At Issue
10/17/2011 2:56:51 AM EST
Seeking clarity in the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme
Alex Lau examines the requirements contained in the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme and argues that the lack of clarity may deter overseas talents from settling in Hong Kong.
Posted by LexisNexis

In June 2006, the Hong Kong Government commenced accepting applications under the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS) to attract overseas talents. QMAS’ objective is to provide an alternative route to secure residency in Hong Kong in addition to existing visa categories. They include the employment, investment and capital investment visas. QMAS has attracted famous mainland Chinese personalities to submit applications. Successful applicants include world renowned pianists Lang Lang and Li Yundi, and actress Zhang Ziyi.

Although QMAS has been in operation for over five years, there is still plenty of room for improvements. Some of the requirements that applicants need to meet are somewhat opaque, for example, those relating to the assessment of an applicant’s academic background and work experience. Further, the importance of the Advisory Committee, which provides for the final approval on all applications, has not been emphasised enough in the application materials and may cause confusion for potential applicants in respect of the eligibility requirements under QMAS. This article attempts to provide some clarity in relation to these requirements.

QMAS distinguished from other visas

QMAS is a separate scheme from other Hong Kong resident visas. The latter includes the employment visa, investment visa and capital investment visa. The employment visa and QMAS are different in several aspects. First, the employment visa requires an applicant to secure a job offer from a local employer prior to the submission of an application. QMAS applicants have no such requirement. Second, to be eligible for an employment visa, the applicant needs to undergo a qualitative assessment to determine, inter alia, whether he/she has the necessary experience and qualifications for a position that cannot be easily filled by someone local, and/or a skill that is in short supply in Hong Kong. QMAS, however, uses a quantitative assessment system in the form of a points system to determine eligibility. Third, employment visa holders are essentially employees. On the other hand, QMAS applicants may either be employees of a company/organisation or self-employed such as an artist, actor/actress or athlete. In contrast with the employment visa and QMAS, the investment visa and capital investment visa are catered for entrepreneurs. One major difference between the investment visa and the capital investment visa is the applicant’s degree of participation in his/her investment in Hong Kong. Investment visa holders are proactive participants who manage their businesses on a daily basis. Capital investment visa holders are passive investors who invest at least HK$10 million in Hong Kongbased assets (other than real property).

QMAS

Requirements for QMAS are given in the form of guidance notes published by the Immigration Department of Hong Kong (ImmD). QMAS operates on a points system in two forms, namely the Achievement-based Points Test (APT) and the General Points Test (GPT). Under the APT, the applicant must demonstrate that he/she
has received an award of exceptional achievement (eg an Academy Award), or the work performed has been acknowledged by his or her peers, or the applicant has contributed significantly to the development of his/her field (eg being the recipient of a major vocational award, such as a lifetime achievement award from his/her industry). It should be noted, however, that an applicant who passes the APT must still satisfy the ImmD under the family maintenance requirements as well as secure approval by the Advisory Committee (discussed further
below).

The problematic issues arising from QMAS concerns the GPT. Since December 2008, the pass mark for the GPT has been set at 80points. Successful applicants are granted a 12-month stay in Hong Kong to find employment or to set up his/her own (self-employed) business. The GPT consists of five point-scoring factors: (i) age; (ii) academic/professional qualifications; (iii) work experience; (iv) language proficiency; and (v) family background. An applicant who passes the GPT must still satisfy the ImmD under the family maintenance requirements as well as secure approval from the Advisory Committee.

Age
An applicant can score points between the ages of 18 and 50. A maximum of 30 points is awarded to a person between the ages of 18 and 39. Twenty points are awarded to a person between the ages of 40-44 and so on. The age factor may seem more advantageous to younger applicants, but an older applicant is likely to score more points under the academic/professional qualification factor as well as the work experience factor to make up the difference. 

For applicants who are on the verge of crossing over to the next age bracket, they should be aware that there is potential for losing points pertaining to the age factor. This is because the age of the person on the application will be taken as the actual age on the day the ImmD commences a review of the application. If the application arrives at the ImmD by post, it may take more than a few days thereafter to review the case due to the backlog of applications. By this time, the applicant’s birthday may have already passed and even more crucial is that the applicant may have fallen into the next age bracket thereby losing points. In such cases, applicants should consider submitting the application by hand because the ImmD officer will affix a receipt chop on a copy of the application form, immediately upon delivery, and return the same to the applicant.

