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If you have a business in Hong Kong or are planning to start one, it is essential to know whether or not you need a business licence to carry out your activities.
Some businesses require a licence from either a Hong Kong government department or agency.
You must first have a registered business in Hong Kong to apply for a licence.
Once you are a registered business, you must identify whether your type of business requires a licence. Not all businesses require one.
1. Education Business Licence
You will need a ‘Certificate of Registration of a School’ to operate an education business in Hong Kong.
The certificate of registration is issued by the Education Bureau of Hong Kong.
After being issued a certificate, you will be able to set up the following institutions that provide certification or a diploma:
- Vocational centres
- Academic institutions
- Language schools
- Enrichment centres
2. Employment Agency Licence
You will need a ‘Licence to Operate an Employment Agency’ to provide placement and recruitment services to other employers or organisations.
The Hong Kong Labour Department issues the licence under the Employment Ordinance.
It is valid for one year once it is issued and must be renewed before it expires.
A licence is required by all employment agencies, which include the following:
- Executive search companies
- Headhunting companies
- Foreign domestic worker agencies
- Local and foreign staffing companies
3. Event Management Company Licence
The type of licence required by an event management company depends upon the nature of the event that is being organised.
Event management companies are generally described as those which host community events, outdoor events, sporting events, concerts, exhibitions, conferences and conventions.
A ‘Place of Public Entertainment Licence’ issued by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department is required to organise events which are open to the public.
This includes both free and paid ticketed events.
If the event is temporary, then a ‘Temporary Place of Public Entertainment Licence’ is required.
Public entertainment events include musical stage performance events, cinemas, lectures, exhibitions, amusement rides, contests or even a circus.
Additionally, you will need the following licences depending on the nature of the event:
- A Amusements with Prizes Licence, Lottery Licence, Certificate for Advertising Materials and Certificate of Approval issued by the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority.
- A Food Factory Licence issued by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.
- A Liquor Licence issued by the Liquor Licensing Board.
In fact, the restaurant license in Hong Kong is one of the most regulated, here is a full list of what that entails.
4. Financial Services Company Licence
You will need a financial services company licence depending upon the nature of the financial services you offer.
The following types of licences may be required:
- An Authorised Insurance Brokers Licence and an Authorised Insurance Business Licence issued by The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance to operate as an insurance broker and insurance business in Hong Kong.
- A Money Lenders Licence issued by the Companies Registry if your company offers money lending services in Hong Kong.
- A Pawnbrokers Licence issued by the Hong Kong Police Force is required to operate as a pawnbroker.
- A Representative Licence, Authorized Institution Licence and Corporate Licence issued by the Securities and Futures Commission if your company provides investment advice. This type of service includes fund investment, foreign exchange trading, commodity futures, security and overseas stock.
- The Registration of Insurance Agents issued by the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance is required to work as an insurance agent.
- The Registration of Deposit-Taking Company to Carry issued by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority is required to operate a banking business that takes deposits.
5. Restaurant Licence
A ‘General Restaurant Licence’ issued by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department is required to open a restaurant in Hong Kong.
You will also first need to establish a place of retail operation before applying for the licence.
As a food and beverage business, you may need the following additional licences depending on the nature of your restaurant and the type of products you provide:
- A Bakery Licence is required to bake bakery products for sale at the restaurant.
- A Food Factory Licence is required to manufacture, prepare, and process, store and pack food for consumption from the restaurant.
- An Import Licence is required to import frozen meat and poultry.
- A Karaoke Establishment Permit is required to host karaoke in the restaurant.
- A Licence for Storage or Manufacture of Dangerous Goods to store liquor that is not meant for immediate consumption at the restaurant.
- An Outside Seating Accommodation Permit is required to use an open area as a restaurant.
- A Restricted Food Permit is required to sell restricted foods such as sushi, oyster, sashimi and other raw meat.
- A Vending Machine Permit is required to sell drinks and food from a vending machine.
6. Retail Shop Licence
You will need a licence if you own and operate a retail shop in Hong Kong.
Depending on the nature of your retail business, more than one licence may be required.
This is usually the case if you sell different goods and services.
The following licences are required for a retail business in Hong Kong:
- An Animal Boarding Establishment Licence issued by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department is required to operate a pet retail shop.
- A Retailer Licence in Chinese Herbal Medicines issued by the Department of Health is required to operate as a Chinese herbs retail shop.
- A Listing Certificate of Class II/III Medical Devices and Certificate of Registration of Premises of an Authorized Seller of Poisons issued by the Department of Health is required to operate a medicinal, cosmetics and pharmaceutical drugs retail shop.
7. Trading Company Licence
You will need a trading company licence if your business involves importing and exporting products.
If your business trades controlled goods such as cigarettes and tobacco products, petrochemicals, drugs, animals and food products, you would need a trading licence.
Depending on the type of products you import and export, you may require the following licenses:
- An Import/Export Licence for dutiable goods and controlled chemicals issued by the Customs and Excise Department (alcoholic liquors, tobacco products, oils etc.)
- An Import/Export Licence for animals and birds issued by the Import and Export Division, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.
- An Import/Export Licence for foodstuffs issued by the Centre of Food Safety, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department
- An Import/Export Licence for textiles issued by the Trade and Industry Department
- An Import/Export Licence for pharmaceutical products, medicines, and dangerous drugs issued by the Pharmaceuticals Import/Export Control Unit, Pharmaceutical Service, Department of Health.
- An Import/Export Licence for pesticides issued by the Plant and Pesticides Regulatory Division, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.
8. Travel Agency Licence
You will need a ‘Travel Agent’s Licence’ issued by the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau to operate as a travel agency that provides travel services and packages.
A Travel Agent’s Licence enables you to provide tour offers, travel packages and transportation services.
Moreover, the licence allows you to sell tickets for tours and transportation, arrange hotel accommodation and provide other related services.
Here is what you should always have in mind:
- Before you apply for a business licence, you must register business your business with the Companies Registry.
- Understanding your business’ nature and its activities is extremely important to identify the type of licence you need.
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