Whenever you have to conduct any sort of business or any business related activities you are by law required to have a license. No matter where in the world you are conducting your business, you will need that license to operate smoothly and without any sort of hassle from the law enforcement. And quite frankly, it is actually safer and smarter to have that license in case you ever run into any sort of legal dispute with anyone.
In Hong Kong, if you want to run a business then you will need to get that license from a specific agency or a department of the Hong Kong government. However, only a few types of businesses in Hong Kong require you to get that license. Before you can apply for the business license, you have to register your company with the Companies Registry. Once the registration is done, you can apply for the license or permit which usually takes about 2 to 8 weeks depending on the type of business it is.
Type of business and their licenses
While there are quite a few types of businesses that require a business license in Hong Kong, listed below are some of the most common ones. The type of business, what the license allows and from where to get it from are all mentioned below.
- Travel Agency- With tourism rising in Hong Kong travel agencies is fast becoming a popular type of business to start investing into. If you want to start a travel agency that offers travel or tour packages then you need to apply for a “Travel Agent’s License”. You need to apply to the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau for this sort of permit. The license will allow you to do the following activities;
- Selling or arranging transportation tickets.
- Arranging a group tour.
- Arranging accommodations such as hotels or resorts for your clients.
- Organizing other travel related things such as booking tickets for attractions and sightseeing spots.
- Restaurant-Food business is one thing that will never go out of fashion. As long as human beings need food to survive, your business will always have customers. Thus opening a restaurant is often seen as a safe bet and lots of new investors are taking up the opportunity to open restaurants and cafes in Hong Kong. In order to get a restaurant license one has to obtain the “General Restaurant License” which can be obtained by applying with the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department. One thing you have to keep in mind before you apply for the general restaurant license is that you will need a permanent place of operation. This is because the officials from the food and environmental hygiene department will be coming to inspect your retail place of operation to see if your restaurant checks all their set criteria for a restaurant. There are other permits that you may require once you get the General Restaurant License which include;
- Permission for Outside Seating Accommodation: To use an open area to sit your guests for alfresco dining.
- Import License- So that you can import frozen meat as well as poultry.
- Bakery License- Allows you to bake and sell bakery products in your restaurant
- Food Factory License- Allows you to prepare, manufacture and further process the food for consumption outside your perm
- Restricted Food Permit- So that you can sell restricted foods such as cut fruit, sashimi, sushi, oyster and meat in their raw forms.
- Liquor- If you want to engage in the selling of liquor then you will need a “Liquor License” from the Liquor Licensing Board. A liquor license will be only granted to those who have already received the General Restaurant License or those who are likely to get it. So yes, only those who are running or plan to run a restaurant can obtain the liquor permit as well.
- Education Business- In Hong Kong, educational institutes are often seen as lucrative business opportunities. As a result, we can see a steady rise in the number of new schools, kindergartens, childcare centers, and nurseries. These are being opened by both locals and foreigners and the flow of investment is quite significant. This has to lead to the government imposing certain entry requirements which include obtaining a permit to start the business. A school that offers primary and secondary education, a tutorial center, language school, computer education, and other similar institutes will need a “Certificate of Registration of a School”. This can be obtained after you apply to the Education Bureau of Hong Kong.
- Trading Company-The need to get a license for a trading company is based on what type of goods you are importing or exporting. For instance, the trading goods can be either controlled goods or it can be non controlled goods. List of controlled goods includes tobacco, cigarettes, drugs, animals, food products as well as petrochemicals. If your company is dealing with such goods then your permit will depend on the type of good you are importing or exporting. And based on that type of good, you will be required to go to their individual governing agencies.
To sum it up, getting a business license is very easy and straightforward in Hong Kong. There are a set of licensing rules and criteria that need to be followed to the letter and once you comply with them and show the required documents, your application for a permit will not be rejected. While applying for a license can be done on your own, you could use the help of professional experts to save you both time and effort.