Can Hong Kong’s Fresh Capital Investment Entrant Scheme Outshine Singapore?
The latest iteration of Hong Kong SAR’s Capital Investment Entrant Scheme (CIES) was officially unveiled today in a press conference led by Mr. Christopher Hui Ching-yu Hui, GBS, JP, the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury. Unfortunately, the launch and application invitation for the new CIES are anticipated only in mid-2024.
In the Budget Speech on February 22, 2023, the city’s Financial Secretary Chan Mo-po declared the revival of the CIES, stating, “To further enhance the talent pool and attract additional capital to Hong Kong, we will introduce a new Capital Investment Entrant Scheme. Applicants are required to make investments in a specified amount in the local asset market, excluding property. Upon approval, they can reside and pursue development in Hong Kong.”
During the Policy Address on October 25, 2023, Chief Executive Lee Ka-chiu revealed that the investment threshold for the new CIES would be HKD 30 million, providing no further details. Since the Scheme’s announcement, it has been ten months, and two months have passed since the Policy Address. Finally, today, the details have been disclosed.
To qualify for admission under the 2023 CIES, eligibility criteria are as follows:
- Foreign nationals, Chinese nationals who have obtained permanent resident status in a foreign country, Macao SAR residents or Chinese residents of Taiwan aged 18 or above;
- have net assets of not less than HK$30 million (or equivalent in foreign currencies) to which he/she is absolutely beneficially entitled throughout the two years preceding the application,
- have no adverse record both in Hong Kong and country/region of residence.
In addition to the raised investment threshold of 20 million, the revised Capital Investment Entrant Scheme (CIES) introduces a new investment portfolio. Permissible financial assets now include Equities, Debt Securities, Certificate of Deposit (up to HKD 3 million), Subordinated Debt, Eligible Collective Investment Schemes, and Limited Partnership Funds. Notably, Non-residential real estate (up to HKD 10 million) is now included in the list of permissible investment assets. Investors are also required to allocate HKD 3 million to a newly introduced CIES Investment Portfolio managed by Hong Kong Investment Corporation Limited.
Initially launched on October 27, 2003, during a recession when Hong Kong sought new capital influx to stimulate the economy, the CIES mandated an initial investment of HKD 6.5 million across diverse asset classes, including real estate. Seven years later, in response to a significant increase in application numbers, the government raised the investment requirement to HKD 10 million and discontinued the option for property investments.
Throughout its operational history, the CIES accumulated a total of HKD 314.5 billion (approximately US$40 billion), with 14% attributed to real estate and 86% to financial assets. Following the abrupt halt of the CIES on January 15, 2015, then Chief Executive Mr. Leung Chun-ying emphasized Hong Kong’s focus on attracting talent over money. The city shifted its attention to promoting talent admission programs such as the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS).
In recent years, Singapore has successfully attracted capital and talent through robust national branding as a sovereign and independent state. Simultaneously, with its strategic location as the gateway to China, Hong Kong continues to draw multinational companies’ attention. Many major financial institutions establish their Asian headquarters in either Hong Kong or Singapore, benefiting from well-developed financial regulatory systems. Additionally, both locations boast relatively low personal income tax rates. In recent years, these two cities have engaged in intense competition for the title of “Asia’s financial center.”
Attracting affluent individuals for local investments remains a central focus in their immigration policies. Compared to Singapore’s Global Investor Programme with an investment threshold of SGD 20 million (approximately US$15 million), Hong Kong is positioned to gain an advantage with a favorable investment amount of HKD 30 million (less than US$4 million).