Hong Kong Visa Run
by Triston Brewer
Any foreigner working in China by law needs a work visa. But, there are still a great many who work under the table without proper documentation, particularly because there are many companies who need foreigners but don’t have the means to get them a proper work visa. Instead, the foreigner picks up a multiple-entry travel visa (which does not legally allow one to work) and works for a company with the agreement that both parties keep the employment a tight secret.
The only problem with these multiple-entry travel visas is that most of them require a person to exit China every 30 days (60 days and 90 days for some lucky guys). So, when a foreigner is working in the Mainland illegally under a travel visa and that 30 day mark is up, he or she has to leave Mainland China – even if it’s only for a few hours. The minute they step foot in, say, Hong Kong, a new 30 day period begins and that person can go back to the Mainland to continue working.
In other cases, some expats and travelers (who actually follow the law) whose visa is about to expire simply want to stay in the country longer and need to get a new visa, and the most convenient place to do that is right here in Hong Kong. So, if you’re a foreigner working under the table in the Mainland and just need to pop into Hong Kong for the infamous visa run, or you actually just need a new visa (or to extend your travel visa), a couple-day trip to Hong Kong is in the cards.
Visa services in Hong Kong are fast and efficient, with a quick turnaround, and you can make a great layover holiday out of your three- or four-day visa run. Options for getting here from the Mainland include arriving in Shenzhen and then taking a ferry, bus, or a train directly to Hong Kong, or taking a long, overnight bus from Beijing or Shanghai directly to Hong Kong. The duration of these buses is approximately 20 hours, and both include a night on a small bed.
Flying to Shenzhen is the cheapest option, with bus fees from there only amounting to about ¥150. A great website that has been providing discounted airfare prices for travelers for years is Ctrip.com. Using their site, it really is possible to take care of all your traveling needs, from airline tickets to hotel stays. There are packages for airfare or hotel only, or bundled packages for both. Even for last minute trips to Hong Kong, the site is quite popular for bargain tickets.
Normally in Hong Kong there are no difficulties getting a Chinese visa, but if you think you might run into some problems, give yourself two extra days just in case. If you are using a service agency to procure your visa, most companies arrange for a maximum of two days of service, with most receiving their visas the next day. If you decide to get your visa on your own, it could take between three to five days.
The Commissioner’s Office of China’s Foreign Ministry in the Hong Kong SAR
Address: 6/F, Lower Block, China Resources Building, 26 Harbour Road, Wan Chai
Office hours: Monday to Friday (except Hong Kong public holidays), 9:00-12:00 and 14:00-17:00
Phone: 3413 2300 (24-hour automatic inquiry)
Fax: 3413 2604
About 10 minute walk from the Wan Chai MTR station, this office has some of the most efficient service we have ever seen, but it may take you an hour to submit your application.
Once you are certain you have secured your next visa, the fun part can really begin. Planning such a short trip can be a bit daunting, but it is totally doable, no matter what your budget is. There are a couple of absolutes that must be experienced in Hong Kong if you are traveling there. A trip to The Peak is one of those. You have the option to take The Peak Tram to the top of Victoria Peak. Although very touristy, it is one of those things that should be seen no matter what. On a clear night, it is a great escape from the boisterous sounds and lights of downtown.
The Star Ferry ride across Victoria Harbour is another great escape, and the city’s firework shows during festivals and holidays are always extremely popular with tourists. Another perfect daytrip if you are in Hong Kong for a few days is a quick jaunt to Lamma Island; it’s actually kind of a getaway from the getaway. And if you want to go where no one knows your name but everyone will by the time you leave, then head over to the Happy Valley Race Course. You don’t even have to be into horses or betting or even drinking. It’s the atmosphere and the people that have made this a staple in Hong Kong for years. By the time you leave, you will be surrounded by friends one way or another.
If you take into consideration these tips and plan accordingly, there is no reason why your trip to Hong Kong to renew your visa should be anything less than a great mini-vacation.