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Moving to Hong Kong? Here's a checklist for your first 3 months

Hong Kong is a thriving "East meets West" metropolis with a vibrant, multicultural community. Career opportunities and a high quality of life make it easy for new arrivals to adapt to life in Hong Kong.

HSBC opened its doors for business in Hong Kong back in 1865. That has given us plenty of time to develop the global expertise and local knowledge to help you make the most of your move. So whether you're just doing some light research or you're already several steps into your relocation, this guide will provide you with the essential info you need to kick-start your life in Hong Kong.

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Getting set up

Connectivity

You might want to sort out your communication essentials as soon as you touch down in Hong Kong. But until then, you can use free Hong Kong government Wi-Fi hotspots located around the city. They are available for both residents and visitors.

When you're ready, you can look into getting internet and mobile service.

Internet - Hong Kong has some of the most sophisticated telecommunications infrastructure and fastest internet speeds in the world. The city also has one of the highest rates of fixed broadband penetration, thanks to open competition in the industry. When you apply for internet service, you'll generally need to provide your passport or Hong Kong ID (HKID) and proof of address. This may differ for each internet service provider, so check with them before you apply.

Mobile - As with broadband internet, you have a number of mobile network operators (MNOs) to choose from. 5G mobile connection became commercially available from April 2020 onwards. Shortly after, the government launched a HKD100 million (USD12.8 million) subsidy scheme for businesses to encourage early deployment of 5G, with the aim of making Hong Kong a world-class smart city.1

If you plan to use your own phone, make sure it's unlocked otherwise your SIM card may not work. You could also choose from a range of pay-as-you-go SIM cards.

Broadcasting and telecommunication services in Hong Kong are regulated by the government's independent Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA). Visit the OFCA website for more information.

Top tip: You can connect to free Wi-Fi at all MTR stations. Need to charge your phone? Some major MTR stations, Kowloon Motor bus (KMB) buses and shopping malls offer charging stations or battery pack rentals.

Accommodation

There's no shortage of good accommodation choices but you do get what you pay for. Hong Kong continues to top the list as the most expensive city in the world for expat housing.

Apartments are the most common type of accommodation due to the city's high population density. But if you'd rather live further from the city, villas or village houses are another option. These can be found in more rural areas or on outlying islands, and typically offer 3 floors of living space plus a balcony or roof terrace.

Renting

It's easier to get a feel of different neighbourhoods once you're already on the ground but you can also talk to people in the know – join a Facebook group or a forum for Hong Kong expats.

While there are a number of rental property websites, you might find it easier to go through a real estate agent who can take you around town. That way, you won't have to worry about getting lost.

Consider your lifestyle and how you feel about commuting. Many families wait to see what school their kids will be attending before they move.

Top tip: Invest in a good dehumidifier. Hong Kong's sub-tropical climate is balmy but damp - perfect conditions for mould if you're not careful.

A standard tenancy contract is for 2 years, with the option to break the lease with some notice. It's common to negotiate the terms such as the monthly rent, duration of the contract, or inclusion of light fixtures. Don't be surprised if your new place doesn't come with curtains or an oven if these weren't factored in to the contract.

You can expect to shell out the equivalent of about 2-3 months' rent to cover the security deposit, agent's fee and stamp duty rental tax. So it's a good idea to ensure you have sufficient funds available to set up your new home.

Learn more about opening an overseas bank account

To rent a place, you'll need to show your employment letter and contract, a valid visa and a copy of your passport or government-issued HKID.

You can learn more about domestic tenancy matters on the Hong Kong government's Buying, Renting, Selling and Letting Property website.

Banking and finance

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority supervises banking in Hong Kong to ensure effective, stable and transparent financial functions. More than 78 of the largest 100 banks operate in this city, including HSBC. The bank has been doing business in Hong Kong for more than 150 years.

Opening a bank account

Whether you're looking to live or study abroad, it's important to have enough funds to cover the cost of setting up your new home and settling in. It's best to have your new banking arrangements in place before you move, if you can. Local banks may ask for your credit history and proof of address, which you may not have until you arrive. To avoid these difficulties, you can start your account opening application before you leave your home country.

With a local bank account, you'll be able to pay bills, receive your salary and access cash. Many expats choose to have accounts in both their home country and their host country.

Are you already in Hong Kong and ready to open an account? You may be able to apply through online and mobile banking.

Find out if you're eligible for an HSBC Hong Kong account

Top tip: Once you get your HKID, you can download the HSBC mobile banking app and open an account with us in less than 5 minutes.

Tax

Hong Kong has one of the most competitive tax systems for locals, expats and businesses despite its high cost of living. There are no taxes on capital gains or dividends, and estate duty was abolished in 2006.

The Hong Kong tax system is territorial-based – that means residents only pay taxes on income earned in their country or region. For example, if you live in Hong Kong and earn rental income on your property in the UK, you won't need to pay taxes on it in Hong Kong. However, you will need to register for UK taxes, whether you'll be paying taxes or not.

