Andrew Work  (20th July 2007)

The below addition to the website prompted a call from the Immigration department and I spoke at length with the case handler for our file.  The young caller was very apologetic about the delays and was able to fill in some details. They will be sending a letter soon (which we will post here when we receive it), but the summary of our discussion, as I remember it was:

  • The department is stretched after implementing new border crossings and IT projects (fair enough).
  • There was an odd detail in that our business registration address (it doesn’t match our physical address and isn’t a traditional business address) that prompted a request for more informaiton.  Also fair.
  • The 21 catergories of documents were not required (although the text says it is).  More familiarity with our firm which can be provided in a phone call, a letter or through reference to our (very) public work would have sufficed.

Kudos to the department for the seriousness with which they treated our request. In addition to mollifying my apparent concern, it also encouraged me to try, try again. 

It does suggest that recent work to streamline procedures has a long way to go, to make lives easier for Immigration staff and especially small businesses with perhaps only 1 or two staff and dealing with Immigration for the first time.  Those without HR and administration departments do their utmost to minimise time dealing with bureacracy so they can get on with their core business, whether profit or non-proft venture.  For business, this makes perfect sense to minimise this effort.  For government officials, it means a potentially frustrating lack of detail.

What every business person knows and most bureaucrats do not (unless they read this) is that most unhappy customers never complain – they just quietly go away.  I had resolved never to attempt to even try to secure an outside intern again, even though we have access to a pool of interns including a Fullbright scholar who contacted me yesterday.  Now that I understand the situation better, I will try again.

But for those with businesses that can move, Hong Kong can lose business to regional competitors with more agressive immigration policies (like Singapore).  Hopefully this incident and the opening dialogue with the department can lead to a more rational policy for allowing interns of all types to come to Hong Kong.  Stay tuned!


The Lion Rock Institute was consdering having an intern from the UK for the summer.  7 weeks after making our original visa request, this came back from immigration.  Anyone who thinks that this city is not making it more difficult for the industrious to come here should have a look at this.  This madness must be stopped.

Before you read, you must have a look at the letter from Immigration showing the 21 categories detailing the scores of documents required.

Click here to see the pdf of the faxed letter.

The Lion Rock Institute is a small independent non-profit.  Many of the documents requested have never even existed.  The corresponding documents from The Adam Smith Institute, our UK counterparts and ‘the sponsoring party’ would take months to collect and create.  Indeed, the whole process seems designed stymie the efforts to bring people to Hong Kong on internships or for training.

Our intent was to have an 18 year old spend some time in our office to learn about Hong Kong and how we operate in contrast to similar UK organisations.  He came with a sponsorship that more than covered his living expenses, making him a net contributor to the economy.  But it was not to be.  Immigration made the process so cumbersome and time consuming, both in processing (on our end) and waiting, the exercise became pointless.

It may be that safeguards were considered necessary at one point, but the sheer volume of unrelated documents required seems calculated to create make work for Hong Kong’s largest employer: the government.  Furthermore, it goes a long way to explaining why the intern culture here is so weak compared to world cities like London and New York where interns descend en masse as school closes for the summer.

Immigration should ask one question:  Will you guarantee this person will not avail themslves of government welfare services?  If the answer is yes, they can come.

Look for more from The Lion Rock Institute on immigration policy in the months to come.

If you have an immigration horror story that clearly demonstrates how the Hong Kong economy and our prosperity is hurt, please send it to us at

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