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Hong Kong announces new immigration pilot program for tech professionals

To meet the demand for new talent in the innovation and technology sector, the Hong Kong Government introduced the Technology Talent Admission Scheme (TechTAS) on 8 May 2018 to provide a fast-track arrangement for the admission of overseas research and development talent.

Tenants and incubatees of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTPC) and Hong Kong Cyberport Management Company Limited (Cyberport) that are engaged in the areas of biotechnology, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, robotics, data analytics, financial technologies, and material science are currently eligible under this pilot program. The program will later be extended to successful technology companies and institutes who will be given quotas to bring in foreign talent. 

A maximum of 1,000 persons will be admitted in the first year of this proposed three-year pilot scheme which will open for applications by June 2018.

The Secretary for Innovation and Technology, Mr Nicholas W Yang, reiterated the need to supplement local talent to keep up with the pace of tech industry.

"Talent is a key success factor in the global innovation race. Hong Kong must adopt policies to assist the industry in securing the talent needed. The TechTAS is designed to substantively streamline the admission procedure and shorten the processing time. It will effectively help technology companies and institutes in recruiting technology talent that is in short supply locally from overseas, which is of critical importance in the development of innovation and technology."

Quota system for companies

To qualify for this pilot program, eligible technology companies or institutes would first have to apply for a quota. Once the company has been allocated the necessary quota, they can then sponsor eligible foreign talents to apply for an employment visa/entry permit. In addition, the company will also be required to fulfil a local talent employment requirement. These processes will be regulated by the Innovation and Technology Commission with recommendations from HKSTPC and Cyberport. Successful applicant companies can expect a processing time as low as two weeks.

"Through the allocation of quotas, we give applicant technology companies and institutes the certainty they need to quickly carry out talent recruitment and make commercial plans. The TechTAS will also help nurture local talent. It requires applicant technology companies and institutes to employ one new local full-time employee plus two local interns engaging in technology-related work for every three non-local persons admitted," Secretary Yang explained.

To qualify for a quota, applicant companies must demonstrate to the commission that the talent sought is in short supply or not readily available in Hong Kong. The persons admitted under the TechTAS should also be degree holders in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) from a well-recognised university. While work experience is not necessary for master's or doctoral degree holders, undergraduates will require a minimum of one year of work experience. To further protect local job opportunities, each successful applicant company will be allowed no more than 100 non-local technology talent a year.

This new scheme is in line with Hong Kong’s tech focused budget announcement in March 2018. It clearly set the agenda to enhance its innovation and technology environment, attract companies from new economy sectors and research institutions to set up their presence in Hong Kong and nurture talent for a knowledge-based economy.

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