We have recently had a couple of interesting Hong Kong investment visa ‘wins’ which fly in the face of the commonly parlayed mantra that ‘one man businesses never get approved’ by the HK Immigration Department (the “HKID”).
What follows can’t be said to apply in every single instance of a one-man only investment visa application for Hong Kong, but it does speak to the reality that such businesses CAN in fact receive an approval from the HKID – if only you have:
- A compelling rationale for starting out as a single operator.
- Readily available funds to invest at a level that is somewhat higher than the bare minimum 6 months cash flow.
- A dynamic in your business plan that is compelling or otherwise offers attractive or scarce ‘human capital’ to the HKSAR.
- A manifestly obvious intention to create local jobs eventually, if not immediately.
- Your ducks otherwise fully lined up!
With the facts slightly adjusted to protect the confidentiality of our clients, here are the essential circumstances of 2, separate ‘one man businesses’ which went on to secure the approval of the HKID under our counsel and with us managing the applications.
The first involved an interior design services professional who had a few years prior residence in Hong Kong as an employee but was changing careers completely in joining in his new business. His business was ‘him’, for all intents and purposes but he did have some ‘family IP’ which he was bringing to the business, which his father had applied in a similar family company in the UK for over 30 years. Whilst his father had retired some years previously, he was appointed to the board of our client’s one man limited liability company and was manifestly going to help out his son out with counsel and advice. Throw in 12 months worth of funds ready to invest, the support of certain HK contacts who indicated they would provide business to this, initially, one man operation and a plan which clearly demonstrated that if the growth trajectory was achieved, new jobs would be created as sure as night follows day, the HKID bought into the argument and approved the application with no more fuss than can be expected where there are much larger scale investment plans for Hong Kong.
The second instance took in a female mental health expert in a profession that does not require formal registration in the HKSAR and who was seeking to set up a new practice, having grown tired of working in a current job in Hong Kong which was not in any way connected with her real qualifications. As it happened, the commercial rationale for starting the business was always going to be nebulous – she was the product, after all, and she only had a finite amount of time that she could sell. Certainly, at least one local job was to be created 4 months into the business plan and the cash available for investment was literally just enough for set up and 6 months’ cash flow. However, her area of expertise was so compelling and in such short supply in the HKSAR, our advice was that the ‘substantial contribution’ element of the investment visa approvability test should be argued in the context of the help afforded to stressed out Hong Kong bankers and lawyers and that her practice was never going to be a major money spinner throwing off new jobs left right and centre. It worked and her visa was approved in double-quick time.