Expat access: Visa essentials for Asia – Singapore, Thailand, China, Hong Kong, India…

Expat access: Visa essentials for Asia – Singapore, Thailand, China, Hong Kong, India…

Ever since the turn of the century, moving East for your career has made more and more sense with each passing year. The rapid growth in opportunities and in salaries/ benefits, along with the emergence of world-class lifestyle facilities, have made the Middle East, Asia and Australia attractive regions to work and put down roots in.

Once you’ve made up your mind to move, it’s time to deal with the practical matters that arise with such a life-changing decision. Applying for, and getting the right visa to live/ work in your chosen country is one of them.

In this series, we look at legal essentials and visa requirements to live and work in key economies around the world. Click here for Middle East visa essentials or read on for visa requirements in key countries in Asia.


For years, Singapore has been among the top 3 global destinations to live and work in. In the latest HSBC Expat Explorer Survey too, Singapore emerges as a very popular choice among Western expats, where the key parameters of income, living experience, and raising kids are concerned.


The country offers an Employment Pass or a Work Visa, depending on your monthly salary. If you make more than $2800 a month, you need an Employment Pass. Further, the ‘P’ Employment Pass is for those who earn more than $4000 a month, and ‘Q’ Pass for those whose salary is $2800-$4000.

  • To apply for the Employment Pass, you need to complete & submit the Employment Pass Application Form
  • Submit the information page of your passport & your diploma or educational certificates
  • Pay administration fees when submitting your application. Additional fees must be paid after the assessment phase
  • Fulfill additional requirements as instructed
  • Once your application is approved, your employer will receive an In-Principle Approval letter
  • Request the Issue of Pass. Your employer completes this part of the process, including a secondary fee payment. Your employer will then be sent a Notification Letter
  • Visit the Employment Pass Services Center along with your employer
  • Collect your Employment Pass


Want to find out more about moving your career to Singapore? Read our ‘Guide to Moving Your Job Abroad: Singapore’ and learn more about this fascinating expatriate location!



In the latest HSBC Expat Explorer Survey, Thailand was ranked #1 for being a good place to make friends and enjoy an active social life. The country is known for its beautiful beaches and its growing economy.

Bangkok, Thailand

There is no visa that allows you to work in Thailand; however, you need a ‘B visa’ to apply for a work permit there. For this, you need the following documents:

  • A letter approved by the Ministry of Labor (to be obtained from the office of ‘Foreign Workers’ by your prospective employer in Thailand)
  • A letter of invitation from a Thai company that is allowed to employ foreigners
  • An employment contract
  • Your CV, education documents, and letters of recommendation from previous employers
  • Corporate paperwork/ details of the employer in Thailand (business registration, business license, company profile, balance sheet)


You should ideally stay in touch with the Thai Embassy to ensure you fulfill all requirements pertaining to your visa.
Would you like to find out more about moving your career to Thailand? Read our ‘Best Fit Series – Cost of Living: Thailand’ and learn more about this extremely popular expatriate location!



China visas are categorized with abbreviations. For instance, ‘L Visa’ is for a foreigner, ‘X visa’ for a student, and ‘Z visa’ for those who wish to expatriate. The ‘Z visa’ is meant for employees, business people, and their families.

Beijing, China

For a successful visa application:

  • Your employer must be accredited to employ foreigners
  • You must be classified as a ‘foreign expert’ and your employer must obtain a certificate to this effect
  • Your employer will send you a government-issued Employment Permit and Visa Notification Letter which you must submit with your application
  • Accompanying family members should apply for the S1 or S2 visa submitting an invitation letter from the relative holding the work ‘Z visa’ in China and a ‘proof of relationship’ i.e. marriage certificate for a spouse, birth certificate for a child
  • The ‘Z visa’ is valid for 30 days from your date of arrival. Within this time, you and your employer must seek a Temporary Residence Permit for the entire duration of your work contract, which can be anywhere between 90 days and 5 years

To obtain a visa, you need:

  • A valid passport with at least six months’ validity left before expiration
  • Duly completed Visa Application Form
  • Health certificate covering a recent medical exam
  • Invitation Letter issued by authorized entity or Confirmation Letter of Invitation issued by authorized entities in China
  • Pay the Visa Fee of US $140 for American citizens, $30 for others


Are you tempted by a career move to China? Understand the latest jobs market updates by reading our ‘Asia Jobs Market Update: 2014 – China‘ article and find out why relocating to China is a great career move!


Hong Kong

Though Hong Kong is part of the People’s Republic of China, the region has its own specific visa rules and regulations. The city is vibrant, offers a multitude of career opportunities, and has a good record of being tourist-friendly and business-friendly.

Hong Kong

To obtain a work visa under Hong Kong’s General Employment Policy, you need to fulfil certain requirements:

  • A confirmed offer of employment at the time of applying and the vacancy must be in an occupation relevant to your skills, experience and qualifications
  • Documentation showing a graduate’s degree and professional experience to fill the desired position
  • Documentation that shows you are capable of contributing to the local economy in general
  • Salary offered and other working contribution that matches with local standards
  • If you are a British citizen whose passport is valid for 6 months or more, you can enter and stay in Hong Kong for 6 months, without a visa. However, this is only for a visit and you will not be eligible to work during this period.


Hong Kong is an exciting location with so much to offer expatriates looking for a new way of life and a new career. Find out more about Hong Kong by reading our ‘Guide to Moving Your Job Abroad: Hong Kong‘ article!



India is a diverse, culturally rich country. You need an ‘E visa’ to live and work in India; however, not everyone requires a work authorization and certain nationals are exempt. Check with your Embassy whether you qualify for the exemption.

Taj Mahal, Agra, India

Where a visa is required, it is typically issued to highly-skilled specialists, managers and executives. All ‘E visa’ applications must be sponsored by a duly registered Indian company. The other requirements are:

  • Barring some exceptions, ‘E visa’ holders should have been offered a minimum annual salary of more than US $25,000
  • Your employer may need to certify that you comply with applicable tax requirements, including the timely filing of tax returns in India
  • You may need to appear for a labor market test as part of the employment visa process
  • The visa, once issued, may be valid from anywhere between 3 months to 5 years. If the duration is less than 5 years, you will be able to have it extended later on.


India is quickly becoming the country of opportunity, and with a rapidly growing economy there are many career opportunities to take advantage of. Find out if India is the right move for you and your family in our ‘Guide to Moving Your Job Abroad: Mumbai‘ article!












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