Settling in Hong Kong - first steps
If you are considering moving to Hong Kong, here are a few things you need to know.
1. Do you have a valid Hong Kong Visa that gives you the right to abode in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong has one of the strictest Immigration policies and it is difficult for foreigners to obtain a visa that allows them to live and work in Hong Kong.
There are 4 visa options that foreigners may apply for:
Employment Visa for overseas talents and professionals who have been offered employments by a Hong Kong Employer, whom have the qualification, skills, knowledge and experience that are not readily available in Hong Kong;
Business Investment Visa, which is a special type of Employment Visa for overseas entrepreneurs who need to be present in Hong Kong to run their businesses, in which their businesses can demonstrate that they are making significance growths to the Hong Kong economy;
Student Visa for overseas students to study full-time in Hong Kong at certain locally accredited education programmes that are approved by the Hong Kong Education Bureau;
Dependent Visa for immediate family members of Hong Kong permanent residents (spouses, legal children under the age of 18 and parents over the age of 60), and of employment visa holders (spouses and legal children under the age of 18).
Valid visa holders of one of the above visas will also be issued the HKID card.
2. Search where to live – renting in Hong Kong
Congratulations on your success in obtaining a valid Hong Kong visa that permits you to live and work/study in Hong Kong!
Next step is to decide on where to live for the duration of your approved visa is allowed.
A few things to consider;
the location (city areas for young single professionals or suburban areas for families with children)
public transportation accessibility
whether the place will allow pets
furnished or non-furnished
additional room for a domestic helper
A standard residential tenancy agreement in Hong Kong is usually with a lease term of 2 years, with the first year being fixed term and the second year consists of a break clause that allows early termination of the tenancy. When you go into a tenancy agreement, many are required to pay 2 months worth of rent as the security deposit and 1 mont rent in advance.
When the rental property was through an estate agent, you will require to pay an estate agents commission which the rate is normally equals to half a month of the rent.
3. Getting around – public transport
First thing first, you must get yourself an Octopus Card which can be purchased at any MTR (Mass Transit Railway) stations.
After putting credits into the card (by cash), the card will act as a debit card to be used for most public transport (except for taxis). They can also be used for car parking or buying groceries, etc.
The different types of public transports in Hong Kong that allow payment via the Octopus Card are:
the star ferries
4. Get a local mobile number
Having a local phone number will be convenience, as this will be the number you use for booking an Uber, or ordering takeaways via Apps.
It is also the cheapest way to stay connected.
You can buy a local sim card from any of the mobile phone shops or simply purchase one from a 7-Eleven store.
When you are more settled and wish to join a phone plan to get better mobile deals i.e. unlimited data, here are the major mobile phone companies in Hong Kong:
5. Set up a personal bank account
The local bank account is where your salary will be paid to if you are working in Hong Kong.
To open a local bank account, many banks require to book for an appointment, you may do so by talking to a staff at the branches or call to make an appointment.
On the day of your appointment, you must bring with you:
Your passport and your HKID card
Proof of address (i.e. your mobile phone bill or any utility bills)
Any HKID card holders are eligible to use the Hong Kong public healthcare system.
There are 164 public hospitals and clinics in Hong Kong, they are all equipped with modern medical equipment.
There is also the option to go to private hospitals and clinic, where expats can select the doctor who they wish to see, also the facilities generally have shorter waiting time. However the consultation charges and medical bills can be very expensive.
7. Hong Kong schools for your children
Expats have the options to choose a local or an international school for their children, depending on which curriculums you wish your children to study.
Local schools are heavily subsidised by the Hong Kong government. These schools teach the Hong Kong curriculum and are predominantly in Cantonese.
International schools on the other hand with very expensive tuition fees. However these schools teach the global curricula (such as IB, A Levels, HSC, Le Bac, etc) and classes are taught in English.
School places in Hong Kong are very competitive, parents must put in the time to research the different schools and put your children’s names down at a few school as soon as you know that your family will be moving to Hong Kong, in order for your children to have a higher chance of being offered a place at your preferred schools.
8. Bringing your pets to Hong Kong
Though Hong Kong is a concrete jungle, there are many pet-friendly trails in the Hong Kong Island and New Territories areas for you to take your pets to exercise.
Before bringing your pets to Hong Kong, you must check the pets quarantine rules and conditions, also the costs to transport your pets to Hong Kong.
Also to keep in mind, having pets may limit the places that you can rent, as many of the rental properties and residential buildings do not allow animals.
9. Hire a domestic helper
Many expat families with both the parents working full-time, they would hire a live in domestic helpers (typically from the Philippines or Indonesia) to help them with looking after their children and keeping the household clean and in order.
An employment contract with a foreign domestic helper is typically with a 2-year term. There are many agencies available in Hong Kong to help you search for an ideal helper for your family.
10. Learn Cantonese
Cantonese is the official spoken language in Hong Kong, although many Hong Kongers can speak and understand English, they would still prefer to communicate in their mother tongue.
Learning the local language will definitely help you navigate the city easier, and you can integrate with the local communities better.
We offer Cantonese courses to expats, check out our website https://www.visaservices.hk/cantonese-course to see if our language courses are right for you and your family.
11. Eat local
Hong Kong offers a large variety of cuisines. But you must have local food and cuisine would be dim sum, roast duck and goose, BBQ pork, Cha chaan teng (Hong Kong style cafes), Hong Kong street food.
Also, when it comes to buying groceries, shopping local at your local wet market will guarantee better values and fresher ingredients.
If you miss food from home, many supermarkets do import international products, you may be able to buy certain frozen meat and snacks but they normally cost double the price of what you pay back home.
12. Explore the city, integrate with the locals.
There are many ways for expats to meet local and other expats, such as:
by joining sports clubs;
by joining different local Facebook groups of your interest;
by attending networking events;
by doing volunteering work at your local community.
Here are some websites that will help you to keep up with what’s happening and to find things to do in Hong Kong: