30May

Expat Guide: What to Do in Your First Year in Hong Kong

After living in Hong Kong for one year, you probably already know its famous landmarks and where to find the best Chinese food like the back of your hand. But here are more things you might need to know to settle in nicely and comfortably for the rest of your stay in this thriving, cultured, and fast-paced city.

buying car

  1. Owning/leasing a car and getting a driver’s license
Many Hong Kong residents don’t really consider a car a necessity. The city is small and the public transportation system is renowned for its cleanliness and efficiency. But some expats still feel incomplete without a vehicle. If you have a family or if you’re living in the New Territories, having your own car does have its advantages. You can set your own schedule of coming and going and if you want to relax, a drive to the rural areas to go biking or hiking is made much easier.
If you do decide to get a car, you’ll need a locally-issued driver’s license as your foreign issued license is only good for a year. Here’s what you need in order to be issued with a 10-year Hong Kong license:
  • The current fee
  • The originals, AND copies of, your home license, passport, and HKID card
  • Those over 70 years of age must complete medical form TD256
  • Proof of address, no older than 90 days
You will need to have resided in the country of issue for at least six months since your license was issued, you have held the license for at least five years, and present your passport issued in the same country as the license.

bank account

2. Opening a bank account
If you haven’t opened a bank account in Hong Kong yet, now’s as good a time as any! It’s a straightforward process and being a major international finance center, nearly all major banks are found in Hong Kong. All you’ll need is your passport and a recognized proof of address although some banks may need to see a work or residence permit. If you already have your HKID, this can be used instead of your passport. If your work requires you to travel a lot, HSBC and Standard Chartered are the best banks to accommodate you.

hiking

3. Nature trails and beaches

Of course there’s more to Hong Kong than just the hustle and bustle of business. If you love the great outdoors and yearn to get away from the big city often, Hong Kong has such easy access to nature. Hike the high peaks of Lantau to get a stunning view from the top. Find secluded beaches in Sai Kung and rent kayaks by the hour and revel in the tranquility you can find in such a major city.insurance_0

4. Getting health insurance
After living a year in Hong Kong, you’ll start to get a feel if it’s the right place for you. The city attracts expats because of its unique marriage of Western and Eastern cultures and the great work opportunities it offers. The food is nothing short of amazing and there’s always something to do whether its a fun night out in the city or a quiet drive to the south. If you decide to stay in Hong Kong, you’ll enjoy it so much more with the peace of mind knowing you have health insurance. We can help you get started on the health care that is best for you and your family. Your great new life in Hong Kong is about to begin!
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16May

Easing the Process of Moving to Another Area in Hong Kong

For a lot of people, just the thought of moving can be quite stressful. Where do you even begin? Where can you find time to do all that packing? What if some of your things get lost or damaged? But no matter how stressful it can be, the promise of a better location, better house, or a better life is exciting. And the stress can be managed if you acquire the help of a moving company which Hong Kong has a lot of. Once you get in touch with one, they’ll guide you through what to do at the beginning up to the very end.

Here is a step-by-step guide to moving houses or offices:

1. Talk to your mover

This is pretty obvious. But what specifically should you let your mover know? Your packing and moving dates for one thing, that’s a no-brainer. There’s also things like whether you want to move your belongings by air or sea, if you want your things delivered straight to your new door or at the nearest port, if there are customs or quarantine regulations you need to know about, and if you need extra services once you’ve gotten all your things together. You’re not just hiring them to move your moving boxes from Point A to Point B, their professional opinion is also a great addition.

2. Get your quote and insurance

Once you know exactly how you want your home contents moved down to the last detail, the movers will give you a quote. Then you’ll need to take care and submit the necessary paperwork. And most importantly, you need to get moving insurance. No matter how careful your movers are and how well things are planned, accidents can always happen. It’s best to be prepared, get a coverage plan and a valuation for your valuables. Here is a more detailed guide on what you need to consider.

3. Packing time

Actually this is the movers’ job so what you need to plan is being out of the house on the day that they’re arriving so you won’t get in their way. No need to worry about boxes and how to pack what sort of item (whether it should be bubble-wrapped or padded with styrofoam), it’s part of their job to provide and know all those things.

