The UK could be set for an entrepreneurial boost from an unlikely source – with almost half of wealthy Hongkongers coming to the UK set to start their own businesses.
According to UKHK.org, a charity supporting Hongkongers in the UK, a new survey of Hongkongers found more than half (52.1 per cent) have or intend to move to the UK by the end of this year.
For those who have already arrived in the UK, most of them hold a Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa status, which allows them to stay in the country for up to five years with the right to work and study. After five years, they can apply to settle, and for citizenship after a further twelve months.
Some awaiting the visa application decision in the UK were granted the status of Leave Outside the Rules (LOTR), allowing them to remain and stay for six months, while a few respondents in the UK are under other visa categories.
The survey found 42.5 per cent of respondents plan to start their own business in the UK, mostly (74.4 per cent) are in the age of 30 to 50 with more than ten years of professional experience, such as accountancy, banking, education, engineering, finance and IT.
Over 60 per cent of the potential entrepreneurs own a total asset of over £200,000.
Meanwhile, most respondents originally worked in administrative and clerical services, accountancy, banking and finance, education and training, as well as IT and information management. The majority (55.7 per cent) have not started looking for a job in the UK yet.
Some who worked in sectors like human resources, media, servicing and performing arts felt less confident adapting to the UK environment and expected more support from the British government.
Sunday Lau, 39, who moved to Reading from Hong Kong under the new BN(O) visa scheme last month, plans to continue his career in e-commerce and digital marketing in the first few years living in the UK, but eventually to start his own business in travel or catering industry.
“I want to build my connections, understand the culture, and integrate the British community through working as an employee first. I believe this can help me pursue my interest and develop my own business in the long run,” said Lau.
Krish Kandiah, founder of UKHK.org, told City A.M. that most potential entrepreneurs from Hong Kong have enough working capital to start a business and bring a positive spirit to the country.
“There are terrible things about the lockdown and pandemic, one of the positive things is rethinking how we do life. It is a fertile time for entrepreneurs because new businesses pop up during the cultural change. One advantage of Hongkongers is bringing the new perspective that seen things work in Asia but has not attempted working in the UK,” said Kandiah.
However, Kandiah said some new arrivals are facing challenges in job hunting as their professional qualifications are not recognised in the UK.
“It is getting better. There is a scheme to recognise the qualification of nurses coming from Hong Kong. For teachers and lawyers, it does take time for those qualifications to be recognised. Some Hongkongers have decided to try new fields,” he added.
Britain introduced the Hong Kong BN(O) visa scheme in late January in response to Beijing’s imposition of the national security law in its former colony. Up to 5.4m Hong Kong people, including BN(O) status holders and their dependents, are eligible to apply for the new visa.
As of the end of March, the Home Office has received 34,300 applications for the new visa, and it predicted about 150,000 Hongkongers would arrive in the UK in the first year.
The survey found over 80 per cent of respondents plan to settle in England, mainly in big cities like London, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham and Reading. One-sixths have already bought the property in the UK.
Moreover, 63.5 per cent of respondents move to the UK with their children. Most of them are expected to arrive throughout the summer, as parents want a smooth transition for their children to the new academic year starting in September.
The charity will keep rolling out the survey and pass the data to relevant government departments to establish the integration programme for the new arrivals from Hong Kong.