Professionals and students will be able to bring their partners and children with them under new deal Mainland professionals and students living and working here will be allowed to bring their spouses and children with them under new rules aimed at boosting their flow to Hong Kong. The new rules will come into effect from today. Officials hope the move will help spur more people from the mainland to work in Hong Kong under two schemes to be launched soon aimed at attracting fresh talent and trained professionals and those able to make an investment. The change in rules comes two days after the signing of the closer economic partnership agreement (Cepa) between Hong Kong and the mainland. The government sees the flow of people as part of the wider free-trade arrangement. The new rules would also encourage more mainland students to study in Hong Kong, they said. The biggest criticism of the government's talent-import scheme has been against rules that barred professionals from bringing their dependents with them. Few professionals were willing to leave their families behind in the mainland to work in Hong Kong, and only 53 people were admitted under the scheme last year. The biggest change in the new policy is the removal of these prohibitions on professionals and full-time students in local universities and other recognised tertiary institutions. However, the general policy excluding mainland residents from entering Hong Kong as dependents will continue. To qualify as a dependant, children must be aged 18 or younger, while parents are excluded from the scheme. Dependant spouses taking up residence in Hong Kong will not be allowed to work unless they also meet the normal requirements for working visas. Over the past three years, an average of about 13,500 applications for dependant status have been approved. This compares to about 18,000 working visas issued to expatriate professionals. HSBC chief economist George Leung said the new rules were 'a good move ... and would definitely help boost consumption' in the consumer and retail sectors in Hong Kong. The Immigration Department also announced that as part of the rule changes, the minimum age for the sponsor of dependant parents, widows and widowers on compassionate family reunification grounds would be increased from the current 50 years to 60 years of age. In addition, the previous restriction on the entry of nationals from Bulgaria, Romania, Mongolia, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam have been now removed. Former mainland residents in Macau may also apply for entry for residence under the new dependant policy.