Hong Kong introduces a new visa programme to attract international talent
Hong Kong introduces a new visa programme to attract international talent

As the city works to stop a brain drain that has threatened its status as an international financial centre, its leader today unveiled a new visa programme in an effort to draw in talent from around the world.

Those earning an annual salary of 2.5 million Hong Kong dollars ($318,472) or more and graduates from the best universities in the world will be able to work or pursue opportunities in the city for two years under the new Top Talent Pass Scheme, according to Chief Executive John Lee.

His attempt to entice talent to Hong Kong comes at a time when hundreds of thousands of residents have fled the city in recent years due to a persistent political crackdown, reduced freedoms after the passage of a stringent national security law, and strict COVID-19 entry restrictions that were in place for most of the pandemic. According to Lee, the city's workforce has decreased by about 140,000 over the past two years.

In his first policy speech on Wednesday, Lee stated that "We must be more proactive and aggressive in competing for enterprises and competing for talent." "The government will proactively search the world for talent in addition to actively nurturing and retaining local talent." As a result of the city's coronavirus restrictions, which severely hurt the local economy and drove professionals away, he also unveiled several proposals to improve the city's competitiveness, including tax breaks and loosened rules for hiring foreigners.

Additionally, procedures for businesses hiring foreigners in specific professions will be streamlined. A new task force will be established to develop recruitment strategies and aid newcomers.

After an exodus of residents sparked worries that talent would continue leaving for rival cities like Singapore and Dubai, Lee, a former security chief chosen by Beijing to lead Hong Kong, is under pressure to reposition the city as a top business and financial hub.

According to August government statistics, the city's population fell by 113,200 people, or 1.6%, from a year earlier in mid-2022.

Last month, Singapore passed Hong Kong in a ranking of the world's financial hubs, and in August, it unveiled a new visa that enables highly skilled foreign talent to work for multiple companies simultaneously rather than just one.

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