Expanding to Hong Kong

Expanding to Hong Kong

Hong Kong, a bustling hub in Asia, presents an exciting opportunity for entrepreneurs. Its thriving economy, simplified regulations, and global connections make it an attractive business destination. However, before embarking on this venture, it's crucial to understand the steps involved in establishing your company. This guide will serve as your roadmap to successfully navigating the process.

How to set up a business in Hong Kong?

Launching in Hong Kong's dynamic market? Navigate the initial formalities with ease. This streamlined guide equips you with essential steps to establish your business, from legal frameworks to licences, ensuring a smooth and efficient entry into this vibrant commercial port. No need to grapple with complex regulations – chart your course to success with this handy companion. Unfurl your entrepreneurial sails and let's set sail for a thriving Hong Kong venture!

Things to consider for starting a Company in Hong Kong: 

Business Plan: Before venturing into the vibrant Hong Kong market, thorough preparation is key to success. Conduct in-depth market research to identify untapped niches, assess the competitive environment, and validate the true demand for your offering. Sharpen your financial projections, meticulously outlining startup costs, operational expenses, and potential revenue streams. Craft a winning marketing strategy – a precise roadmap tailored to Hong Kong's cultural nuances and digital landscape – ensuring your message resonates with your target audience. By building these solid foundations, you'll be well-equipped to navigate this dynamic metropolis and embark on a thriving entrepreneurial journey.

Identifying Sales Channel/Partners: Building a strong local network is akin to constructing a sturdy bridge within the vibrant Hong Kong ecosystem. Seek out reliable partners – sales agents or distributors who become the arteries of your supply chain, efficiently delivering your product or service. Don't forget the local Sherpas: chambers of commerce, business associations, and even government initiatives hold a treasure trove of resources specifically designed to propel startups like yours forward. Immerse yourself in this supportive network, tapping into their knowledge, connections, and guidance to navigate the sometimes-unfamiliar terrain of the Hong Kong marketplace. With these alliances by your side, you'll find yourself traversing the business landscape with confidence and ease.

Local Labor Market Insights:
As your business in Hong Kong blossoms, attracting and retaining top talent takes centre stage. To do this effectively, you need to unlock the secrets of the local labour market. Analyse salary benchmarks, decipher the intricacies of employment regulations, and embrace the nuances of employee benefits. Understand that competitive compensation packages go beyond just monetary figures; delve into the cultural expectations surrounding healthcare, leave policies, and professional development opportunities. Treat these insights as precious keys, unlocking the doors to loyal and motivated employees who drive your Hong Kong expansion to ever-greater heights.

Networking & Support: Navigating Hong Kong's expansion landscape alone isn't mandatory. Local business networks, chambers of commerce, and even government initiatives like HKSTP Incubation, TSF, GSP and several other programs for businesses & startups in various sectors offer a wealth of resources, connections, and guidance. These Sherpas of the business world can equip you with market knowledge, mentorship, and funding, making your entrepreneurial journey smoother and more supported. Embrace the local ecosystem, and watch your Hong Kong adventure flourish!

Cultural and Language Considerations: In Hong Kong, business isn't just about numbers. It's about manners! Learn a few Cantonese phrases, like "Lei Hou" for hello, and mind your etiquette. A quick bow is better than a handshake, and be patient – "yes" sometimes means "I'm listening." Respecting local customs shows you care, and that goes a long way in building trust and making deals happen. Think of it like cracking a secret code – the more you understand, the smoother your business journey will be!

Local Partner:  Hong Kong's exciting, but sometimes confusing! To avoid getting lost in the business maze, find a local buddy. They'll tell you what you need to know about markets, laws, and customs, saving you time and stress. Think of them as your decoder ring for Hong Kong success! With their help, you'll navigate smoothly and focus on making your business shine. So, find a local friend and watch your expansion flourish!

How to Set up a Company in Hong Kong?

Building your Hong Kong business starts with selecting the right foundation: your company structure. Here's a breakdown of the main options:

Business Structure: When choosing a business structure in Hong Kong, you have several options:

  • Sole Proprietorship: Simple and low-cost, ideal for freelancers or small ventures. You run the show, and all profits (and losses) belong to you. But, your personal assets are not shielded from business liabilities.
  • Partnership: Team up with one or more partners to share responsibilities and resources. Profits and losses are split according to your agreed-upon terms. Remember, partner disagreements can get messy, so choose wisely!
  • Private Limited Company: A separate legal entity from its owners, offering limited liability protection. This structure is popular for businesses aiming for growth and attracting investors.
  • Public Limited Company: Similar to a Private Limited Company, but with its shares publicly traded on a stock exchange. Suitable for large, established businesses seeking significant capital infusion.