Academic/professional qualifications 
An applicant with tertiary or professional qualification(s) may score between 30 to 45 points.

The following is a sample of doctoral degrees available from tertiary institutions: a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), an EdD (Doctor of Education), a DBA (Doctor of Business Administration), a JSD (Doctor of Juridical Science), an EngD (Engineering Doctorate), a DSW (Doctor of Social Work) and a DHS (Doctor of Health Science). There are three problems concerning the term ‘doctoral degree’. First, it is submitted that it is not appropriate to award the same points to all types of doctorate degrees because each of these doctoral degree programmes carries special requirements. For example, in some universities, a PhD dissertation can be almost twice as long as that for a DBA. Second, there are honorary doctorate degrees which are sometimes awarded to people after they make a generous financial contribution to a university. Would these be included too? The guidance notes should be more clear and detailed about the points awarded under various types of doctoral degrees. With respect, it submitted that it is not appropriate to award the same number of points under the broad umbrella of ‘doctoral degree’.

Third, an applicant with two doctoral degrees scores only five more points than an applicant with one doctoral degree. It is submitted that these five extra points ignore the academic rigour put into a doctoral programme. With the exception of an honorary doctoral degree, any other doctoral degree mentioned above requires a period of three to six years’ intensive studying. If the ImmD wants to award points to a person with two doctoral degrees, it is suggested that he/she should not score only 45 points, but rather a minimum of 60 points to reflect the effort he/she has put in.

Work experience
An applicant can score from 10 to 50 points depending on the level of work experience. The maximum points are given to a person with ‘not less than 10 years’ graduate or specialist level work experience, including at least 5 years in a senior role’. 

The points awarded do not require the applicant’s work experience to have been accrued immediately before submitting his/her application. Therefore, an applicant could have had the relevant work experience in the past, but was laid off say one year before submitting his/her QMAS application. The applicant could now be unemployed or working in a completely different field. It is submitted that an applicant with continuous and relevant employment, up to the submission of his/her QMAS application, should score more points than an applicant with intermittent periods of employment. The ImmD should add the requirement that the work experience must be accrued within the period of at least six months before the submission of the QMAS application.

Language proficiency
To score points under English language proficiency, the applicant must have achieved a certain standard in recognised international English tests, such as IELTS, within two years immediately before submitting his/her QMAS application. The question posed is: why is a two-year time limit imposed here but not under the work experience factor discussed above?

Family background
The first two categories below refer to a married spouse. A spouse is defined, under the guidance notes (para 49), as a married spouse under a valid marriage recognised by the Laws of Hong Kong. Thus, partners in cohabitation or same sex marriages may be excluded. If QMAS aims at attracting outstanding talents from around the world, partners in the two latter categories of relationships should also be considered.

Maintenance of the family

In addition to passing the GPT, the applicant must demonstrate that he/she can support his/her family in the first 12 months after arriving in Hong Kong. The guidance notes provide no assistance with respect to the monetary amount required but the ImmD has advised the author that the maintenance can be worked out to be about HK$10,000 per person per month. In light of this, if a successful applicant plans to arrive with his/her family of four and is given a year to find a job after initial entry into Hong Kong, he/she will need to have up to HK$480,000 ($10,000 x 12 x 4) in cash or equivalent, when submitting the QMAS application. This is by no means a small amount. It is submitted that the guidance notes should specify an amount so as not to confuse potential applicants.

The Advisory Committee

Even if an applicant passes the ABT or the GPT, the case must still be referred to an Advisory Committee for final approval. The guidance notes provide that:

"The Committee consists of official and non-official members appointed by the Chief Executive of the HKSAR. The Committee will consider the socioeconomic needs of Hong Kong, the sectoral mix of candidates and other factors, and will recommend to the Director of Immigration how best to allocate a quota in each selection exercise. High-scoring applications do not necessarily secure quota allotment.”

It can hardly be said that this selection process is transparent and whether an applicant is approved is mainly
at the discretion of the ImmD and the government of the day. In addition, the significance of the referral to the
Committee should be made more apparent in the guidance notes or highlighted to raise the applicant’s awareness about the final hurdle that must be overcome to obtain a successful application. The author has heard many potential applicants who had formed the misconception that scoring 80 points or more on the GPT would automatically permit him/her to migrate to Hong Kong.

Conclusion

QMAS does not contain well thought-out point scoring factors, and many aspects of the policy are unclear. This may deter potential applicants who are highly skilled and talented from settling in Hong Kong and go somewhere else. The ImmD should revise the guidance notes for the sake of clarity by addressing the problematic issues that have been raised.

