Hong Kong attracted nearly 2,000 professionals earning at least HK$10 million annually, figures for last year show

Hong Kong attracted nearly 2,000 professionals earning at least HK$10 million annually, figures for last year show

Nearly 2,000 professionals earning HK$10 million (US$1.27 million) or more a year successfully applied to move to Hong Kong under a government scheme to attract talent in the past 12 months, an influx experts said could create more job opportunities for all.

The Security Bureau told lawmakers on Wednesday 46,497 applications were approved under the Top Talent Pass Scheme in the 2023-24 financial year. Under one category of the scheme, candidates must have earned at least HK$2.5 million over the past 12 months to be eligible, and of the 11,779 people approved, 1,926 had made HK$10 million or more.

According to the bureau, 2,162 successful applicants had earned between HK$5 million and HK$10 million in the preceding year.

The government introduced the Top Talent Pass Scheme in December 2022 to lure more professionals to the city. Successful applicants are offered a two-year visa, which can only be extended if the holders are employed or set up a business in Hong Kong.

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The Security Bureau also revealed 52,876 visas or entry permits for dependants were also approved for all categories in the same period. Photo: Jonathan Wong

The scheme is also open to graduates from the world’s top universities as selected by authorities who have been working for three of the past five years. Those graduates with less than three years of experience can also apply, but the number accepted is capped at 10,000 annually.

For the two categories that require academic qualifications, 26,169 and 8,549 applications were respectively approved in 2023-24.

The bureau also revealed 52,876 visas or entry permits for dependants were also approved for all categories in the same period.

Authorities said a survey carried out last November of successful applicants who had been in the city for more than six months found more than half were employed. It found 31 per cent were working in the financial services industry, followed by 18 per cent in innovation and technology, and 17 per cent in commerce and trade. About 8 per cent of them worked in insurance or brokerage services.

Lawmaker Shang Hailong, who chairs the Hong Kong Top Talent Services Association, said most of the approved high-income applicants were entrepreneurs and C-suite executives in both traditional industries such as retail and manufacturing, and new tech companies, such as those focused on artificial intelligence or biotechnology.

“They are not just from the mainland, but also from around the world,” he said.

Professionals recruited under Hong Kong talent scheme earning HK$50,000 a month

According to Shang, their motivation for applying for Hong Kong visas stemmed from their recognition of the city’s high educational standards, which would benefit their children, and the perceived value of Hong Kong passports.

“Particularly, some of them attached great importance to the city’s bridge role between the mainland and the world,” he said, adding that some of the professionals had lost touch with overseas business contacts during the three-year pandemic.

Shang also referred to a survey done by his association that found about a fourth of the talent scheme newcomers expressed a willingness to set up companies in Hong Kong.

“If that all translated into reality, it could result in the creation of around 1,000 new companies in the city by mid-2025, thereby generating employment opportunities in the local labour market,” Shang said.

Alexa Chow Yee-ping, the managing director of AMAC Human Resources Consultants, agreed that the high-income applicants could create a significant number of job opportunities.

Language barrier, living costs pose hurdles to mainland talent eyeing Hong Kong

The arrivals could be C-suite executives, directors or experts in certain fields who would require a team of managers, officers, assistants or researchers numbering from a few dozen to possibly hundreds.

“If they come from industries or areas that Hong Kong lacks such as scientific research, information technology or artificial intelligence, it will further alleviate the shortage and boost the development of these sectors,” she said.

But Chow said the number of successful applications might not represent the actual number of people settling in the city. The effectiveness of the scheme depended on whether measures were in place to help arrivals adapt to the local culture, which could encourage them to stay in the long term, she added.

Gary Ng Cheuk-yan, a senior economist at Natixis Corporate and Investment Bank, said the latest figures were a positive signal that Hong Kong remained attractive to high-income professionals.

“Having a large amount of high-income talent being imported to Hong Kong could also drive various kinds of consumptions, such as housing, which can boost the economy,” Ng said.

Figures from the Labour and Welfare Bureau on Wednesday showed that 43,992 successful applicants of the scheme came from mainland China.

According to the Immigration Department, 35,583 people arrived in Hong Kong through the scheme in 2023, among 91,631 from all talent initiatives.

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