Hong Kong's leader vows to roll out special visas for graduates from top universities and people who make more than $300,000 a year

A Star Ferry ship sails in Victoria Harbour in front of the Hong Kong Skyline on October 17, 2022 in Hong Kong, China.
Hong Kong is out to attract global talents with a new two-year visa program.hoto by Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto/Getty Images
  • Hong Kong is rolling out new measures to attract talented workers to the city, following a mass expat exodus.

  • They include a two-year visa for those graduating from the world's top 100 universities.

  • Hong Kong's local workforce shrank by about 140,000 over the last two years amid Covid restrictions.

John Lee, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, vowed to attract global talents to its shores in a speech on Wednesday, after the local workforce shrank by about 140,000 over the last two years.

"Apart from actively nurturing and retaining local talents, the Government will proactively trawl the world for talents," Lee said in his inaugural policy address. The around three-hour long speech saw him utter the word "talent" more than 60 times.

He said Hong Kong will launch a new visa scheme for people who earn more than 2.5 million Hong Kong dollars, or $318,500, a year. The scheme will also be available to those who have graduated from the world's top 100 universities and have at least three years of work experience over the past five years, according to an official transcript of Lee's speech.

Other measures the city's taking to attract talent include giving stamp duty refunds to eligible buyers who purchase their first residential properties in Hong Kong — if they subsequently become permanent residents.

"Hong Kong is one of the most competitive economies in the world," Lee said. "It also serves as an important gateway connecting the mainland with global markets. We must be more proactive and aggressive in competing for enterprises and competing for talent."

Hong Kong, like mainland China, maintained a zero-COVID policy since the early days of the pandemic. The containment measures have spurred many expats to leave the financial hub, as they head to places like Australia, Canada, the UK, and Singapore.

Data from Hong Kong's Census and Statistics Department shows the city's population fell by about 110,000 in six months to about 7.3 million in mid-2022 amid strict COVID-19 restrictions.

But the city has started to relax its pandemic restrictions month as it scrapped a policy requiring incoming travelers to quarantine in hotels which they pay for themselves. Such international arrivals will now have to monitor their own health for three days after entering Hong Kong.

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