to stick it on your passport and SHOW it at the border when entering HK!
Another reason why it is better to send every thing to your school in HK and ask them to do every thing for you because you will actually need your school in HK to be your 'sponsor of the application' (not your family or your home school). That means, no matter you are applying for the visa from Chinese Embassy or by yourself directly in Hong Kong, your application will still need to come to the hands of your school officer. They will then verify and sign your application before the Immigration in HK can process your application. So, why just let your school in HK to do that at the very beginning? They have been working with the Immigration for so many years, they have good relationship with the Office and they understand the process MUCH BETTER than your Chinese Embassy in your country.
Other than the application forms (original), which can be downloaded from the websites of the Immigration Department, you will need to submit the visa application with a passport-sized photo of yourself, a statement of your financial records, and a copy of some of your academic documentation (acceptance letter, copy of application form and transcripts); as well as your passport bio-page.
The valid of your student visa usually starts from less than 1 month before school starts; and ends in less than 1 month after your program finishes. It doesn't matter how long you are asking for in your application form. And the validity will never exceed 12 month maximum. So if you will stay for more than 1 year, you will have to extend the visa some time before it expired.
Visa not ready at the time coming to HK
Sometimes, it may be too late for you to get the student visa before you leave for HK. And you may need to get it from the school you are going to or the Immigration Department of HK after you arrived in HK. As a result, you will enter HK without a student visa, aka as a tourist (if you are allowed to enter HK as a tourist without a tourist visa). However, you cannot enroll as a student and study in HK like that. In this case, you will need to take the student visa that you have received right after you arrived and leave HK, then return to HK and show your student visa and passport again. Once the immigration officer saw your student visa and passport at the border, he will "acknowledge" your student status and you can finish your enrollment process after.
Here is a list of countries that require NO tourist visa to travel to HK:
Unless you are coming from the mentioned countries which requires a tourist visa to enter HK, all you need is only your passport.
Luckily, it is very easy and fast to "leave" and "re-enter" HK again. You can either go to China - within 60 mins by train; or to Macau - 1 hour away by ferry. Usually people will pick Macau because you normally don't need another travel visa in doing so, but you most likely need a travel visa to go to China. Both China and Macau have train or ferry to go to HK in every 15 to 30 mins. So, you can have everything settled on the same day. However, there are pros and cons to both.
If you go to China, it is cheaper because it costs around HK$ 60 for a return ticket to go to China (Shenzhen) by train, and for Europeans a travel visa to Shenzhen on arrival only cost ~ HK$ 200 to 300.
On the other hand, it costs HK$ 300 for a return ticket to go to Macau by ferry (from either Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon, or Sheung Wan in HK Island), but most of you don't need to pay and get a visa to go to Macau. You just need to bring your passport.
Just don't forget to take your newly collected student visa before leaving HK and show it when you return or it will not change anything for you!
Some students may not have their student visa ready when they arrived at HK for the first time, and could not enroll as a student. However, usually your school will still allow you to check-in to their dorm, if you have assigned to stay there provided that you could show your acceptance / offer letter.
After all, you should try your best to get the student visa before you get on the flight and leave your home!
1. Students under 18
If you are under 18 years old, you will need to find a HK citizen to sign the guardian form for you. Which again, can be someone from the school in HK.
2. Only good for one single journey to HK
In your student / working visa label, it always says something like "good for a single journey to HK in between a certain period of time...". You may be worried if you could travel out of HK during your time in HK as it seemed that you might not be able to enter HK again after. Well actually, it doesn't mean that. You CAN travel as many times as you want during your stay after the activation of the student visa. You will not lose your student / employee status once it is activated. The SINGLE JOURNEY there simply means you can only use it for once - to obtain the student / employee status in one institution or company in HK for once, but not entering HK for just one time.
3. Return flight departs after expiry of visa
If for example, your visa expires on the 5th of January, but you booked your flight back home for the 7th or you just want to stay a bit longer, you can just leave HK and re-enter as a tourist to extend your period of stay. Be sure you do so BEFORE your visa has expired (before 5th of January in this example).
