Caution: Pitfalls of the Hong Kong new Investment Immigration Scheme

In recent months, the hottest topic in the immigration market has undoubtedly been the Hong Kong Investment Immigration Scheme. While other countries and regions are either raising the bar or shutting down their own investment immigration policies, Hong Kong has taken a different approach by reopening its investment immigration plan. This move has sparked considerable discussion and debate. However, with such market buzz comes a flood of misinformation and potential investment pitfalls that may mislead investors. Before dissecting these pitfalls, let’s first take a look at the history and current status of the Hong Kong Investment Immigration Scheme.

In October 2003, the Hong Kong Investment Immigration Scheme was launched, requiring a minimum investment of HK$6.5 million in financial products or real estate.

In October 2010, the investment threshold was raised from HK$6.5 million to HK$10 million, focusing solely on financial products and excluding real estate.

In January 2015, all applications for the program were suspended.

Seven years later, in November 2022, the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee proposed the reintroduction of the Hong Kong Capital Investment Entrant Scheme.

On February 22, 2023, during the presentation of the 2023-2024 financial budget, it was announced that the Hong Kong Investment Immigration Plan would be relaunched.

On March 24, 2023, the government announced in the “Policy Declaration on the Operation of Hong Kong Development Family Offices” that family offices would be included in the investment direction of the Hong Kong Investment Immigration Scheme.

On August 18, 2023, G19 members of the Legislative Council met with the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, suggesting that the investment threshold should be no less than HK$30 million.

On October 25, 2023, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that the minimum investment for the Investment Immigration Scheme would be at least HK$30 million, stating that HK$30 million is reasonable and that Hong Kong’s advantages are numerous, making it unnecessary to boast to attract investors.

On November 8, 2023, the Financial Secretary, Paul Chan, stated that renminbi assets would be included in the investment.

On December 19, 2023, the government officially announced the launch of the Hong Kong Investment Immigration Scheme and unveiled the detailed investment directions, with applications set to open in June 2024.

On January 22, 2024, Globevisa participated in an unofficial event with top investment banks and the Hong Kong Investment Promotion Agency. During discussions with officials from the investment promotion agency, it was learned that the announcement for the early opening of the application period would be made on February 29, 2024, with applications set to open on March 1, 2024.

Author Anja Yu (second right) with the Executive Director of the Financial Secretary’s Office (far right) and the Deputy Director of the Hong Kong Investment Promotion Agency (far left)

On February 29, 2024, the government announced that the Hong Kong Investment Immigration Scheme would be open for applications starting March 1, along with the publication of application materials and details.

On March 1, 2024, the Investment Promotion Agency and Immigration Department began accepting applications.

It has been over a month since the opening of applications. As a leading immigration company in the industry, Globevisa submitted dozens of client applications to the Investment Promotion Agency in March. One of these applications has already passed the asset review and has been submitted to the Immigration Department for further processing.

The Investment Promotion Agency verbally acknowledged that Globevisa is currently the agency with the highest number of submitted applications and the earliest to submit cases. However, they have also received applications from other service agencites gradually. Both the Investment Promotion Agency and the Immigration Department are now operating at full capacity, providing investors with efficient and swift review processes. The Hong Kong government has been actively supporting the application process and feedback for investors.

The entire Hong Kong, in order to attract funds, has seen various industries and departments actively responding. This includes the direction of the HK$30 million investment later on. The financial industry is also demonstrating its expertise in designing various schemes for clients. Over the past year, Globevisa has engaged with over 100 financial institutions, exchanging ideas and exploring different solutions available in the market. Globevisa will share with everyone the designs of different schemes and the associated risks one by one.

Example 1 – Reverse Merger of a Listed Company with a Investment of 30 Million: A group of three investors pooling funds to purchase a listed company.

Globevisa Analysis: This method is not recognized as an official qualifying method by the Hong Kong government. The government requires direct purchase of designated qualifying stocks, funds, or bonds. There is no indication that directly purchasing a listed company is feasible. This operation carries risks, as investing HK$30 million in a listed company may not ultimately lead to obtaining residency through the investment immigration program. This method may involve applying for a work visa under the entrepreneurship scheme, packaged as an investment immigration plan. Although the identity card obtained through different immigration plans may appear the same, the requirements for renewal and the options for changing immigration status can vary significantly.

Example 2 – HK$10 Million Outlay, HK$20 Million Financing: Investors only need to contribute HK$10 million, with financial institutions providing the remaining HK$20 million.

Globevisa Analysis: This method does not align with the original intention of the Hong Kong government to attract funds into the territory. The government’s aim is to attract foreign investors’ funds into Hong Kong. If a client only contributes HK$10 million and local financial institutions provide HK$20 million, the government has not successfully attracted the full HK$30 million investment from the investor as originally planned. If a client applies for residency through this method and the Investment Promotion Agency and Immigration Department discover it, it may be seen as a misrepresentation of the actual investment amount. This could result in the rejection of the application on grounds of false documentation or failure to meet application requirements/processes, leaving a record of misrepresentation.

Example 3 – Spending HK$30 Million but Ultimately Receiving HK$25 Million Back: Investing HK$30 million in purchasing stocks, then receiving HK$25 million back to the investor after 7 years, resulting in a loss of HK$5 million.

Globevisa Analysis: Essentially, this method is straightforwardly telling you that you’re spending HK$5 million to directly buy a Hong Kong residency. However, investing HK$30 million may entail both gains and losses. This method explicitly informs you of a loss of HK$5 million, with no interest after 7 years, but a loss instead. Furthermore, engaging in such unauthorized operations, the existence of this institution after 7 years is uncertain. Who can guarantee whether there will be a loss of HK$5 million or HK$30 million after 7 years? Therefore, whether this method is suitable for our investors is a matter of personal judgment.

Example 4 – Investing HK$40 million or HK$50 million, with a Loan of HK$30 million: Investors subscribe to designated mainland private equity funds for HK$40 million or HK$50 million, with a term of 8 years. Hong Kong credit institutions provide a HK$30 million loan to investors, also with a term of 8 years.

Globevisa Analysis: This method incurs high costs and should be chosen by investors themselves.

Example 5 – Investing HK$30 million, with Later Mortgage Redemption of HK$20 million: Investors contribute HK$30 million for investment, and later financial institutions arrange a mortgage loan to repay HK$20 million directly to the investor.

Globevisa Analysis: According to page 24, article 11 of the investment details announced by the government for the Hong Kong Investment Immigration Scheme, using investment assets as collateral will disqualify applicants.

There are many similar schemes available, differing from traditional and straightforward investment products. Various market players have emerged, offering diverse options. Investment carries risks, so choices should be made cautiously.


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