4. Shipping them out

Once your belongings are ready to be shipped off, it’s important to get all the details. The tracking number of your shipment, the vessel or flight details, departure and arrival dates of the shipment, and contact details of the agent who will handle your belongings once they arrive. That last one is important. You need to get in touch with the person responsible for taking care of things like customs, storage, and delivery.

5. New home sweet home

When your belongings arrive, leave it to the movers to do all the unpacking while you peruse a list to make sure everything is accounted for. They’ll even set up your furniture they way you like it and even take care of getting rid of the empty boxes. Then, once everything is squared away, just relax and enjoy your new place!

And remember it’s always best to get Home Contents Insurance or Office Insurance to make sure you’re adequately covered and reduce the stress when things don’t go as smoothly as you would have liked. If you’re renting, we also recommend getting Renter’s Insurance. We can help arrange this for you at Village Insurance Direct.

2May

Tips for Staying Fit While Pregnant

Exercise during pregnancy is different for every expectant mother. The most important tip to remember is to get clearance from your doctor before engaging with any type of fitness plan.

Women who regularly exercise and have been physically active prior to conceiving will more or less have zero issues with working in a fitness routine in their day. Walking is considered a safe and simple way to get one’s heart rate up.

CALORIE INTAKE

Although you are eating for more than one person, doctors advise that it is important to keep track of your pre-pregnancy weight to determine your required calorie intake to maintain your body’s and baby’s need for proper nutrition.

If your body mass index (BMI) is in a healthy range (between 18.5 and 24.9), you’ll need to eat about 340 more calories a day in the second trimester than before you were pregnant and about 450 more calories a day in the third trimester

PROPER WARDROBE

Stay comfortable by choosing looser fitting clothes that breath and regulates body temperature. Pregnant women tend to have higher body temperature and may overheat during a workout. In addition, make sure your maternity bra is supportive enough, and choose athletic shoes that fit properly. With your feet a little swollen than normal, choose footwear that is 1 to 2 sizes bigger.

EXERCISE AND STRETCHING HELPS WITH BACK & HIP PAIN

Common problems during pregnancy are increased lower back pain, pelvic instability, urinary issues, or reduced functional strength of the abdominal wall. Exercising during pregnancy helps reduce muscle tension. Prenatal pilates and yoga are popular fitness routines women can safely do to help with the usual discomforts of the condition.

STAYING SAFE WITH PROPER MATERNITY INSURANCE 

Maternity insurance covers costs for pre-natal and post-natal treatments. It also covers cost for natural or caesarean delivery where the latter can get very expensive without private insurance. Maternity insurance with extension also helps with costs incurred for fertility treatments and congenital birth defects.

Village Insurance provides help for expats in Hong Kong in finding the best maternity insurance for all of your needs. Get in touch with our agents for more information.

 

30Apr

Singapore or Hong Kong? Where Best to Do Business

Singapore and Hong Kong are two of the best east Asian countries to start establish a business. Hong Kong has taken the lead for the past years but Singapore has been quickly making great strides to compete further.

Companies and brands from the US and UK have had relatively easy entries to both markets. The most common business has to do with building a regional headquarters for a global company as an expansion strategy and amass the Asian market.

HERE ARE HELPFUL INSIGHTS FOR EXPATS WHO ARE CHOOSING BETWEEN HONG KONG AND SINGAPORE TO DO BUSINESS.

As an overview of the two country’s strengths:

  • Singapore has the top destination for maritime trade.
  • Hong Kong is your choice if the objective is to eventually start business in Mainland China.
  • Both have incredibly accessible international airports with hundreds of direct flights from Western regions on a daily basis

LEGAL PROTECTION

It’s a must to have business cover like public liability or product liability insurance. It’s a pre-requisite for any business in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Both countries have strict legal systems with regulations in place to help you with intellectual property rights and dispute resolution departments. However, Singapore wins over Hong Kong in terms of enforcing contracts and property registrations.

GLOBAL RANKINGS

World Bank’s 2017 Ease of Doing Business ranking places SG at #2 and Hong Kong at #5. New Zealand was #1 last year.

