Global talent race: As people flock to Hong Kong’s elite visa scheme, questions emerge on criteria and diversity

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SINGAPORE: Like many places in Asia, Hong Kong has been busy rolling out the red carpet for global talent.

In the city’s case, it is looking to recover from an exodus induced by the pandemic and politics - and tens of thousands of people have answered the call under its Top Talent Pass Scheme (TTPS) since its late 2022 rollout, according to official figures released last month.

The tally dwarfs application numbers for elite visas by other regional economies such as Singapore. But absolute numbers are not necessarily an indicator of the scheme’s effectiveness, analysts suggest as they point out Hong Kong’s “relatively less stringent” requirements.

Questions about diversity also continue to hound the TTPS. Mainland Chinese account for more than 90 per cent of the approvals in a scheme that targets international participation.

Ultimately, young working professionals wishing to work in the region arguably stand to gain the most, analysts point out.

“(The TTPS) might be a quicker route to working in Asia … they will have the opportunity to build their network and build their portfolios within one of the fastest-growing economies in the world,” said Mr Leslie Tang, head of client solutions for Greater China at recruitment firm Randstad.

TOP TALENT WANTED

Hong Kong’s TTPS aims to  “attract top talents with rich work experience and good academic qualifications from all over the world to explore opportunities in Hong Kong”, according to the city’s immigration department.

While outlining the plan in Dec 2022, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Labour and Welfare Chris Sun Yuk-han had said the city’s immigration drive would target areas that regional rival Singapore would not, as quoted by the South China Morning Post. 

“Hong Kong’s Top Talent Pass Scheme casts a far wider net than that of Singapore,” he said at the time.

As of end-February this year, Hong Kong authorities have received 72,000 applications under the TTPS as reported by Chinese news outlet China Daily. Around 59,000 have been approved.

In comparison, Singapore has

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