4. Students Who Don't Need a Student Visa
If you are a spouse or children under 18 of a HK citizen or visa holder, or if you are a holder of the HK Identity Card with right of abode, you will not need to apply for a student or working visa (but a dependent visa). If you are arriving from overseas, you should apply for your dependent visa from a Chinese Diplomatic and Consular Mission nearest to your place of domicile. Or, by your dependent from the Immigration Department's Receipt and Dispatch Sub-unit - 2F Immigration Tower, 7 Gloucester Road, Wanchai, HK. The form to be used is ID(E)998.
If you have a working or training visa of HK and you are taking up part-time study only, you also don't need to apply for a student visa.
5. Extension of Student / Working Visa
For short term - Well, I told you HK is awesome. If you want to spend more time in HK as a student or employee, you may apply for an extension of your student or working visa. However, you need a confirmation letter from your host university or company which is like an acceptance letter, stating that you will be enrolled in a program or continue as an employee after the expiration of your current student or working visa. Usually you may get the confirmation letter from the registration office of your school or HR office. Once you got it, you can go to the Immigration Office and apply for the extension. It is required by the Immigration Department of HK that you need to show up in person when submitting your application.
For normal extension - you are doing a full time degree course or your employment is on permanent term; but as you know every visa only has a validity of 12 months maximum, so you will need to extend every year - your school or company will probably help you to do this every year before Summer or the expiration of your visa. Otherwise, you need to get a document from your school or company to show that you are still in the program or employment and go to the Immigration with your passport by yourself. Again, it must be done by yourself.
6. Don't misunderstand that the expiry date on your employment contract or study program is the end date of your stay in HK. The actual end date is the limit of stay specified on the landing stamp / label in your passport. If you overstay beyond the permitted period, you could be jailed or fined; and you may face removal from HK after serving your sentence.
Working Visa of HK
Please refer to "Working in HK".
HK Identity Card (For people who can stay in HK for 180 days or more only):
It is free and useful when going to places require identity / age check, better than carrying your passport around. Besides, you can automatically enjoy the fast checking channel (HK Resident Line) with your Identity Card at any immigration checkpoint. You don't need to show your passport when exiting and entering HK (of course, you still need it when you enter or exit other countries / regions). All you need is inserting your Card into a turnstile, and in 5 seconds, you are done.
You can visit www.gov.hk or the website of the Immigration Department - www.immd.gov.hk for more information and making an appointment (you need to make an appointment online before going to the office). You are required to apply the HK Identity Card within 30 days after arrival if you are eligible (I don't think you will be put in a jail if you haven't though).
Once you have made the appointment, you will need to go to one of the following offices:
Wanchai - 8F Immigration Tower, 7 Gloucester Road, Exit A5 Wanchai MTR
Cheung Sha Wan - 3F Cheung Sha Wan Government Offices, 303 Cheung Sha Wan Road, Exit C1 Sham Shui Po MTR
Kwun Tong - GF Wharf T&T Square, 123 Hoi Bun Road, Exit B6 Ngau Tau Kok MTR
Shatin - 4F Jubilee Square, 2-18 Lok King Street, Exit C Fotan MTR
Yuen Long - GF Manhattan Plaza, 23 Sai Ching Street, Tai Tong Road Light Rail Station
If your HK ID Card is lost, defaced or damaged, you must report this to the above office within 14 days and apply for a new one.
You can also pick and add your Chinese name basically anyway you like. Some students picked something very random but sounds really cool in the past. Feels like getting a Chinese tattoo haha.
You may be required to give a Notice of Intended Marriage in advance in person at a Marriage Registry or through a civil celebrant of marriages. You can use the 24-hour appointment booking system at 31023883 or www.gov.hk/en/residents/immigration/bdmreg/marriage/bookgivingmarriage.htm
Births in HK should be registered at the district registries within 42 days of birth. You can use the 24-hour appointment booking system at 25980888 or www.gov.hk/en/residents/immigration/bdmreg/birth/birthreg/bookbirthreg.htm
Here is a online booking site I have been using before and after I come to Hong Kong - http://www.hotelinhongkong.net/. You can also look for these hotels in other websites which may offer you a better price. I just think the one I recommend has good service quality.