In the annual Z/Yen survey of global financial centres Hong Kong beats Singapore but as the entry way to China, Hong Kong is the 3rd most powerful financial hub globally. Singapore is currently in 4th place.

Hong Kong ranks 1st in terms of financial services and financial technology.

The criteria for the rankings above are:

  • infrastructure
  • business environment
  • financial sector development
  • human capital
  • reputation

Business registration can both be done online via website registration.  The headline Singapore tax rate is 17% whereas it’s 16.5% in Hong Kong. There are also many tax exemptions available for both.

In Singapore, one of the directors must be a citizen while Hong Kong allows 100% ownership by expats.

Ready to get started with your new businesses? Get in touch with us for all your business insurance needs.

4Apr

Must Know Information for Inheritance Tax for Expats

Did you know that your beneficiaries may be charged a large amount Inheritance Tax (IHT) bill in case of death. The cost of IHT is almost as equally large as the amount being left. In 2012 to 2013, over £4 billion in inheritance tax was paid to the UK government including sums paid by expats from Hong Kong.

WHO WILL PAY FOR INHERITANCE TAX?

IHT liability is based on one’s permanent residence or domicile. There are two types of domicile: domicile of origin and domicile of choice.

A domicile of choice can be established if you can demonstrate that you have severed all connections with your “homeland” and established permanent ties elsewhere.

A domicile of origin may be challenge to change. Note that if you transfer one more time your domicile of origin will revive until you establish a new one. If you are domiciled in the United Kingdom, IHT applies to your global assets.If you are domiciled elsewhere, IHT is charged on your assets held in the UK.

IHT is charged through three main channels:

  • On your estate in the event of your death
  • On any gifts you present to individuals in the last 7 years of your lifetime
  • On any gifts to the most common type of Trust that you make through your lifetime

Everyone is entitled to make a certain proportion of gifts sans taxation and this is called the “nil-rate band”. Current cost is £325,000 which will remain so unti 2021. All excess above this band is charged at 40%.

Generally, property owners automatically follows the IHT net even before taking into account the total value of their investments. But note that it’s possible to reduce your exposure to this punitive tax.

Inheritance Tax is often treated as a “voluntary” tax because its impact may be mitigated. If you have large amounts of assets but don’t want to leave control over these or make gifts, you can still lower the cost of IHT by carefully planning your will.

LEAVING A WILL

Ensuring one has a will in place is a way to protect your loved ones from incurring impossibly high cost of IHT in the case where substantial assets are involved. For instance, a married couple and civil partners can do what the industry calls a “double up” on their nil rates and this implies that up to £650,000 can automatically pass free of IHT. One common myth about leaving your assets to your spouse or civil partner is that they get half if you die. This is not a fact.

Also, it is crucial to remember that minors cannot inherit money or property which means you need to assign someone to make the arrangements until they turn 18.The courts may choose this person for you if you fail to do so in your will.

Expats often have assets in parts of the world and all these have to go through the courts of the different jurisdictions. Delays can happen if one does not make the necessary arrangements in their will. There are also insurance that covers the cost of inheritance tax. Ask us about it. We help expats in Hong Kong.

3Mar

Expat Guide: Find a Nanny & Domestic Helper Insurance in Hong Kong

Finding a nanny can overwhelming and a new experience for expats in Hong Kong. What parents need to determine for themselves are: “What are our main motivations for hiring a nanny?” Often times, it boils down to a family’s preferences.

In Hong Kong having a nanny or domestic helper means they need to reside in your home. This is unfamiliar territory for many expats. In reality, there are plenty of domestic helpers who don’t live with their employers under illegal circumstances which is very risky for them as well as the people who hire them.

Furthermore, employers are required to provide Domestic Helper Insurance as part of their legal obligation.

In addition to having a worker live on the premises, parents or employers need to be mindful their objectives. Do they only need a worker or someone to play a role in tutoring the children? Parents also need to keep in mind that not every nanny is qualified to take care of children.

SCREEN THE HELPERS YOU PLAN TO HIRE

It is crucial that the domestic worker or nanny’s background is thoroughly checked. When it comes to applicants, it is important that you know that your nanny, the person taking care of your children is clean. There are different paths you can go around to do these screenings.