Calculate your tax liability

Immigration and identification

You can find the answers to most of your questions about arriving in the city on the Hong Kong government's Immigration Department website. There, you'll find useful information about visas, identity documents, right of abode and immigration clearance.

All Hong Kong residents over the age of 11 must apply for a HKID within 30 days of arrival if they'll be staying for longer than 6 months. An HKID is needed to open a bank account, apply for a job locally, and enter and exit Hong Kong. It's also used to apply for a library card, register for public health services and more.

Visit the Immigration Department website

Visas

Hong Kong continues to be a top destination for working expats. The city ranked first in fulfillment and career progression, and fourth in income and disposable income according to the most recent HSBC Expat Explorer Survey.2

In most cases, you'll need a work permit to take up employment in Hong Kong, whether as an entrepreneur, investor or expat employee in technology. Secure your job offer before you apply for your General Employment Policy visa as it will require your employer to be your sponsor. Your employer will need to provide documents such as your graduate degree certification and evidence that the position cannot be filled by a local resident. You could look for other employment after arriving in Hong Kong but the visa process might be more difficult.

Whichever way you choose, we recommend that you do your research early and prepare all your documents and fees in advance. Visa requirements can change – learn more about them on our changes in work visas page. It's best to check the Hong Kong government's Immigration Department website regularly for the most up-to-date information.

Learn more about visitor, student and work visas on the Immigration Department website.

Feeling at home

There's always so much to learn when you move to any country – don't worry if you don't understand everything within your first 90 days. We've put together a few more pieces of essential information that could help ensure a smoother move to Hong Kong.

Healthcare

Hong Kong has one of the best healthcare systems in the world.

Like Canada, Singapore and the UK, public healthcare in Hong Kong is heavily subsidised. It's available to anyone with an HKID, even non-permanent residents. Some expats opt for private insurance so they can get access services which may not be covered by the public healthcare system. There are many private healthcare providers you can choose from, but they can be very expensive.

The Hong Kong Department of Health regulates all healthcare facilities, keeping the medical standards high whether you decide to go public or private.

Understand how healthcare works in Hong Kong

Education

Education can be expensive as local schools may not always be an option for your children. In Hong Kong, the language of instruction at most local schools is Cantonese or Mandarin. If you're planning to stay for a while, this could be an excellent opportunity to give your child a bilingual education!

There are many international schools in Hong Kong that follow the British, American, Australian and International Baccalaureate (IB) curricula. However, competition for places can be fierce. Be prepared to pay non-refundable application and registration fees upfront for almost every school you apply to. Once your child is accepted, expect to pay a deposit and an annual "capital levy" fee.

Some employers provide corporate school debentures. These are lump-sum loans that usually guarantee a school placement. Contact the schools before you move, and ask your employer to help you secure a place if they can.

Learn more: Moving country, moving schools: Things to consider

Public holidays

Hong Kong enjoys 17 public (or bank) holidays every year.

You can expect lively festivities throughout the city such as dragon dances, parades and fireworks for Chinese New Year celebrations. Join in on local traditions to usher in a new year of health and prosperity, spend time with family and friends, and eat and drink (a lot!). Other local festivals include Buddha's Birthday, the Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival and Ching Ming (Tomb-Sweeping Day).

There's nothing like celebrating the local holidays to make yourself at home in a new city.

Wrapping up your first 3 months

We hope you find this guide useful in kick-starting your first three months in Hong Kong.

Moving to a new city doesn't have to be daunting. All you need is the right level of planning and support. At HSBC, we aim to give you just that at every stage of your move and beyond. Good luck, and we hope to join you for the next chapter of your life here.

Learn more about our international services.

 

1 Subsidy Scheme for Encouraging Early Deployment of 5G, Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA)
2 HSBC Expat Explorer Survey 2020

Disclaimer

HSBC Holdings plc has prepared this article based on publicly available information at the time of preparation from sources it believes to be reliable but it has not independently verified such information. HSBC Holdings plc and the HSBC Group (together, "HSBC") are not responsible for any loss, damage, liabilities or other consequences of any kind that you may incur or suffer as a result of, arising from or relating to your use of or reliance on this article. The contents of this article are subject to change without notice. HSBC gives no guarantee, representation or warranty as to the accuracy, timeliness or completeness of this article.

 

This article is not investment advice or a recommendation nor is it intended to sell investments or services or solicit purchases or subscriptions. This article should not be used as the basis for any decision on taxation, estate, trusts or legacy planning. You should not use or rely on this article in making any investment decision. HSBC is not responsible for such use or reliance by you. Any market information shown refers to the past and should not be1 seen as an indication of future market performance. You should always consider seeking professional advice when thinking about undertaking any form of prime residential or commercial property purchase, sale or rental. You should consult your professional advisor in your jurisdiction if you have any questions regarding the contents of this article.