Moreover, here is a website which offers perhaps the cheapest deals of most of the hotels in HK for short stay: Booking.com
If you wanna stay in a hostel to save some bucks, you can find information from the official website of HK's hostels - http://www.hadla.gov.hk/en/hotels/search_g.html
Or, you can try the hostels operated by Youth Hostel International - http://www.yha.org.hk. Except the one in Shek Kip Mei, Kowloon, they are really cheap BUT very far away from the city and located in some remote areas that you may need to go back home early or travel by taxi every day.
Besides, there is a hostel in Jordan, Kowloon, which is a backpackers' pick. The room size is about 100 sq ft and it is relatively safe. You can find the room detail, location, transportation from airport, and also online booking service in their official website -http://www.hotelone.com.hk/eng/index.htm
For something really really cheap, you can check this one: http://www.179.hk/Accomodation_page_EN.htm. The hostels there are really cheap and small. Not recommended to girls alone. However, they all have free Internet and private bathroom.
YHA Mei Ho Youth Hostel at Shek Kip Mei - renovated from the first ever public housing building of HK built in 1953, the Mei Ho Hostel is full of history of the struggle and strive to succeed of HK people in the late 20th century. Conveniently located at the most interesting area of HK, where you can find cheap clothes, electronics, computer stuff, food, and many more: http://www.meihohouse.hk/eng/index.php
Finding a place to live in HK is such a pain in the ass if you have a tight budget. Craigslist doesn't work well here because it is mostly for personal service or meeting people...; also people here usually won't offer a contract for less than 6 months (usually 1 year the minimum). Nevertheless, the best way or the only way to do it is by asking a property agent to help you. Which mean you may need to stay in a hotel or hostel for the first 1 to 2 weeks in HK, and pay a visit to some property agency in person. Online resource doesn't work in HK basically.
If you are a guy or you are going to share with others, you may find Sham Shui Po, Kowloon City, and Yaumatei the best places to live because they are the cheapest areas for renting in HK. In Sham Shui Po, you may find a place with 300 sq ft for HK$ 9,000 a month; or a tiny studio of 100 sq ft for HK$ 3,000 a month in a very old building without elevator.
Central, Wanchai, and Tsim Sha Tsui are places where expats usually choose to live in HK because everything is so convenient, but it also means you have to pay a lot more. You may have to pay at least HK$ 18,000 a month for the same size of a place that you could find in Sham Shui Po - 300 sq ft.
Shatin, which is close to Kowloon Tong, may be a good place to live as well. It is less crowded, safe, and convenient. For an apartment of 300 sq ft in size, you may need to pay HK$ 10,000 a month only. Besides, you may like to rent a town house in Shatin since there are plenty of them. Town house is a house with 3 stories. Landlord tends to separate the house into 3 individual apartments by each floor. The roof top area is only reserved to the one who rents the top unit, while the backyard is only for the bottom-unit-occupant. Thus, if you are a group of 2 or 3 people, you may want to rent a unit of this kind (the top unit should be the best with the roof top for sunbathing and BBQ, etc.). There are 2 to 3 bedrooms, and private kitchen and bathroom in each of the units. And monthly rent is only around HK$ 13,000 for the whole group.
You may need to remember that, if you rent a place through the help of a property agent, you will need to give him a one off commission which is equivalent to 50% of the agreed amount of monthly rent made between you and the landlord. And for the first time payment, you may need to pay a deposit (which is equals to one month's rent, you could get it back when you leave), and the rent for the first month to the landlord. In other words, you will need to pay 2.5 times the amount of the monthly rent to the landlord and the agent together on the first day you move into your new home.
ALL THIS FIRST TIME PAYMENT MUST BE PAID BY CASH! So be prepared to have enough time and HK$ in the first week when you are searching for apartment. Otherwise 'your place' would be taken by other people if you spent too much time to get enough money.
Another thing is, the landlords here tend to have their places leased for at least 1 year. If you need to get a lease for less than 1 year, it is actually quite difficult. You may need to pay more than usual in most of the case; or to pay all the rent up front before you can move in. That's why a lot of short-term expats have to stay in a hotel or serviced apartment.
Dealing with property agents could be a problem because most of them do not speak English. If you could not find a Chinese speaker to go with you, you may want to stick to some property agents as recommended by this website: http://thelist.com.hk/tag/Property%20Agents
Besides, there are also some useful online resources (Some of these sites are Chinese in default, but you can change it to English):
Working in Hong Kong
For students - Working is prohibited during the school term for Exchange Student in HK. However, students may stay for longer after they finished their study and apply for an internship or paid job. Here are some of the job searching websites in HK: (Once you have finished your exchange study and employed by a company, your student visa will be expired and your company will help you to apply for a working visa (not by the university), and you will be allowed to stay and work or study part-time in HK during the period of employment)
For others - Working visa can only be applied by your employer (your visa sponsor). Thus, if a company hires you, they will usually arrange the application for you and have your visa ready before the employment start date and / or before you come to HK. Thus, if someone says you have to apply the working visa to work for them and if it will be your first job in HK, either the company is a scam or it is not that interested to hire you.
Extension of working visa
Working visa normally valid for not more than 2 years. So by the end of the 2 year period, either your company will extend the working visa for you (if they are intended to), or you have to apply for extension on your own in at least 4 weeks before the expiry date.
For Full-time regular students, the HK government has amended the law which allows overseas students (not short-term exchange students) to work in HK:
Firstly, if you want to work during the studying period, you can (1) apply for job offered by the host university; you can only work inside the university and you cannot work more than 18 hours a week.
Or (2), you can apply for internship (work outside school), only if it is related to your study, and it is approved by the university right at the beginning - right when you received the student visa which also comes with a letter called the "No-Objection Letter" (NOL) issued by the Immigration Department of HK. You cannot apply for an internship on you own. You can consult the university or your department if your program of study allows you to do an internship.
Only (3) during the Summer Break, which is exactly between June 1 and August 31, you can work in anything anywhere you want (inside or outside the school).
Another thing for full-time regular student is known as the Immigration Arrangement for Non-local Graduates (IANG). If you are full-time regular student, once you are graduated, you can go to the Immigration Office with a graduation confirmation from the registration office of your school to apply for the IANG. With the IANG permit, you will be allowed to stay in HK for 12 more months, starting from the application date. During this 12 months, you are free to stay in HK, to further study or to work, or just doing nothing. If you want to apply the IANG 12 months after your graduation, you will have to show the Immigration Department that you have found a job in HK. Otherwise you will be required to leave.
Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF)
Every employee (and employer) in HK is subject to the MPF scheme except of the following: (as at 2014, the contribution to MPF for both employer and employee is equivalent to 5% of the employee's monthly income, with the ceiling of HK$ 1,500. The contribution of the employee will be deducted from his or her monthly salary automatically)
- Domestic helpers
- Self-employed hawkers
- People covered by statutory pension or provident fund schemes
- Members of occupational retirement schemes
- People from overseas who enter HK for employment for not more than 13 months, or who are covered by overseas retirement schemes
- Employees of the EU Office in HK
Bank and Bank Account
You may need a HK bank account if you will receive money from home. Ideally, you may try opening an account from a bank that can connected to your account at home and have branches / office in HK. Such as, Citibank, Bank of America in the case of Americans; and tell your bank that you are going to HK so that they would not block any 'unusual transaction' automatically. To open a bank account, you need to bring your passport / HKID and address proof, usually a bill issued in HK to your HK address.
Another things to think about are charges that your bank will give you for withdrawing / making payment overseas. If the charge is really high, you may want to withdraw cash as fewer time as possible; or you may consider bringing more cash with you when you go to HK (beware of safety issue though).
Besides, some bank may have a daily / weekly withdrawal limit that you may only be able to withdraw US$ 500 for example, every time, every day or every week. Anyway, just try to find out all these things from your bank before you leave home.
Money transfer without a bank account - You may try using Western Union. It is free in most of the cases:
Expenditure varies from individual, but in average, one week's expenditure can be less than US$ 100. For surviving the first month in HK, around HK$ 10,000 is usually good enough for things such as: transpiration, food, books / necessities, registration / application of services, and some local explorations and excursion trips. Afterwards, HK$ 5,000 a month should be adequate for living in HK. Perhaps, you will also need to prepare for the payment of rent and electricity in your first month.