Registration Process: Planting your business roots in Hong Kong? Get ready for a smooth journey with this simplified registration process:

  • Choose Your Company Name: Pick a unique and catchy name that aligns with your brand and complies with regulations.
  • Decide on Directors & Shareholders: Appoint at least one director, who can be local or foreign. Shareholders can also be individuals or companies.
  •  Prepare Incorporation Documents: Gather key documents like Articles of Association, Notice of Business Registration, and proof of identity for directors and shareholders.
  •  File Your Application: Choose your channel – online or in person at the Companies Registry. Registering online is faster and more convenient.
  •  Pay Registration Fees: Fees vary depending on share capital. Expect to pay around HKD 1,150 for basic incorporation.
  •  Receive Your Certificate of Incorporation: Once approved, you'll receive your official certificate, marking your entry into the vibrant Hong Kong business world!

Local Regulations:  Establishing a successful venture in Hong Kong demands not only entrepreneurial mettle but also meticulous navigation of the city's complex legal landscape. Consider this document a compass, guiding you through key regulatory currents vital for smooth operation.

  • Business Licensing: Identifying the necessary licences is your first port of call. Depending on your industry, specific permits act as your authorization charts, ensuring lawful passage and avoiding unplanned diversions. Research and acquire these essential documents diligently, guaranteeing a seamless journey through the business landscape.
  • Tax Optimization: Embracing a Competitive Advantage: Hong Kong's tax system offers a favourable breeze, boasting a simple structure and a competitive corporate rate of only 15%. Understanding your tax obligations and filing deadlines enables timely compliance, preventing fiscal headwinds and ensuring a smooth future.
  •  Nurturing a Loyal Crew: Navigating Employment Laws: Your employees are the windward sails propelling your venture forward. Minimum wage, working hours, and employee benefits form the currents they navigate in, and adhering to local labour regulations provides them with a fair and supportive environment. Remember, a well-cared-for crew translates to optimal performance and propels your business towards success.
  •  Safeguarding Your Assets: Intellectual Property Protection: Don't let your intellectual property become lost at sea! Hong Kong recognizes and protects valuable assets like trademarks, copyrights, and patents. Consider registering these precious treasures, treating them like secured cargo, to deter unauthorised appropriation and ensure your unique offerings remain your own.
  • Data Privacy Compliance: Operating within the data ocean demands safeguarding personal information. The Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance acts as your guiding star, illuminating the path towards responsible data handling. Treat customer data with utmost care and confidentiality, fostering trust and building lasting relationships.
  • Industry-Specific Journeys: While these points act as general legal compasses, be aware that specific regulations may apply to your industry, potentially requiring additional permits or reporting protocols. Consulting with local legal experts as your experienced navigators is highly recommended. They can expertly chart your course through the nuanced legal framework of your sector, ensuring you operate within established boundaries and avoid unforeseen obstacles.

Banking & Finance: Navigate the currents of Hong Kong's business world with a secure financial ballast. Choose your business bank account wisely, comparing fees, services, and online tools. Don't forget your company documents – These details are your roadmap to success! Once anchored, raise the sails with diverse financial services: trade finance for smooth export deals, loans for ambitious growth, forex services to navigate currency currents, and even investment banking to fuel future expansion. Remember, building a strong bank partnership is like having a seasoned first mate at your side. Chart your course meticulously, compare providers, and seek professional advice. 

How do I go about Manpower and Human Resources?

Managing manpower and human resources (HR) effectively is crucial for any business venture in Hong Kong. Here are some key things that you should consider:

Work Permits/Visas: Choosing the right work permit for your foreign employee is like plotting a course on a nautical map. Here are your main harbours of call:

  • General Employment Policy (GEP): This popular permit serves as the sturdy flagship of Hong Kong's work visa system. Think of it as the ideal choice for qualified professionals holding at least a bachelor's degree and possessing relevant experience in their field. It offers them the freedom to work for your company in Hong Kong for up to three years (with renewal options).

  • Employment Visa Based on Special Reasons: Not all talent fits neatly into the GEP category. Perhaps you need a specialised chef to add spice to your restaurant, a renowned artist to grace your galleries, or a tech wizard to propel your software development. This visa caters to such unique situations, welcoming individuals with exceptional skills in specific professions or those contributing significantly to Hong Kong's economy.

