Hong Kong Immigration Work Permits and Visas

About Hong Kong

Occupied by the UK in 1841, Hong Kong was formally ceded by China the following year; various adjacent lands were added later in the 19th century. Pursuant to an agreement signed by China and the UK on 19 December 1984, Hong Kong became the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China on 1 July 1997. In this agreement, China has promised that, under its "one country, two systems" formula, China's socialist economic system will not be practiced in Hong Kong and that Hong Kong will enjoy a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign and defense affairs for the next 50 years.

Hong Kong has a bustling free market economy highly dependent on international trade. Natural resources are limited, and food and raw materials must be imported. Indeed, imports and exports, including reexports, each exceed GDP in dollar value. Even before Hong Kong reverted to Chinese administration on 1 July 1997 it had extensive trade and investment ties with China.

Per capita GDP compares with the level in the four big countries of Western Europe. GDP growth averaged a strong 5% in 1989-97. The widespread Asian economic difficulties in 1998 hit this trade-dependent economy quite hard, with GDP down 5%. The economy is recovering, with growth of 1.8% in 1999 to be followed by projected growth of 3.7% in 2000.

Hong Kong, in a sense, is defined by its real estate. Rugged, mountainous terrain forced its citizens to crowd into about one-tenth of its land area and even to reclaim land from its harbors. Every square inch of available land is crammed with homes and businesses, the result of geopolitical forces -- a strategic harbor and proximity to Asia's most populous country -- that turned this former fishing village into one of the world's busiest international ports and business centers. People came for many reasons: to find a better life, make a fortune or escape oppressive governments. What they've created is a sophisticated and exotic mix of Eastern and Western cultures. (The level of activity that courses through Hong Kong streets and alleyways has to be experienced to be believed).

Hong Kong is a city of levels -- geographically as well as socially and economically. At the top is Victoria Peak, on Hong Kong Island, from which mansions of the super rich look out over the high-rise apartments of the midlevel rich. Farther down the mountain are alleys and old tenements, dotted with colorful balcony gardens. Living on the water itself are Hong Kong's boat people -- fishing families who often spend most of their lives on their boats. Across the water on the mainland are Kowloon and the suburban New Territories, which were once Hong Kong's vegetable garden.

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