hong kong

Hong Kong is welcoming immigrants to help it’s tech industry. Source: Shutterstock

Another Asian country opens up its borders for tech talent

ANYBODY who wants to develop solutions using emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) or the internet of things (IoT) needs access to the right talent pool.

If you’ve tried to recruit recently or have been following the news, technology talent is in short supply. Businesses have been struggling to find the right people to help them build on the emerging technologies that can transform their customer experience, their business model, and their fate.

To help domestic businesses, countries – especially in Asia – are opening up their borders to immigrants with the right talent.

A few months ago, it was Malaysia that instituted the Malaysia Tech Entrepreneur Program, granting visas to both, new and established entrepreneurs for up to five years. The visa approval process has also been accelerated for applicants, compared to other classes of work and business visas issued by the country.

Now, Hong Kong has launched a new pilot program to help make immigration for tech talent easier. The government will begin accepting applications next month.

The program, christened the Technology Talent Admission Scheme (TechTAS), is being administered by the Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC).

TechTAS is a three-year pilot scheme which provides a fast-track arrangement for eligible technology companies/institutes to admit overseas and Mainland technology talent to undertake R&D work for them.

Under the pilot scheme, tenants and incubatees of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTPC) and Hong Kong Cyberport Management Company Limited (Cyberport) that are engaged in the areas of biotechnology, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, robotics, data analytics, financial technologies and material science are eligible for application.

According to the criteria of the program, eligible technology companies/institutes will first have to apply for a quota. A company/institute allotted with a quota can accordingly sponsor eligible persons to apply for an employment visa/entry permit within the quota validity period. It also has to fulfill the requirement to employ new local employees.

The ITC believes that the TechTAS program will provide certainty for technology companies/institutes by allotting them a quota to admit technology talent with specific requirements that are in-line with their recruitment needs and their business plan.

TechTAS will still require the applicant technology companies/institutes to demonstrate at the quota application stage that the technology talent sought is short in supply or not readily available in Hong Kong.

However, it will do away with the requirement to demonstrate local recruitment failure every time they seek to bring in talent. Doing so will make the actual admission procedure more streamlined and thus considerably shorter.

Further, once the applicant technology company/institute has identified a suitable candidate fitting the requirements in the allotted quota, it would take a shorter period for the individual to obtain a visa/entry permit.

According to the ICT’s website, the Immigration Department should ideally take no more than two weeks to process the visa/entry permit applications upon receipt of all the required documents.

Given Hong Kong’s ambitions to retain its position as one of Asia’s leading tech hubs, the country’s new pilot program might work wonders for the country. If all goes well, at least 3,000 new highly competent tech professionals will help the city develop incredible solutions over the next three years.