Managing a business in Hong Kong

Once you’ve successfully registered your business in Hong Kong, managing it effectively becomes your next priority. To do so, there are some essential steps you need to take to ensure compliance with the local laws and regulations. 

From opening a corporate bank account and obtaining the relevant business licence, to hiring people and registering trademarks, this guide will support you through the various stages of managing a business in Hong Kong. 

Opening a corporate bank account

Once your company has been registered with the Companies Registrar in Hong Kong, you can proceed to open a bank account. Most of the world’s major banks – including HSBC, DBS (Hong Kong), Citibank and Standard Chartered – have a presence in Hong Kong. Prior to finalising a bank for opening your corporate account, it’s worth considering the following factors: 

  • The reputation of the bank 
  • Services and facilities offered 
  • Availability of future support services, such as loans or trade financing 
  • Minimum deposit requirements 
  • Availability of internet/online banking facilities 
  • Monthly fees 

Account opening requirements in Hong Kong

To open a corporate bank account in Hong Kong, you may need to prepare the following documents: 

  • An extract of the board resolution approving the opening of a corporate bank account 
  • A certified true copy of the company’s Certificate of Incorporation, issued by the Companies Registry 
  • A certified true copy of the company’s Business Registration Certificate, issued by the Inland Revenue Department 
  • A certified true copy of the company’s Articles of Association 
  • A director declaration that provides the personal particulars of directors and principal shareholders 
  • A copy of the Hong Kong identity card or passport; residential proof such as utility bills, bank statements, driving licence etc.; and former name or alias proof (if applicable) for each of the directors, authorised signatories, principal shareholders, and beneficial owners of corporate shareholders 
  • A list of specimen signatures of authorised signatories 
  • Proof of business, such as business plan or audited financial statements 
  • For corporate shareholders of the company: a certified copy of an organisation chart that shows the percentage of shareholdings held by each individual and the ultimate beneficial owners of the company 
  • Details of ultimate beneficial owners for nominee shareholders of a company 
  • For ultimate beneficiaries who are trusts: a certified copy of the trust deed or declaration of trust with details of the trustees, settlers, and beneficiaries 

Copies of all documents submitted must be certified by authorised professionals, such as an auditor, lawyer or chartered secretary.  

In addition to the above documents, most banks in Hong Kong will require an initial minimum deposit. Almost all banks follow strict due diligence procedures and require the account signatories, directors, and shareholders to be physically present in Hong Kong.  

Some banks, however, may authorise the opening of a corporate bank account without the need for signatories, directors and shareholders to be physically present. In this case, the documents can be signed at the bank’s overseas branches in the presence of a witness. The time taken to open the bank account can vary depending on the bank. 

Applying for a business licence

Although the majority of business activities in Hong Kong can be carried out without specific prior approval by local authorities, there are some cases in which obtaining an ad-hoc licence or permit may help ensure your operations are compliant with the regulatory requirements in Hong Kong. By way of example, certain activities may require the following specific licences to lawfully operate: 

  • Travel Agency Licence 
  • Education Licence 
  • Dealer in Precious Metals and Stones (DPMS) Registration 
  • Employment Agency Licence 
  • Restaurant Licence 
  • Liquor Licence 

These are typically issued by the relevant department or agency of the Hong Kong government. In general, it may take between two to twelve weeks to obtain them.  

Building your Hong Kong team

With your business up and running, it is time to concentrate on hiring the right employees to support your operations. This will require familiarising yourself with the legal formalities involved in the hiring process, as well as having a clear understanding of the employment legislation in Hong Kong. 

Hong Kong Employment Ordinance

The Employment Ordinance is Hong Kong’s main legislation relating to labour and employment issues. It outlines the individual rights, duties and responsibilities of the employer and employee. Additionally, it governs the details of the employment contract to ensure that the employee is adequately protected and specifies the basic terms and conditions of employment. 

If the Employment Ordinance covers your employee, your employment contract terms must satisfy the minimum requirements. Some of the key points to be included in the contract are: 

  • Appointment position 
  • Duration of employment contract 
  • Obligations during employment 
  • Date of employment commencement 
  • Remuneration package 
  • Hours of work 
  • Employee benefits 
  • Termination 

Hiring local employees

Hiring employees in Hong Kong requires you to understand your employer obligations. Among these, the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) contribution is a crucial responsibility you will need to manage.  

Employers and employees are each required to contribute 5% of the employee’s monthly cash income to a MPF scheme. This applies to all employees from the age of 18 to 64, unless they are exempt. For instance, foreigners who enter Hong Kong for employment for less than 13 months, or those covered by overseas retirement schemes, are exempt from the MPF requirements.  

The maximum level of monthly income for contribution purposes is HK$30,000. Therefore, for employees earning above this threshold, mandatory contributions are capped at HK$1,500. If an employee’s monthly income is below HK$7,000, they are not required to contribute, but you must still make the employer contribution.  

As an employer, you will need to provide monthly pay-records to each employee within seven working days after the mandatory contributions are made. The pay-record should include your employee’s relevant income, the contribution amounts and the date the contributions were paid to the scheme. More information can be found on the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority website

Hiring foreign employees

For non-citizens, you will need to apply for a valid visa on their behalf before they can live and work in Hong Kong. Applications for the various work visas can be completed on the Hong Kong Immigration Department (HKID) website. On average, it takes around three months to process a Hong Kong work visa.  

Those working in Hong Kong for more than 13 months must also be enrolled in an MPF scheme within 60 days of their employment. For more information, you may refer to our Hong Kong immigration guide.  

Registering a trademark

While trademark registration is not mandatory in Hong Kong, it is an advantageous step when it comes to protecting your business. This legal protection covers your brand’s distinctive identifiers, such as words and shapes, and prevents other businesses from using them. 

Trademark registration process in Hong Kong

Trademark registration in Hong Kong is governed by the Trade Marks Ordinance and administered by the Intellectual Property Department. Registration can be completed within six months, provided your application meets all requirements and the trademark is not contested. Below is an overview of the process: 

Conduct a trademark search

When selecting a trademark, it is advisable to perform comprehensive searches to ensure there are no conflicts with existing names and marks.  

For guidance, you may use the Search and Preliminary Advice Service offered by the Intellectual Property Department. 

Check the trademark class

You will also need to know the classes of goods and services for your trademark. There are 45 classes within the International Classification of Goods and Services.  

File your application

With the required information, you can proceed to complete your application online, by post, or in person with the Intellectual Property Department. Once submitted, major changes are not permitted. As such, do double-check all details for accuracy before submission. 

The fee for registering a trademark in one class of goods or services is HK$2,000. For each additional class of goods or services, it will cost HK$1,000.  

A receipt will be provided indicating your application number. 

Check for deficiencies

The Intellectual Property Department will then assess your application to verify its compliance and ensure that your trademark does not share similarities with existing trademarks.  

Should an objection be raised, you may address the issue, apply for a different trademark or request a hearing. 

Upon acceptance, your trademark will be published in the Hong Kong Intellectual Property Journal. During this period, other parties may oppose the registration if they have a similar trademark.  

In the event of an opposition, it will be handled by a hearing officer. 

Successful registration

If there is no opposition, you will receive a certificate of registration for your trademark. Your registered trademark will be valid for ten years and can be renewed.  

Next steps

Whether it’s opening a bank account or hiring a team of employees for your new business, our goal at Hawksford is to help you get up and running as quickly as possible.  

You can rely on the local knowledge and expertise of our dedicated team to deliver a comprehensive suite of corporate services that will help you strengthen your presence in Hong Kong. Contact our team and find out how we can streamline managing your business. 

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