  • Investment Visa: If your foreign employee is also an investor bringing substantial capital to your Hong Kong business, the Investment Visa might be their perfect port of call. This opens doors to not only working in your company but also establishing themselves as valuable players in the city's dynamic investment landscape.
  • Top Talent Pass Scheme: The TTPS seeks to attract top talents with rich work experience and good academic qualifications from all over the world to explore opportunities in Hong Kong. They are not required to have secured an offer of employment in the Hong Kong Special Administration Region (HKSAR) upon application. They may be granted 24 months’ stay on time limitation only without other conditions of stay provided that normal immigration requirements are met.
  • Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP): Chinese residents of the Mainland of China who possess special skills, knowledge or experience of value to and not readily available in the HKSAR may apply to come to work under the ASMTP.
  • Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates (IANG): Applicants who are/were non-local students and have obtained an undergraduate or higher qualification in a full-time and locally-accredited programme in Hong Kong may apply to stay/return and work in the HKSAR under the IANG.

Payroll Administration: In Hong Kong's dynamic business landscape, ensuring efficient and compliant payroll administration is crucial. Employers play a central role, diligently processing accurate and timely salary payments, managing mandatory deductions for the Mandatory Provident Fund and payroll taxes, and maintaining comprehensive records of employee salaries, deductions, and leave entitlements. Navigating the legal currents demands adherence to regulations like minimum wage, working hour limitations, and mandated leave provisions. Remember, additional compliance requirements may exist depending on your industry or the employment status of your staff. To ensure a smooth journey, consider partnering with a reputable payroll service provider. Their expertise serves as your experienced crew, guiding you through the intricacies of the system and guaranteeing meticulous accuracy and compliance.

Tax and Social Security Management: Hong Kong's dynamic business environment shines bright, but navigating its tax and social security landscape can pose significant challenges don’t worry here's a quick guide to two key aspects:

  • Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF): It empowers employees and employers to build secure retirement savings. This mandatory scheme contributes a portion of monthly salary to personalised investment funds, chosen based on individual risk tolerance and retirement goals. MPF in Hong Kong ensures everyone charts a smooth course towards a financially comfortable future.
  • Employees and employers are both required to make mandatory contributions of 5% of the employee’s relevant income into the employee’s MPF account, subject to the minimum and maximum relevant income levels.
  • For monthly paid employees, the current minimum and maximum relevant income levels are $7,100 and $30,000 respectively.
  • Employee’s Compensation Insurance (ECI): Employers must take out employees' compensation insurance policies to protect both employers and employees under the Employee’s Compensation Ordinance. 
  • Tax: In general, a person’s income from employment, less allowable deductions and personal allowances, is chargeable to Hong Kong salaries tax at progressive rates ranging from 2% to 17%

Hong Kong Employment Law: Navigating through Hong Kong's vibrant business landscape requires understanding the legal currents of employment laws. Here's a quick dive into key provisions:

Contracts & Conditions:

  • Written agreements: Formalising terms in a written contract fosters clear communication and protects both employer and employee. This document should include details like job title, responsibilities, salary, work hours, leave entitlements, probation period, and termination notice provisions.

Minimum Wage & Working Hours:

  • Fair compensation: Hong Kong establishes a minimum wage based on job type and experience level. Ensure salaries meet or exceed this mandated amount to guarantee equitable pay for your employees.
  • Work-life balance: The standard workweek in Hong Kong is between 40 -48 hours. Unless it is stated on the employment contract, Hong Kong labour law doesn't require an employer to pay for the work they do overtime or provide time off in lieu for employees who worked overtime. Even then, employers may specify overtime hours and wage policies in most cases. Remember, promoting a healthy work-life balance for your employees can boost engagement and productivity.