Below is the cost of some basic expenditure in HK (Download Word file):
The currency of HK is HK dollar $. There are coins and paper money using in HK. (If you are lucky you may receive some HK$ 150 note. It is issued for a special celebration and only have 1 million made) Money in HK are printed by 3 different banks - Hong Kong Bank, Standard Chartered and Bank of China. So don't freak out if you receive notes which look a little different from below.
As in June 2017, the exchange rates between HK$ and some other currencies were:
Sometimes you may need to have your insurance plan ready when applying for a visa for coming to HK not as a tourist.
Usually, the insurance policy required shall cover travel, personal accident, medical expenses (accident and non-accident), hospitalization and emergency evacuation / repatriation throughout the entire period of your stay in Hong Kong.
In order to assist visa applicants to fulfill the requirement, some universities or companies will provide an optional insurance plan for students or employees to meet the requirements; and it will cover all of the above matters. That means, outpatient consultation and medication expenses are not covered.
If you are jumping to this section that means you are probably going to HK for more than just sight-seeing. HK is a modern city and you can get everything you need basically. I do not think it is necessary to bring too many things with you even if you are going to stay in HK for 6-12 months. Nevertheless, here are some tips that may be useful to you when considering what to take.
What is the weather going to be like?
As mentioned in other section, the weather in HK looks something like this:
So, I do not think you need to bring any thick, winter clothes; unless it is super light-weight. You can always buy a cheap thick jacket from almost everywhere in HK for less than US$ 100 in case it gets really cold.
On the other hand, shorts, tank tops or T-shirts are widely accepted in HK. So they should occupy the biggest part of your wardrobe.
Flip flops or sandals are also widely accepted. You may also want to have a pair of sneakers and formal shoes with you.
And remember, there is laundry service around the city, and washing machines can be found in hostels, hotels and dorms. They are usually quite cheap.
How much can you reasonably carry by yourself; and how much luggage do the airlines permit you to take?
Usually airlines will allow you to take 2 suitcases which is about 10 KG each (20 lbs) and also 1 hand-carry luggage with size not more than 50 x 40 x 30 cm. Please consult your airline for specific detail.
Taxi service is good and adequate in HK, whether you will be arriving by air, sea or land. You can also take buses to the place you are going to stay in HK if that will be more direct and convenient. Buses servicing the Airport will have space for passengers' suitcases. Ordinary buses, however, will not allow passengers to carry more than 1 luggage on board in general.
What electric voltage do they use in HK?
The voltage of HK is 220 volts AC, 50HZ, and the standard plug is a three-pronged plug. If you are using anything with a different voltage you may need to buy a transformer. Also if the outlet of your device is not a three-pronged plug, you will also need to buy a socket adaptor. Socket adaptor and transformers are very cheap and can be bought in many places in HK. So, do not worry about that. Please see the Electricity section or the Shopping section for more information.
So here is a list of the things I suggest you to pack:
Last but not least - your PASSPORT and PLANE TICKET (or train / ferry) !!!
Things NOT suggested to pack:
Beddings, food, batteries, adaptors, papers, stationeries, warm-heavy clothes, tooth brush, tooth paste, floss, deodorant, towels, comb, hair-dryer, comb, etc. - they are all cheap and easy to find in HK!
Maps, tour guide, language books - You can get maps of HK in hotels or schools for free. You don't need any other tour guide because you have already found the best one, the one you are looking at. And language books - they are never very useful actually. Who still uses all these things in a Modern and Big city when there are Wi-Fi and smartphones these days anyway? Do bring some information about your school or your new neighborhood - you can read them on the plane / train / ferry.
Post Service and Shipping
In general sending letter within HK costs HK$ 1.4 and takes one day only. To overseas is HK$ 3.0 and takes only 1 week. Sending big thing to home (overseas) is also very reliable with the HK Post service. It costs from 15KG around US$ 120 to 25KG or more at only US$ 200. Normally it will take not more than 2 weeks by air, or 5 weeks by ship. http://www.hongkongpost.com
HK Post Office APP
If you are using a smartphone like those with Android and IOS system, you may download an APP developed by the HK Post Office. It allows you to calculate the shipping cost from HK to almost everywhere in the world.
August, 2017 (Version 6.0);
since January 01, 2007
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