There are four checks that The Nanny Experts recommend when hiring someone for child care.

  1. References – Verify previous employers and dates
  2. Qualifications – Nannies and childcare workers should have a minimum of first aid and CPR.
  3. Criminal Checks – Most agencies will check the last ten years of employment (Some will request that potential nannies have these documents from their home countries)
  4. Medical check

CONTRACT AND OTHER DOCUMENTS

Parents who are considering hiring a nanny need to be mindful of contract and work permit laws in Hong Kong. When it comes to the work contract, employers need to be direct about what they expect from the nanny. Be thorough about their job description when drafting their contract. It is essential that the nanny and the family have clear communication and respect for one another. When you write it out and go over the contract together you talk about these things. Communication is really important.

For more information on how to hire domestic help, drama-free, read our blog here: http://villageinsurancedirect.com/expat-guide-hiring-domestic-helper/

27Feb

How to Rent Property in Hong Kong

 

If you’re looking to rent property in Hong Kong, here are some guidelines to help smoothen the process.

scoping-for-land

First things first, you need to assess the market and find out what you can afford. Research what is available for your budget and two to four weeks before moving in, you’ll need to start an actual visit to these properties. Once you’re at the physical checking stage, it’s best to hire an agent who you can work with and who can show you the properties with the details you’re looking for.

details

If you’ve found some properties that interest you, it’s time to ask a lot of important questions that will aid in narrowing down your choices. You’ll need to find out who the landlord is and make sure this person is someone you can get along with since you’ll be dealing with them for the duration of your stay. Ask how long the property has been on the market and if it’s been a few months, find out why. If it’s under a mortgage, you’ll need your agent to secure a Mortgagee Consent and this may affect your move-in date. And of course, you have to inspect every inch of the property. Make sure utilities are in good working condition, there’s no mold on the walls, electrical outlets are safe, lights are working, and that the entire place is generally safe to live in. Once you’re living there and you find something wrong, you’ll regret you weren’t more thorough.

negotiate

Once you’ve decided on a property that has what you’re looking for, it’s time to make an offer to your agent then you will receive a provisional rental agreement. Rent, lease terms (including handover and move-in date), break clause, and maintenance works are open to discussion. Speak with the landlord and set realistic deadlines on anything they have to fix. It’s important to establish a great relationship with your landlord from the get-go to live happily in your new place.

The provisional rental agreement must be signed first and then the tenancy agreement. Review these careful as they are legally binding documents. Your agent can help you with this or if it’s too complicated, you can hire a solicitor. After you’ve signed the provisional rental agreement, you’ll need to give a deposit worth two month’s rent. Then the tenancy agreement comes next which includes stamp duty which you can split halfway with the landlord.

Once you get the keys to the place, it’s important to run one last inspection and document everything. Take photos of the property and keep them as records. Check any work that was done and document scratches, chips, or any kind of marks to prove they were there before you moved in, the number of keys, remote controls, and the gas and water metres. Your agent should make sure that all additional work you requested from your landlord should be completed at this point, the property should be clean and ready for you to reside in, and utility accounts are connected.

If you follow these steps, finding the right place to live in will come easily and you’ll find yourself enjoying your new place for as long as you’re there.

We recommend getting Renter’s Insurance to protect your possessions inside your apartment.

12Feb

Mental Health for Expats: Reducing Stress & Anxiety After Moving

The importance of paying attention to one’s mental health is now more crucial than ever. Expats in particular deal with different forms of stress and anxiety. Research has shown that a major life transition such as geographically moving from one’s native country to a different one is one of the top causes of stress and anxiety–along with death of family and divorce.

Expats deal with moving from one location to another every 3 to 4 years and this is on top of adjusting to a new job, new people, and culture. The lack of a stable support system such as one’s usual friends and family makes it all the more challenging to manage the mental and emotional tolls from such situations.

What’s the difference between stress and anxiety?

Stress comes in anticipation of a threat. It’s a physiological response. Excessive adrenaline is produced by the body, our heart rate increases and muscles become tensed. Prolonged exposure to stress can lead to hypertension and high blood pressure and for expats, the source is more often emotional and psychological.

