Register your company in Hong Kong with our Special Anniversary discount!

Get Started!

8 Different Types of Hong Kong Business Licenses

Hong Kong Business License


Register your company with Air Corporate

Pay less, get more

Enjoy a 10% OFF

100% online and hassle-free

8 Different Types of Hong Kong Business Licenses
  1. Education Business License
  2. Employment Agency License
  3. Event Management Company License
  4. Financial Services Company License
  5. Restaurant License
  6. Retail Shop License
  7. Trading Company License
  8. Travel Agency License

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 real estate, restaurants, construction, and retail.

Before you start discussing the details of getting business licenses in Hong Kong, it's important to pick the right business structure.

The one you choose will affect things like who owns the business, who's responsible if something goes wrong, and how much tax you'll pay.

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 to open a retail store covering a broad spectrum of retail activities.

Different Types of License by Business Activities

Unlike the US, which has a federal system where businesses may need a federal license and a state-level license from a federal agency, Hong Kong (HKSAR) operates under a unitary system.

In Hong Kong, the central government (HKSAR government) issues all necessary business licenses.

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

1. Education Business License

To operate an education business in Hong Kong, you will need a ‘Certificate of Registration of a School'.

The certificate of registration is issued by the Education Bureau (EDB) of Hong Kong.

While the exact business license cost might vary, it's generally around HK$1,000.

Business License Application Process

  1. Contact the Education Bureau (EDB) to initiate the application process.
  2. Gather the necessary documents as per EDB requirements.
  3. Submit the completed application and fees to the EDB.

After being issued a certificate, you will be able to set up the following institutions that provide certification or a diploma:

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

However, the EDB may grant a "Certificate of Provisional Registration of a School" in cases where the facilities do not entirely meet regulatory standards.

This temporary certificate remains valid for one year, during which the school has the opportunity to fulfill all requirements for complete registration.

2. Employment Agency License

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

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 organized.

Event management companies are generally described as those that 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 organize 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 - TELA) for events with games, contests, or entertainment aspects.
  • A Food Factory License issued by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.
  • A Liquor Licence 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.

You can try the Business Licence Information Service online to get the necessary licenses for your business operations.

4. Financial Services Company License

You will need a financial services company license depending upon the nature of the financial or money 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 (SFC) if your company provides investment advice. This type of service includes fund investment, foreign exchange tradingcommodity 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 manufacturing 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, oysters, 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.
  • To operate a Chinese Herbal Medicine retail shop, you must have a retailer license issued by the Department of Health.
  • 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

The cost of business license fees in Hong Kong isn't a fixed amount.

One reason for this is fees vary based on the type of business activity and the specific licenses required.

Some businesses may not even need a specific license to operate.

In addition, various government fees are associated with the application process and ongoing business registration.

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.


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


Your Hong Kong company and business account. Online and Simple.