95 per cent of approved applicants for Hong Kong talent scheme from mainland China
As of end of February, 8,797 of applications approved, 463 rejected and 4,564 being processed.
Hong Kong’s latest scheme to lure talent has received 14,240 applications in the two months since its launch, with 95 per cent of the approvals given to mainland Chinese, official figures show.
More than half of the applicants were aged 18 to 30, and about 30 per cent were aged 31 to 40, according to a paper the Security Bureau submitted to lawmakers. Among the successful applicants, 216 earned more than HK$10 million (US$1.3 million) annually.
Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu announced the Top Talent Pass Scheme in his maiden policy address in October and the programme was launched on December 28 in a bid to reverse a brain drain and address challenges stemming from a declining population.
As of February 28, 8,797, or 62 per cent, of the applications had been approved, 463, or 3.2 per cent, were rejected, and 4,564 were being processed.
Under the scheme, a new two-year visa is offered to those who earned no less than HK$2.5 million in the previous year and graduates of the world’s top 100 universities with at least three years of working experience in the last five years.
Those who graduated from one of the universities in that time period but who have not yet worked for three years are also eligible for the new visa, but the number of approvals is capped at 10,000 a year.
The bureau revealed the nationalities of the 8,800 successful applicants. Nearly 95 per cent, or 8,325, were from the mainland.
Only about 300, or 3 per cent, of successful applicants came from Canada, Australia, the United States and Singapore.
One of the scheme’s aims is to attract top earners to the city. About 1,200 applicants earning at least HK$2.5 million in the previous year secured visas. More than 200 approved candidates earned between HK$5 million and HK$10 million, and another 200 made HK$10 million or more.
About 4,400 successful applicants were graduates of the 100 universities with at least three years of working experience. Another 3,200 approved candidates from these institutions had less than three years of experience.
Some 51 per cent of the successful candidates were aged 18 to 30, while 32 per cent were aged between 31 and 40. Another 14 per cent were aged 41 to 50, 3 per cent were aged 51 to 60 and less than 1 per cent were 61 or above.
The scheme attracted controversy earlier when Chinese biophysicist He Jiankui applied and was approved by the government, despite being jailed in 2019 for illegal experimentation on human embryos. Authorities later cancelled his work visa.
The bureau warned that applicants would commit an offence if they “knowingly and wilfully” made a false statement or gave incorrect information.
“The law enforcement departments concerned will handle these cases seriously. Any such visas, entry permits issued or permissions granted for entry into or remaining in Hong Kong shall have no effect,” it said.
It said the Immigration Department also required applicants with work experience to declare their job sectors for analysis starting from March 1.
Professionals or top students who move to Hong Kong under the scheme, buy homes and put down roots will get a refund on a hefty chunk of property tax if they remain for more than seven years and obtain permanent residency.