Types Of Business Need Licenses And Permits In Hong Kong

  • Post category:Hong Kong

The applicant will need to meet the business license and permits in Hong Kong’s criteria in order to legally operate a business there.

If you are interested in knowing about forming a new business here, refer to Hong Kong company formation.

Which Types Of Business Need Licenses And Permits In Hong Kong

Depending on the nature of the company’s operation, Hong Kong will issue the appropriate licenses and permits. Also, these permits will be issued by a department or agency of the Hong Kong government. Yet, the good news for investors is that not all businesses in Hong Kong would need a license or permit to operate.

Before submitting the application for the required business licenses and permissions in Hong Kong, the applicant must first be registered with the Companies Registry. The approval process for these licenses and permissions typically takes two to eight weeks.


Some commercial activities in Hong Kong do call for a license from a certain department or agency of the Hong Kong government. Determining whether the firm needs to apply for licenses and permits is therefore a crucial step in ensuring the smooth operation of the business, in addition to making appropriate preparations for the business registration.

It is reassuring to know that not all businesses in Hong Kong abide by the regulations governing licenses and permits. Here are several industries where obtaining a business license is necessary:


Travel and tourism are developing quickly in accordance with Hong Kong’s rapid growth in many ways, providing a fantastic opportunity for many overseas investors. Also, you need a license to run your company in Hong Kong as a travel agency.

  • Type of License: The Travel Agent’s License
  • Department in charge of issuance: The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau

You will be able to offer tours, vacation packages, and transportation services if you have a travel agent’s license. To be more particular, you can sell tickets for transportation, plan a group excursion, book hotel rooms, and engage in other pertinent activities.


According to the Employment Ordinance, you cannot run an employment agency that normally provides services for recruitment or job placement to other companies in Hong Kong without a license.

  • Type of License: License to Operate an Employment Agency
  • Department in charge of issuance: The Labor Department of Hong Kong

The license must be renewed before it expires and has a one-year validity from the date it was issued. In addition, the applicant will not be required to submit a license application if they acquire a Certificate of Exemption from the Commissioner for Labor in accordance with section 52 of the Employment Ordinance.


In Hong Kong, a license and permit are also necessary for operations and educational businesses.

  • Type of License: The Certificate of Registration of a School
  • Department in charge of issuance: The Education Bureau of Hong Kong

You can open a kindergarten, academic school, vocational center, language school, computer education center, remote learning center, childcare centers, and many other connected education companies in Hong Kong by obtaining the certificate of school registration.


Applying for a Hong Kong restaurant license and permit is necessary if the applicant wants to run a restaurant there. Please take note that choosing a place for the restaurant operations is one of the prerequisites for obtaining this business license. The Hong Kong administration will often inspect these business locations before approving the license application.

  • Type of License: The General Restaurant License
  • Department in charge of issuance: The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department

The food and beverage industry will be strongly entwined with a restaurant operation. It is essential to become familiar with the other types of licenses that the food industry can need. Here are a few examples:

  • Liquor License: applicable for a food company that serves alcohol. The organization in charge of issuing is the Hong Kong Liquor Licensing Board.
  • Import License: An import license is required if the company imports frozen meat or poultry.
  • Food Factory License: A company that engages in the manufacturing, processing, and preparation of food must apply for a food factory license.
  • Restricted Food Permit: A firm that trades in restricted foods like oysters, sushi, sashimi, cut fruit, and raw meat is required to get a Restricted Food Permit.
  • Karaoke Establishment Permit: applies to business that wants to conduct karaoke in the restaurant
  • License for storage or manufacture of dangerous goods
  • Permission for Outside Seating Accommodation
  • Bakery License
  • Permit to Sell Food by using a Vending Machine


If the applicant wants to operate a business in the retail sector, they must apply for business licenses and permissions. However, the licenses or permits needed for a retail business can vary depending on the products/services being sold. In other words, if they sell various items and services, they might be required to obtain more than one license or permit.

The three most popular licenses for a retail business in Hong Kong are listed below:

Types of License Purpose
Retailer License in Chinese Herbal Medicines (Department of Health) To operate a store that sells Chinese herbs
Listing Certificate of Class II/III Medical Devices and Certificate of Registration of Premises of an Authorized Seller of Poisons (Department of Health) To operate cosmetics, medicinal, pharmaceutical & drugs stores
Animal Boarding Establishment License (Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department) To operate a Pets and Accessories retail shop


Hong Kong is well-known for being a leading global financial and business hub. Since the financial services industry has been expanding recently, more investors are likely to get interested in it. For individuals considering entering this industry, it’s important to know that they cannot operate a financial services firm in Hong Kong without a registered license and authorization.

