On 26 June 2020, the HKSAR Government launched the Pilot Scheme on Facilitation for Persons Participating in Arbitral Proceedings in Hong Kong (the Scheme). It aims to facilitate the participation of non-Hong Kong residents in arbitral proceedings in Hong Kong to strengthen its position as an international centre for legal and dispute resolution services in the Asia Pacific Region, and be in line with the Belt and Road Initiative and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Development.

What is the Scheme about?  Nationals of countries who may visit Hong Kong visa-free (Visa-free Nationals) and are in possession of the "Letter of proof" (Letter of Proof) are allowed to participate in arbitral proceedings in Hong Kong as visitors without a need to obtain employment visas.
Who are the Eligible Persons? 

Four categories of Visa-free Nationals: 

  • Arbitrators 
  • Expert and factual witnesses 
  • Counsel in the arbitration 
  • Parties to the arbitration 

The above participants who seek to enter Hong Kong without employment visas under the Scheme must obtain a Letter of Proof confirming that they are Eligible Persons participating in arbitral proceedings in Hong Kong.

Who can issue the Letter of Proof?

For administered arbitrations:

The Letter shall be issued by one of the institutions and their permanent offices in Hong Kong qualified under Article 2(1) of the "Arrangement Concerning Mutual Assistance in Court-ordered Interim Measures in Aid of Arbitral Proceedings by the Courts of the Mainland and of the HKSAR" (the Agreement).

Contact details of the institutions and their permanent offices qualified under Article 2(1) of the Arrangement can be found at: https://www.doj.gov.hk/eng/public/interim_measures_outcome.html and https://www.doj.gov.hk/pdf/2019/list_of_institutions_e.pdf

Qualified institutions (as of 26 June 2020) include:

  • Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC)
  • China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission Hong Kong Arbitration Center (CIETACHK)
  • International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce – Asia Office (ICC)
  • Hong Kong Maritime Arbitration Group
  • South China International Arbitration Center (HK)
  • eBRAM International Online Dispute Resolution Centre

For ad hoc arbitrations:

The Letter shall be issued by the venue providers: the HKIAC or the Department of Justice.

How long can the Eligible Persons stay in Hong Kong?

The length of stay in Hong Kong for participating in arbitral proceedings shall not exceed the visa-free period in force for the respective countries.

An exhaustive list of visa-free countries to Hong Kong and their respective visa-free periods can be found at: https://www.immd.gov.hk/eng/services/visas/visit-transit/visit-visa-entry-permit.html

Any entry restrictions?

Eligible Persons are subject to the prevailing entry restrictions imposed by the HKSAR Government.

Due to COVID-19, with effect from 25 March 2020 and until further notice, all non-Hong Kong residents coming from overseas countries and regions by plane will be denied entry to Hong Kong, and non-Hong Kong residents coming from the Mainland, Macau and Taiwan will be denied entry to Hong Kong if they have been to any overseas countries and regions in the past 14 days.

Further information regarding COVID-19 restrictions on entering Hong Kong can be found at:
https://www.coronavirus.gov.hk/eng/inbound-travel.html 

Duration of the Scheme 2 years from 29 June 2020.

The Government's press release of the Scheme can be found at: https://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/202006/29/P2020062900772.htm

For more details of the Scheme and arbitration in Hong Kong, please do not hesitate to contact our Construction and Arbitration Teams.

For more details of the eBRAM International Online Dispute Resolution Centre, please contact Thomas So, the Chairman of eBRAM. 

For more details of employment and immigration issues in Hong Kong, please do not hesitate to contact our Employment Team.