HK fast tracks immigration for overseas-based tech talent

The ITB launches a new scheme that would make recruitment of foreign talent faster for the innovation and technology sector. (Credit: Scottwonghk/iStockPhoto)

Companies within the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks in Shatin and the Cyberport in Pok Fu Lam will be able to easily recruit foreign talent under the three-year pilot Technology Talent Technology Scheme (TechTAS), which starts next month.

A maximum of 1,000 people will be admitted to Hong Kong in the first year of operation of the new scheme unveiled yesterday by the Innovation and Technology Bureau (ITB).

TechTAS is aimed to fast-track arrangement for the immigration of innovation and technology experts from overseas and Mainland China. Initially, it will be open to people engaged in seven areas: biotechnology, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, robotics, data analytics, financial technologies and material science.

“The talent shortage is a global problem. It is not a Hong Kong unique problem,” said ITB Secretary Nicholas Yang. “We are listening to different companies in Cyberport and also in Science Park. They actually tell us that these people are needed, these talents are needed. So what we will do is we will be depending on them to pick what is best for Hong Kong.”

The company seeking new hires must first submit a three-page application to the Innovation and Technology Commission and explain why the talent sought is in short supply or not readily available locally.

It will take the commission two weeks to review the application and another two weeks for the company to apply to the Immigration Department to sponsor the employment visa.

At present, it takes the department at least one month to review an application for a working visa.

Each company admitted under the new scheme would be given an admission quota of not more than 100 people a year and can do the applications in one go.

According to Yang, TechTAS also nurtures local talent by requiring a company to employ one new local full-time employee plus two local interns engaging in technology-related work for every three non-local persons admitted.

The Immigration Department currently have five major schemes to attract talents from outside Hong Kong and approved more than 62,000 applications last year.

For the IT field, between 2013 and February this year, 1,568 applicants were approved under the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals and 427 under the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme.

The new TechTAS is based on the two schemes but with a fast-track arrangement.

“Our scheme is much more focused. We focus on innovation and technology talents. If you look at the figures, those two schemes do not admit a large number of technology talents,” said Permanent Secretary for Innovation and Technology Cheuk Wing-hing.

The pilot scheme is subject to review after six months to see whether it should be opened to other technology companies outside the two selected parks.

The persons admitted under the TechTAS should be degree holders in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) from a well-recognized university, i.e. one of the top 100 universities in the latest publications of the STEM-related ranking tables of the QS World University Rankings, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Work experience is not compulsory for those with a master's or doctoral degree, while those with a bachelor's degree only should possess a minimum of one year of work experience in the relevant technology area.