How to establish a business in Hong Kong?

As there are a lot of reasons for setting up a business in Hong Kong, when targeting the mainland Chinese market, you want to register your company now in this Special Administrative Region.


The most common forms of foreign investment are as a private limited company or a branch of a foreign company.


Before you start the process of company registration, make sure you have an office address in Hong Kong and a company secretary (This position that has to be taken by a Hong Kong permanent resident or Hong Kong company). However, companies registered in Hong Kong do not necessarily need to rent their own office! It is enough to have an address, where government letters can be posted to. Swisstank can provide you with a registered address as well as a Corporate Secretarial Service.


Then, check whether your proposed name has already been registered with the Companies Registry. It can be in Roman script or Chinese characters. As this database is free and in English, you should keep this website in mind to do background searches on other Hong Kong companies you do business with.


If your name is not taken yet, the duly signed incorporation documents can be submitted to the Registrar of Companies. Normally the Memorandum and Articles of Association must be registered with the Companies Registry as well as a duly completed incorporation form including your company name, address, brief description of business activities, particulars of shareholders, directors and company secretary, liability of members, share capital registered on incorporation, number of shares taken up by subscribers as well as copies of passports and overseas residential address proof. In case, your documents are not in English or Chinese, you’ll have to deliver a certified translation in English or Chinese in addition to a certified copy of the certificate in the original language. Thanks to the One-stop Company and Business Registration Service, jointly provided by the Companies Registry and Inland Revenue Department, any application whether local company or registration of a non-Hong Kong company will be deemed to have made a simultaneous application for business registration. The Company Registry filing fee is a one time fee of 1,720 HKD (220 USD), the Business Registration Certificate is a yearly fee of 2,250 HKD (290 USD) or 5,950 HKD (760 USD) for a 3-year certificate. Usually the Certificate of Incorporation for private limited companies and the Business Registration Certificate is issued within 24 hours of online application or 4 working days of paper submission. For the registration of a foreign company as a non-Hong Kong company, the procedure takes about 14 days.


Even though the formation of a Hong Kong company is relatively fast, cheap and easy (when you are familiar with the legalization process), creating a bank account in Hong Kong is not. To open a bank account, the chairman has to be personally present at the bank and can not designate a lawyer or employee to act on his/her behalf. Some people suggest to open a bank account at HSBC in another country and request to open a Hong Kong bank account there. But this is NOT possible, the director has to go personally to the bank.


However, some banks offer a video account opening service now, that allows the shareholder or director to open a Hong Kong bank account in a mainland China branch. The fee is approximately 3,000 Chinese RMB (450 US dollars) which is about the cost of a flight and hotel.


Hong Kong’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing guidelines mean that banks may request identity and residence information for all beneficial owners of the company before they will open an account. This stringent customer due diligence process results in a more complex and time-consuming account opening process than five or ten years ago. As banks also have to comply with the standards set by their head offices or overseas authorities, it might be worth approaching several banks to compare and select the service that suit your needs best. Also the minimum deposit amount varies between different banks.


When this whole process is too complex and time-consuming for you, we are happy to offer our services. We not only provide you with an address, secretary services and extensive knowledge about the Hong Kong company registration process and business insights, but also with getting the licenses you need, to be able to do actual business in Hong Kong.

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