It is also important to know that depending on the type of financial service they plan to offer the clients, different financial service companies may require different licenses.

The most common license kinds are listed below along with their intended uses for reference.

  • Money Lenders License (The Companies Registry): To carry on business as a money lender in Hong Kong
  • Representative License, Authorized Institution License, Corporate License (The Securities and Futures Commission): to run a company that offers investment counseling services, such as fund investment, foreign exchange trading, commodity futures, security, overseas stock, and other associated operations.
  • Registration of Insurance Agents (The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance): To run an insurance agent
  • Authorized Insurance Brokers (The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance): To run an insurance broker
  • Authorized Insurance Business (The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance): To operate business as an insurer
  • Registration of Remittance Agents and Money Changers (Customs and Excise Department): To operate as a remittance and/ or money-changing service business
  • Pawnbrokers License (The Hong Kong Police Force): To carry on business as a pawnbroker
  • Registration of a Deposit-Taking Company (DTC) to Carry on the Business of Taking Deposits (The Hong Kong Monetary Authority): To run a banking business or the business that takes deposits in Hong Kong


Many investors are drawn to Hong Kong by its free trade policies. The growth of Hong Kong’s trading economy is inversely correlated with the number of trading firms there. If one wants to start a business in this sector, one needs to apply for a current license and permit with the relevant authorities before starting up.

There are specific permits for various types of imported and exported commodities that the business plans to run, similar to some of the aforementioned types. Here are a few common import/export license examples:

Examples of Types of Import /Export Licenses For Different Items Department in charge of issuance
Import /Export license for dutiable goods such as alcoholic liquors, tobacco products, hydrocarbon oils, methyl alcohol The Customs and Excise Department
Import /Export license for controlled chemicals
Import /Export license for animals or birds The Import and Export Division, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department
Import /Export license for foodstuffs The Center of Food Safety, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department
Import /Export license for textiles The Trade and Industry Department
Import /Export license for pharmaceutical products, medicines, and dangerous drugs The Pharmaceuticals Import /Export Control Unit, Pharmaceutical Service, Department of Health
Import /Export license for pesticides The Plant and Pesticides Regulatory Division, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department


The items and services a business will offer in the market will determine if they need to apply for a license, regardless of whether they are a trade firm or an internet business. This is why we think of industrial licenses.

If necessary, the business must obtain the required license after registering the eCommerce business in Hong Kong, just like with other sorts of businesses.

If, for example, the business plans to sell alcohol online, be sure to check the website of the government for any necessary business licenses.


In Hong Kong, the applicant will need to obtain particular licenses and permits for several specialty events.

Take a look at the samples below to determine which activities the event company engages in, and then submit an application for any necessary licenses or permissions.

Types of License Department in charge of issuance
Liquor License The Liquor Licensing Board
Certificate for Advertising Materials The Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority
Certificate of Approval
Lottery License
Amusements with Prizes License
Food Factory License The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department


It is simple to apply for business licenses and permits in Hong Kong. The applicant will probably need 2 to 8 weeks to receive approval from the necessary authorities.

To make sure the application is accepted, the applicant must first determine whether the company needs the license or permission the Hong Kong government is requesting. If that’s the case, make sure to have all the paperwork needed to finish the licensing process.

If you want to obtain business permits in Hong Kong, reach out to us at Relin Consultants – Leading Global Business Set Up Partners. Our team will help you prepare all the necessary documents and provide you all the guidance regarding the legal requirements in Hong Kong. 


Why do I need a business licence in hong kong?

You need a business licence to comply with Hong Kong’s laws and regulations, and to ensure that your business operates legally and safely. Failure to obtain a required licence can result in fines, penalties, or even closure of your business.

How do I obtain a business licence in hong kong?

The process of obtaining a business licence depends on the type of licence you need. You may need to submit an application, provide supporting documents, pay a fee, and undergo an inspection or audit. You can find more information on the requirements and procedures for each type of licence from the relevant government departments.

How long does it take to obtain a business licence in hong kong?

The time it takes to obtain a business licence varies depending on the type of licence and the complexity of the application. Some licences can be obtained in a few days, while others may take several months.

Do I need to renew my business licence in hong kong?

Most business licenses in Hong Kong need to be renewed annually or bi-annually. You should check the expiry date of your licence and ensure that you renew it on time to avoid any penalties or disruptions to your business operations.

Can I transfer my business licence in hong kong to someone else?

In most cases, you cannot transfer your business license to someone else. If you sell your business, the new owner will need to apply for a new licence in their name.

What happens if I operate a business without a licence?

Operating a business without a required licence is illegal and can result in fines, penalties, or even closure of your business. It is important to ensure that you have all the necessary licences and permits before starting or operating a business in Hong Kong.