Identifying the trigger is easier when we feel stress but catch it early. When we feel anxiety, there is usually no trigger we can identify. We just know we are worried, uncomfortable, and preoccupied with our thoughts. This is the difference between stress and anxiety.

Dealing with stress…

Evaluate your physical condition. Are your shoulders tensed? Is your breathing shallow? These are physical manifestations of stress. To help you slow your breathing, try these techniques:

Take 10 deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling out your mouth. Your belly should expand with every inhale. Focus on your breathing and you should feel your mind slowing down after the 10th exhale.

You can also try deep breathing while clutching a pillow on your chest. Squeeze as tightly as you can when you breath in. Release and breath out.

Running to release tension is also an alternative if you are looking for a high impact activity.

These simple techniques are not the sole solutions but they will help you manage yourself better more quickly.

What about anxiety?

The unknown is the most probable cause of anxiety among expats. It’s a lingering feeling of restlessness or nervousness. In order to start dealing with the situation, it is important to acknowledge the thoughts that continue to bother us. Let these thoughts pass by our minds, and let them go.

Letting go of the thoughts does not equate to inaction but it will help you have have a clearer perspective on which decisions are more important and which ones are merely thoughts.

If no changes are felt or noticed, seek the help of a mental health professional. Here is a list of private psychiatrists in Hong Kong.

Check your health insurance plan if they cover therapy and maintenance drugs. You can also choose to upgrade your existing medical insurance to cover your needs. Contact us to learn more about insurance for expats in Hong Kong.

19Jan

Updated Guide to Hong Kong Healthcare

Hong Kong remains as one of the best providers of public healthcare in the world. However, as expats, it is always advisable to prepare one’s self with the proper insurance cover to for any unforeseen circumstances such as the need for repatriation or emergency surgery.

Hong Kong’s public sector has 42 public hospitals, 47 specialist out-patient clinics, and 73 general out-patient clinics, all organised into seven clusters according to their locations.

Here is an updated information on the country’s healthcare system as of 2018.

PUBLIC HEALTHCARE

Hong Kong provides residents with excellent and highly affordable health services. The life expectancy in the country is currently the world’s third highest and infant mortality is the ninth lowest. Here is the list of public health institutions.

DOCTORS

Finding your preferred doctor is easy; simply log on to the government’s Primary Care Directory and select your specialist. Antenatal and postnatal care, well women services and childhood vaccinations take place at 34 dedicated Maternal and Child Health Centres across the SAR.

When attending an appointment, you’ll be asked to register with your Hong Kong ID and pay a small fee, usually by cash or Octopus card.

There are also a good number of private healthcare practitioners in Hong Kong, and access to their services will depend in no small part on your individual insurance coverage. Some insurers provide a pre-approved list of doctors, whereas others will allow patients free choice of doctor according to their policy’s financial limit. Opting to visit a private doctor will usually mean that you can choose your specialist according to your own needs and schedule, with shorter waiting times than in the public system.

Make sure to ask your insurance provider and confirm your cover details as well as payment methods.

HOSPITALS

In an emergency, you’ll be transported by ambulance to the nearest public hospital for treatment. With 17 public hospitals across Hong Kong providing Accident and Emergency services, and air ambulance services available to assist with evacuation from Hong Kong’s less accessible regions, you’re never too far away from help. Hong Kong’s A&E care operates on a triage basis, and is charged at a flat rate of $100 per visit. Once assessed by a doctor, if you’re subsequently admitted to hospital, you’ll be charged a $50 admission fee, then $100 per day, payable by cash or Octopus card.

There are currently 11 private hospitals that are internationally accredited in Hong Kong. Most provide 24-hour outpatient services for urgent cases and can arrange transfer to a public hospital for accident and emergency services if deemed necessary. Many of Hong Kong’s private hospitals are renowned for their specialist areas of expertise, including obstetrics and gynaecology, orthopaedics and ophthalmology, to name a few.

As with private doctors, you should always confirm the hospital’s billing process with your insurer, and check that any extras, such as medicines, private accommodation or out-of-hours surgery are covered.

To get the best insurance for personal or family cover, get in touch with us. We specialise in insurance for expats in Hong Kong.