Moving to a new country is a brave and exciting decision. But it can also be overwhelming.
- What kind of visa do I need?
- What are the immigration fees and what is the easiest way to pay them?
- What are the airline rules for baggage and excess baggage?
- Where can I find the best moving company for a hassle-free move?
- Do I need moving insurance?
If you are a Hong Konger planning to move abroad, then this guide is for you!
1. IMMIGRATING FROM HONG KONG: MOVING ABROAD CHECKLIST
Before departing Hong Kong, create a checklist. This list of activities will alleviate some of your stress and even increase your excitement for this new phase in your life.
Here’s a basic checklist to get you started:
- Book plane tickets
- Organise your visa (see next section)
- Book temporary accommodation so you have a place to stay when you arrive
- Arrange for transportation from the airport to your place of residence (hotel, AirBnB, a relative’s house, etc.)
- Look for permanent accommodation. If possible, start the renting or buying process while you’re still in Hong Kong
- Collect all important documents (originals and copies) for overseas travel and stay. Create multiple copies, and always keep the originals in a safe place.
- Birth certificate
- National identity card
- Medical prescriptions
- Educational certificates
- Work certificates
- Open a bank account in your new country
- Get required vaccines and immunisations
- Hire a moving company (see section 3)
- If you have young children, start looking for schooling
- If you are moving with a spouse who plans to work, start the job search from Hong Kong itself (LinkedIn is a great place to start)
2. ORGANISE YOUR VISA
Before leaving Hong Kong, organise your visa for your new home country. Often, a long-term visa is a path to permanent residency (PR) and citizenship. Check the country’s immigration website for more information.
Check your passport’s validity period before apply for the visa. If it’s about to expire, get it renewed. Different countries offer different types of visas, and each differs by type, validity period, and a host of other factors. Keep reading for more information about permanent visas to UK and USA.
UK BN(O) Visa
If you are a British National (overseas) resident in Hong Kong and planning to move to the UK, the new Hong Kong BN(O) Visa will create a bespoke immigration route for you. It allows you to work and study in the UK for up to 5 years. The visa can be extended. After you live in the UK for 5 years, you can apply to live there permanently.
- 30 months: HK$2056
- 5 years = HK$2856
Other visa types to emigrate from Hong Kong to UK:
- Diplomatic posting
- Member of International Organisation
- Official visit to the UK
- HM Forces personnel
US Immigration Visas
To permanently move to the USA, there are many immigrant visa options you can choose from. These are given in the table below:
Immigration Visas for Other Countries
Other countries have recently announced new immigration pathways for Hong Kong residents. These include Canada and Australia.
Immigration Fees: Save Money with Wallex!
Almost all immigrant-accepting countries including the USA, UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and EU nations process immigration requests online. This means you have to create your profile on the official immigration application website, add all your details (personal, financial, work-related, etc.), and apply for the visa. Before submitting the application, you must pay the fees. Otherwise, it won’t be processed. These fees are usually tiered based on the visa category. You can pay in many different ways:
- Debit card
- Credit card
- Bank account direct debit
- Prepaid card
However, all these options involve expensive foreign exchange (FX) conversions so your final cost will be much higher than the official visa fees. Depending on the visa category and number of people you’re applying for, this difference can be fairly substantial.
Save money with the Wallex payment account! With this account, you get the best possible currency conversion rates from HKD to any other currency. You also avoid middlemen, get faster processing times, and avoid unnecessary fees. Wallex supports 47 currencies and 180+ countries so it can be used to make visa payments to virtually any country in the world. Click here to get started or contact a Wallex representative for more details.
3. HIRE A MOVING COMPANY
If you’re leaving Hong Kong permanently (or at least for longer than a few years), you might have many goods you cannot carry on the plane. Hire a reliable and expert moving company to move your worldly possessions to your new country. But first, do a little research:
- Create a list of moving companies in Hong Kong that can deliver to your new country
- Investigate their websites and accreditations
- Read reviews and testimonials
- Talk to other people who have used their services
- Compare quotes
- Review shipping options
- Check they have insurance
- Ask what they do to protect your goods from damage or loss
- Ask if they provide a Personal Move Coordinator to keep you informed during the process
If you will move any pets with you, early planning and research is essential to ensure that they remain stress-free. Every country has its own import laws, health regulations, certifications, and quarantine procedures for pets moving across their borders. Make sure you (and your pet) meet these regulations. Do your research, gather the necessary paperwork, make all the applications, and pay the fees. If possible, hire a qualified and experienced pet relocation specialist to help you work through all these details.
Best practices to move with pets internationally:
- Microchip your pets so you can find them if they get lost
- Get a vet to check them out pre-travel
- Review the airline’s guidelines about travelling with pets internationally
- Get vaccination and other documents in order
Relocating a vehicle
If you plan to take your vehicle along, talk to the moving company to understand your options with respect to moving channel (ship or airplane?), care, packing, insurance, etc. Compare quotes from different companies. Ask about overall price, shipping conditions, rates of (separate) car transportation services, etc.
Next, gather relevant documents, such as:
- Original certificate of title
- Copies of the notarised title
- Bill of sale
- Original certificate of origin (for new cars)
- Shipper export declaration
- Passport copy
The cheapest way to move your car internationally is Roll On, Roll Off (RORO). You can also opt for a more expensive car shipping container or air freight. Even with RORO, the cost of moving a car may be much higher than buying a car in your new country, depending on factors like:
- Distance to destination country
- Overseas destination taxes and charges
- International car shipping insurance
- Car’s size, weight and condition
In this case, you are better off selling it. If it has sentimental value, loan it to a friend or family member.
4. TRAVEL CONSIDERATIONS
Once you get to the airport, you will have to get past some checkpoints, both in Hong Kong and your new country. Immigration checkpoints check the people travelling internationally. Customs checkpoints are for checking the goods that travellers carry.
In most countries, you’ll go through customs and immigration after your flight first arrives. When you arrive at the immigration desk in your destination airport, you might be asked questions about the duration and purpose of your trip. If you “declare” any goods (e.g. alcohol), you might have to pay customs fees/duty. Always declare items like food products, alcohol, tobacco, duty-free purchases, etc. Check the relevant customs website for more details.
Points to keep in mind before starting your international journey from Hong Kong
Don’t forget to carry your passport and visa!
Carry all other documents you may be asked for at one or more airports.
If you will fly to your destination country via a layover country, you may need a “transit visa”. Make sure you get it before booking any flights via that country. Otherwise you won’t be allowed to travel – much less land!
Every country has their own list of prohibited items, i.e. items you’re not allowed to bring into a country. E.g. ammunition is not allowed on any airline in any country. Check the immigration or customs website before you fly. For instance, here is the list of items that you are not allowed to bring into New Zealand.
Almost all airlines have a weight limit of 25-30 kg (per bag) plus specific rules about bag size and number of carry-on/checked-in bags allowed. Check these requirements and adhere to them. Otherwise you may end up paying through your nose to transport all the additional luggage to your new home country. If you have hired a moving company, it’s best to keep your flight luggage light.
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