8 Different Types of Hong Kong Business License

February 04, 2021 By Vivian Au

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To have smooth business operations in Hong Kong, it’s necessary to obtain the relevant business licenses. The city offers a diverse range of licenses to cater to various industries, such as restaurants, construction, and retail.

If you’re planning to sell food and drinks, a Food Business License is required, while selling alcoholic beverages will require a Liquor License. A General Business License is needed for opening a retail store, covering a broad spectrum of retail activities.

Let’s take a look at the 8 different types of licenses you can look out for in Hong Kong.

1. Education Business License

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:

  • Kindergartens
  • Vocational centres
  • Academic institutions
  • Language schools
  • Enrichment centres

2. Employment Agency License

You will need a ‘License to Operate an Employment Agency’ to provide placement and recruitment services to other employers or organisations.

The Hong Kong Labour Department issues the license under the Employment Ordinance.

It is valid for one year once it is issued and must be renewed before it expires.

A license 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 License

The type of license 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 License’ issued by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department is required to organise events that 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 License’ 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 licenses depending on the nature of the event:

  • Amusement with Prizes License, Lottery License, Certificate for Advertising Materials and Certificate of Approval issued by the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority.
  • A Food Factory License issued by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.
  • A Liquor License is 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 License

You will need a financial services company license depending upon the nature of the financial services you offer. 

The following types of licenses may be required:

  • An Authorised Insurance Brokers License and an Authorised Insurance Business License issued by The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance to operate as an insurance broker and insurance business in Hong Kong.
  • A Money Lenders License is issued by the Companies Registry if your company offers money lending services in Hong Kong.
  • A Pawnbrokers License issued by the Hong Kong Police Force is required to operate as a pawnbroker.
  • A Representative License, Authorized Institution License, and Corporate License are 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 License

A ‘General Restaurant License’ 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 license.

As a food and beverage business, you may need the following additional licenses depending on the nature of your restaurant and the type of products you provide:

  • A Bakery License is required to bake bakery products for sale at the restaurant.
  • A Food Factory License is required to manufacture, prepare, and process, store and pack food for consumption from the restaurant.
  • An Import License is required to import frozen meat and poultry.
  • A Karaoke Establishment Permit is required to host karaoke in the restaurant.
  • A License 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 License

You will need a license if you own and operate a retail shop in Hong Kong.

Depending on the nature of your retail business, more than one license may be required.

This is usually the case if you sell different goods and services.

The following licenses are required for a retail business in Hong Kong:

  • An Animal Boarding Establishment License issued by the Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department is required to operate a pet retail shop.
  • A Retailer License 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 License

You will need a trading company license 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 license.

Depending on the type of products you import and export, you may require the following licenses:

  • An Import/Export License for dutiable goods and controlled chemicals issued by the Customs and Excise Department (alcoholic liquors, tobacco products, oils, etc.)
  • An Import/Export License for animals and birds issued by the Import and Export Division, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.
  • An Import/Export License for foodstuffs issued by the Centre of Food Safety, Food, and Environmental Hygiene Department
  • An Import/Export License for textiles issued by the Trade and Industry Department
  • An Import/Export License for pharmaceutical products, medicines, and dangerous drugs issued by the Pharmaceuticals Import/Export Control Unit, Pharmaceutical Service, Department of Health.
  • An Import/Export License for pesticides issued by the Plant and Pesticides Regulatory Division, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

8. Travel Agency License

You will need a ‘Travel Agent’s License’ issued by the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau to operate as a travel agency that provides travel services and packages.

A Travel Agent’s License enables you to provide tour offers, travel packages, and transportation services.

Moreover, the license allows you to sell tickets for tours and transportation, arrange hotel accommodations and provide other related services.

Final Words

Here is what you should always have in mind:

  • Before you apply for a business license, 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 license you need.

Looking to navigate all the HK licenses when registering your business?

Register your company with Air Corporate today and we’ll help you get the business licenses you need to get to work.

Focus on your business. We take care of the rest.

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Vivian Au

For many years, I worked at big accounting and company secretary firms in Hong Kong. I started Air Corporate to make the life of entrepreneurs and SMEs easy.

Vivian Au

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