 

 

Dr Alex KL Lau
Consultant, Haldanes
Associate Professor, Hong Kong Baptist University

 

闡明優秀人才入境計劃
劉冠倫博士探究優秀人才入境計劃中的各項要求,並指出計劃有欠清晰,可能有礙外地優秀人才來港定居。

香港政府自2006年6月起開始接受優秀人才入境計劃(下稱「優才計劃」)申請,藉以吸納外地人才。除現行的居留簽證如就業(即工作)簽證、投資簽證及資本投資簽證外,優才計劃提供另一種入境居留方法。優才計劃對內地知名人士尤其吸引,其中獲批申請的人士包括世界知名的鋼琴家郎朗和李雲迪、以及影星章子怡等。

雖然優才計劃已運作超過五年,但仍有很多地方有待改進。申請人需要符合的若干要求頗為含糊,例如對申請人的學歷及工作經驗的評估。再者,諮詢委員會肩負重責,要對所有申請作最後審批,但其重要角色在申請資料中並沒有明顯的表述,這些問題很可能令擬提出申請的人士對資格要求感到困惑。本文試圖對這些要求加以闡明。

優才計劃有別於其他入境簽證

優才計劃有別於其他香港的居留簽證,包括工作、投資及資本投資簽證等。工作簽證與優才計劃有多個不同之處。首先,工作簽證申請者於遞交申請前,必須先獲得本港僱主的聘書,但優才計劃並無此等要求。其次,要獲資格取得工作簽證,申請人需要進行定性評估,以決定他/她擁有該職位所需的學歷和工作經驗並不容易由本港人士填補,及/或該技能在香港供不應求,但優才計劃則透過計分制評核申請人的資格。再者,工作簽證持有人主要是僱員,但優才計劃申請人則為僱員或自僱人士,例如藝術家、演員或運動員。與工作簽證和優才計劃對照,投資簽證和資本投資簽證為創業者而設。至於投資簽證和資本投資簽證不同之處,在於申請人在港投資項目的參與程度。投資簽證持有人需積極管理在港投資項目,資本投資簽證持有人只需在位於香港的資產(除房地產外)注入至少港幣一千萬元。

優才計劃

由香港入境事務處(下稱「入境處」)印發的《優才計劃申請須知》(下稱《申請須知》)詳列申請的各項要求。優才計劃採用兩種計分制,分別是「成就計分制」(APT)及「綜合計分制」(GPT)。在成就計分制下,申請人必須曾獲得傑出成就的獎項(如電影金像獎)、或其工作獲得同業人士肯定,或對其所屬界別的發展有重大貢獻(如獲得行業大獎,包括由同業頒發的終生成就獎等)。但應注意的是,申請人即使通過了成就計分制的分數,仍須符合入境處對照顧家屬的要求以及獲得諮詢委員會的批核(見下文)。

優才計劃在綜合計分制中出現較多問題。自2008年12月起,綜合計分制的及格分數為80分。獲批准的申請人可獲發逗留香港12個月的簽證,藉以尋找工作或成立自僱業務。綜合計分制共有五個計分標準:(i) 年齡;(ii) 學歷/專業資格;(iii) 工作經驗;(iv) 語文能力;及 (v) 家庭背景。申請人如通過綜合計分制,仍須達到入境處對於供養家屬的要求,以及獲得諮詢委員會的批核。

年齡
年齡介乎18至50歲的申請人均可獲取分數。申請人屬18至39歲的年齡組別可獲取最高的30分,申請人屬40至44歲的年齡組別則可獲取20分(詳見下表)。雖然年紀較小的申請人在這個得分範疇可獲得較高分數,但年紀較大的申請人在學歷/專業及工作經驗的範疇中,應可取得較高分數,藉以彌補兩者的分數差距。

倘若申請人的年齡快將過度至另一個年齡組別,他們應注意有可能在年齡範疇上的得分獲遞減。這是因為申請人獲得的年齡分數,是根據申請人在入境處開始處理其申請當日的實際年齡而定。申請人以郵遞方式提交申請,可能要待入境處處理了先前所積壓的申請後才會予以處理,屆時申請人可能已過了生日,屬於下一個年齡組別,因而失了若干分數。在這情況下,申請人應考慮親自遞交申請,事關入境處人員收妥申請後,即時會在申請表格的副本蓋上確認收妥的蓋章,並將之交給申請人。申請人的年齡則以當日年齡為準。

