WORKING as a Hongkong Bank teller may seem an unlikely dream, but for young Guangzhou woman Hu Xiuling it was a dream come true. ''It is even better than studying overseas. You have to pay for that. But here I can learn a lot and get paid,'' says 25-year-old Ms Hu. She is part of a growing, wide-ranging mainland workforce determined to taste Hong Kong's capitalist success. Ninety-five per cent of the workers brought in under the Government's labour importation scheme are mainland Chinese. Many are being allocated to catering and retailing jobs. Now they are being joined in the territory by a new group of imports: highly educated, competent in English and probably with the boldest of vision. This new group encompasses people who have lived outside China for two years or more. Many are new arrivals - it was only in late 1990 that the Hong Kong Government began to allow Chinese passport-holders to apply for work from abroad. In the first few months after the policy change, only 12 work visas were issued. But in the first nine months of last year, 212 such visas were issued to Chinese citizens living abroad, up from the total of 197 the year before. But as Ms Hu's experience reveals, for those still living in China, achieving the goal of working in Hong Kong needs far more than luck. She was one of 30 chosen in the first phase of a recruitment drive by the Hongkong Bank in southern China, and is now working at the Convention Centre branch. More than 1,000 people applied. The bank has now hired 200 mainlanders to work in its Hong Kong branches. The Standard Chartered Bank has also boosted its workforce with staff from across the border. Fellow teller Amy Li Mei-cun, also from Guangzhou, is happy to spend the next two years behind a Hongkong Bank counter at North Point: ''It's most important to be happy with your work,'' she says. She shares a 900 square foot flat in Laguna City, Kwun Tong, with nine colleagues. It is provided by the company and Ms Li says: ''With my present salary I can buy things that I want more readily. ''Whether I'll stay here? It depends on the kind of job I get. It's boring to stick to a job.'' For Ms Hu, the change in environment means little compared to the greater job efficiency, quality and variety of service that she now has at work. ''Everyone works so hard and efficiently here. ''Also, treating customers in a polite manner is taken much more seriously here than in Guangzhou. I think politeness, making customers feel comfortable, is really important,'' says Ms Hu, a finance college graduate and former account clerk with the Bankof China. She also notices a major difference between Hong Kong and mainland customers: Hong Kongers are more demanding, and that makes her work even more challenging. ''Every business should operate from the customer's point of view,'' she says. Ms Hu will stay in the territory for two years, as will the rest of the bank's imported staff. Its personnel manager (resourcing and development), Jeniffer Lun, says they are willing to learn. The policy allowing the group from outside China to work in Hong Kong was welcomed by the thousands of Chinese students studying in countries such as the United States and Australia. ''Working in Hong Kong allows me to travel back to Beijing from time to time. There are also more job opportunities here than in the United States,'' says one economics graduate now holding a senior post at a prestigious securities firm. Not only did she get the job, she also holds an American passport, issued to her after the US Congress decided to offer permanent residency to Chinese students who were in the US at the time of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. An estimated 80,000 Chinese students are believed to be eligible for the permanent resident status there. But some are already back in Asia, after completing their studies. ''Many of the students hope to return to China one day. Some who have done so have started their own businesses or are involved with state enterprises. Their knowledge has proven useful,'' says the American-educated mainlander. In Hong Kong, where her husband also has a good job, she feels a lot closer to home: ''It's a Chinese society, after all,'' she says. ''Things are convenient for us. One drawback is the lack of places to go. Unlike in the US or China, there are far fewer cultural activities here. Hong Kong is a predominantly commercial place.'' The territory's growing links with China mean better job opportunities for professionals with a Chinese background. They have been recruited for sectors such as teaching, corporate finance and investment banking. Their lot is richer than that of the skilled or semi-skilled mainlanders hired for manual jobs. But for all of them, Hong Kong is not necessarily the place to be for the rest of their lives. ''Given the pace of development in China, there will be vast opportunities for talented people,'' one says.