In this guide, we will be discussing in which scenarios your company will need to apply for a specific business license in Hong Kong. More details will be shown in the following sections. But before we start, we will go through the basic document that will allow a business to be registered and conduct operations in Hong Kong.
Business Registration Certificate (BRC)
Being one of the most important corporate documents, the Business Registration Certificate (BRC) will allow a business in Hong Kong to conduct most activities such as providing services, trading, consulting, and even a combination of them. This document is issued by the Inland Revenue Department (IRD).
The document contains the basic information of a Hong Kong-registered business entity, such as the entity's full name, the nature of the business, the registered address, and the certificate number. This certificate is granted for a defined period and needs to be renewed annually. Additionally, the business certificate number is normally used as the tax identification number for your business entity abroad.
💡Tip: Learn more about Business Registration Certificates in our in-depth guide.
Now that we know that with one document it is possible to carry out a wide variety of business activities in Hong Kong, we should move on to the more specific cases that require additional licenses apart from the Business Registration Certificate.
The Hong Kong Financial Service License
If someone wants to provide financial services as a business in Hong Kong, a financial services license would be required. In this section, we will mention the list of activities that the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) regulates and requires a license from businesses:
- Dealing in securities and futures contracts.
- Advising on securities and futures contracts.
- Advising on corporate finance.
- Providing automated trading services.
- Asset management.
- Leveraged foreign exchange trading.
- Securities margin financing.
- Providing credit rating services.
Additionally, any person who will be engaging in providing any of the previously mentioned services on behalf of a company will need to also apply for a representative license. This only applies to the corporation business entities in Hong Kong.
On the other hand, there is a list of activities that are exempt to be conducted without a financial service license. Here we enlist said activities:
- Engaging with professional investors (only if you don’t act on behalf of someone else).
- Group company advice (only if you are the owner or own shares of that company).
- Essential to another regulated activity (only if you hold a license for another regulated activity).
- Professional advice perspective (only if the advice is related to your core industry).
- Margin financing activities (only if the institution or the individual already holds a securities dealing license).
- Leveraged foreign exchange trading (only for authorized institutions that are directly regulated by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority).
For more information about this topic, we have created a dedicated article with more details.
Hong Kong Employment Agency License
Since this kind of business activity involves employment relationships in Hong Kong, it is essential to mention the Employment Ordinance, which is the legislation that regulates these kinds of relationships. So, in this sense, any individual or company that wishes to provide a job placement opportunity needs to have a valid Employment Agency license. The Labour Department of Hong Kong is the authority in charge of regulating the employment agencies in Hong Kong.
However, there is an exception to the rule. Non-profit organizations can be exempt from requiring a license under certain circumstances and apply for a Certificate of Exemption (CoE). For this specific case, the Labour Department will need to evaluate the situation to see if the certificate can be issued.
For more details about the application process for this particular kind of license, we have prepared a dedicated article that can be read here.
Hong Kong Travel Agency License
As there have been recent changes in the regulations for travel agencies in Hong Kong, we will start by going through the changes. Firstly, the previous Travel Agents Ordinance has been substituted by the new Travel Industry Ordinance. Additionally, there is a new authority that will regulate travel agencies and the issuance of their licenses and business permits, the Travel Industry Authority (TIA) of Hong Kong. This ordinance became effective in September 2022.
The activities considered as providing services, under the new Travel Industry Ordinance, as a travel agent or a travel agency are the following:
- Getting another person's carriage, on a journey that started in Hong Kong in any kind of transport or vehicle and will take place outside of Hong Kong most of the time.
- Arranging, for another person, accommodation outside of Hong Kong.
- Getting a visitor to Hong Kong carriage, accommodation, or any touristic services in Hong Kong, as well as transportation.
In contrast, for the Mainland inbound tour group activities, the new ordinance makes a distinction and classifies the following activities as such:
- Providing tour services to local places, arranging meals, shopping trips, and local transportation services in Hong Kong.
A travel agent license needs to be applied for and obtained by any individual or business that wants to engage in the above-mentioned activities. If you wish to know more details about this topic and recently experience changes, we have prepared a dedicated article here.
Hong Kong Trademark Registration
In this last section, we will swiftly go through the trademark registration concept. In Hong Kong, the Intellectual Property Department (IPD) is the authority that regulates compliance with the Trade Marks Ordinance Chapter 559. According to the definition provided by the authority, trademarks are considered to be, either separately or combined, the following elements:
- Words (including personal names)
- Figurative Elements
- The shape of goods and/or packaging
It is important to mention that a registered trademark in Hong Kong will not be valid in Mainland China, since the systems are separated and regulated by different authorities and legislations. A trademark certificate can last up to 10 years, and it can be periodically renewed. If you are interested to know more about the topic of Trademark registrations in Hong Kong, here you can consult our dedicated article.
In this comprehensive guide, we have analyzed many scenarios and situations that would require a license to operate a specific business in Hong Kong, as well as its exceptions. As a bonus section we have also talked about the trademarks and although there is no license for it, if registered in Hong Kong, a certificate will be granted for the trademark to protect your business. Compliance and protection of your company must be always considered when running a business.
In Hong Kong, there are solid, transparent, and simple ways of achieving peace of mind, so that foreign investors and entrepreneurs can focus on making their businesses grow.
Consult our Company Secretary Review Directory and find a variety of service providers in Hong Kong that can assist you to obtain the right license for your business.