學歷/專業資格
持有大專或專業資格的申請人,可獲取30至45分不等。

下列為一般由大專院校頒發的博士學位:哲學博士、教育博士、工商管理博士、工程博士、社會工作博士及保健科學博士。對於「博士」一詞,筆者提出三個問題。一、筆者認為持有任何博士學位均可獲得同等分數並不適當,因為每個博士學位課程都有其獨特要求,例如某些大學的哲學博士論文比工商管理博士論文在字數要求方面幾乎多出一倍。二、榮譽博士學位有時頒予對大學捐出可觀款項的人士,這些人士是否也包括在內呢?《申請須知》應清楚地詳述各類博士學位可獲取的分數。

三、持有兩個博士學位的申請人比只持有一個博士學位的申請人,只能多取得5分。筆者認為此5分忽略了攻讀博士學位所需投入的大量學術研究精力。除了榮譽博士學位外,上述任何博士學位均需要3至6年的專注學習。如果入境處要給予持有兩個博士學位的人士分數,筆者建議不應只獲得45分,而應最少獲得60分,藉以反映他/她所投入的努
力。

工作經驗
申請人可按工作經驗程度而取得10至50分不等。申請人具備「不少於10年」相當於學位程度或專家水平的工作經驗,當中至少5年出任高職,便可獲得最高分數。

這裡所取得的分數並無要求申請人遞交申請前繼續工作累積經驗。因此申請人可能曾擁有相關工作經驗,但在提交申請前一年已遭解僱,而他/她目前可能是無業,或在一個完全不同的行業工作。筆者認為,在提交優才計劃申請時,擁有連續相關工作經驗的申請人比間歇性受僱或缺乏相關工作經驗的申請人,理應取得較高分數。入境處應附加要求,在提交申請前至少六個月內,申請人必須仍然工作,累積相關經驗。

語文能力
在英語語文能力方面,申請人必須在遞交申請前兩年內在國際認可的英語語文考試中考取一定程度的成績,例如國際英語語言測試系統(IELTS)。問題是,為甚麼在語文能力方面施加兩年時限,但在工作經驗範疇方面卻沒有此等要求?

家庭背景
下表首兩項得分範疇均涉及已婚配偶。根據《申請須知》第49段對配偶的定義,配偶指與申請人維持受香港法律認可的有效婚姻的配偶,故此同居配偶或同性婚姻不在此限。筆者認為,既然優才計劃旨在吸納全球精英人才,入境處是否應包括上述兩種關係中的人士?

供養家屬

除了通過綜合計分制,申請人須證明自身在抵港首十二個月內能供養其家屬。《申請須知》沒有訂明所需金額,但入境處告訴筆者,供養所需費用大約為每人每月港幣一萬元。因此,一名獲批申請的人士擬一家四口初次抵港後一年內找工作,他/她便需要在遞交申請時證明自身擁有大約港幣48萬($10,000 x 12 x 4) 的現金或等值資產。這不是一筆小數目,筆者認為《申請須知》應訂明金額,以免申請人感到困惑。

諮詢委員會

即使申請人的分數通過成就計分制或綜合計分制,還必須將個案轉交諮詢委員會作最後審批。《申請須知》表明:

「諮詢委員會由香港特區政府行政長官委任的官方及非官方成員組成。諮詢委員會將考慮香港的社會經濟需要、各申請人所屬界別及其他相關因素,向入境處處長建議如何分配每次甄選程序中可分配的名額。得分較高的申請人不一定獲分配名額。」

筆者認為,此甄選過程並不透明,而申請人是否獲批申請主要取決於入境處及政府當日所行使的酌情權。再者,有關申請均須交由諮詢委員會審批的程序,應在《申請須知》中交待清楚或加以強調,藉以提醒申請人必須跨過這一門檻,才可成功獲批申請。筆者聽過許多有意申請的人士都抱有錯誤想法,以為在成就計分制下獲得至少80分,他/她便可自動移居香港。

結論

優才計劃的計分制未經深思熟慮,因此這項計劃在多個政策問題上含糊不清。這可能會令很多準備申請的高技術人才卻步,轉投別處發展。入境處應修訂《申請須知》,以釐清上述所討論的問題。

 

 

劉冠倫博士
何敦麥至理鮑富律師行顧問律師
香港浸會大學副教授


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