Leave Entitlements:

  • Rest and recharge: Hong Kong grants various mandatory leave entitlements for employees, including annual leave for vacation, sick leave for illness, and maternity/paternity leave for new parents. Additionally, public holidays provide opportunities for relaxation and cultural celebrations
  • Annual Leave:
Years of Service Annual Leave Entitlements
1 7
2 7
3 8
4 9
5 10
6 11
7 12
8 13
9 or above 14
  • Sick Leave: Paid sickness days are accumulated at the rate of two paid sickness days for each completed month of employment during the first 12 months of employment, and four paid sickness days for each completed month of employment thereafter. Paid sickness days can be accumulated up to a maximum of 120 days.
  • Public Holiday: Here is a list of all the important public holidays in Hong Kong
    • New Year's Day
    • Lunar New Year's Day
    • The second day of Lunar New Year
    • The third day of Lunar New Year
    • Good Friday
    • The day following Good Friday
    • Easter Monday
    • Ching Ming Festival
    • Labour Day
    • Buddha's Birthday
    • Dragon Boat ( Tuen Ng) Festival
    • Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day
    • The day following the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival
    • National Day
    • Chung Yeung Festival
    • Chinese Winter Solstice Festival or Christmas Day (at the option of the Employer)
    • The first weekday after Christmas Day

Termination & Severance:

Respectful transitions: When ending employment, follow established procedures regarding notice periods, which vary depending on the length of service. In most cases, employees are also entitled to severance payments as compensation for the termination.

Fair treatment: Hong Kong laws protect employees from unfair dismissals based on discriminatory or unjustified reasons. Always treat your employees with respect and ensure their rights are upheld throughout the employment relationship.

Severance Pay and Long Service Payment:

  • Qualifying Period: 
    • Severance Pay: not less than 24 months under a continuous contract
    • Long Service Payment: not less than 5 years under a continuous contract
  • Calculation: 
    • Last full month wages * 2/3 * reckonable years of service, with cap 
    • For  monthly rated employees, two-thirds of the employee’s previous month’s wages (subject to a cap of HK$15,000) multiplied by the years of service. Service of an incomplete year will be calculated on a pro rata basis.

Other Employer Costs & Insurance: In today's competitive Hong Kong marketplace, attracting and retaining exceptional talent demands more than just competitive salaries. 

Employee benefits: Competitive benefits like health insurance (hospitalisation, outpatient, dental) boost morale and reduce turnover.

Employees' Compensation Ordinance (ECO): Mandatory work injury/illness protection covers medical expenses, lost income, and disability benefits.

Public liability insurance: Protects your company from third-party claims (personal injury or property damage).

Investing in a comprehensive benefits package attracts top talent, minimises employee churn, and ensures success in Hong Kong.

Should I set up my own entity or outsource to a local expert?

Entering the realm of Hong Kong business offers a crucial decision: to carve out your own route or align with a local expert. Choosing independence empowers you to craft distinctive advantages and address obstacles promptly. However, this path comes with challenges in managing HR and payroll intricacies independently. Conversely, placing your venture in the hands of a local HR and payroll expert ensures a more seamless navigation through complexities, allowing you to concentrate on steering towards your business objectives instead of wrestling with administrative tasks. The choice lies between embarking on a solo adventure and opting for a guided journey to conquer the HR and payroll landscape in Hong Kong.


Outsourcing HR & Payroll

Managing HR & Payroll In-House


Generally cheaper, especially for small teams. Payroll software and hardware expenses are avoided.

More expensive due to salary costs for in-house HR and payroll staff, plus potential software and hardware expenses.


Access to experienced HR and payroll professionals who specialise in local regulations and compliance.

Requires hiring and training qualified in-house staff with knowledge of local HR and payroll practices.

Time Commitment

Less time spent on HR and payroll tasks, freeing up internal resources for core business activities.

Significant time commitment to setting up and managing in-house HR and payroll functions.


Easier to scale HR and payroll services up or down as needed.

May be less flexible, especially with fixed-cost salaries for in-house staff.

Language and Cultural Understanding

Local experts better address language & cultural nuances

In house team may not have that level of expertise


Outsourcing provider handles compliance with local regulations, but ultimately, you remain responsible for ensuring compliance.

Full responsibility for ensuring compliance with local HR and payroll regulations.


Innovare: Your Partner in managing Payroll, Compliance & More

Hong Kong's vibrant business environment holds endless opportunities, but navigating its administrative complexities can hinder your growth trajectory. Payroll intricacies, compliance regulations, and HR demands can quickly distract your focus from achieving your strategic goals. Innovare emerges as your reliable navigator, expertly managing your payroll with meticulous accuracy, ensuring unwavering compliance across all legal landscapes, and handling HR tasks with efficiency and empathy. Imagine streamlined payroll processes devoid of errors, a confident navigation of regulatory intricacies, and an engaged, supported workforce. With Innovare as your indispensable partner, you can finally set your sights on the horizon, devoting your energy to what truly matters – unlocking your business' full potential. Don't simply navigate alone – choose Innovare as your trusted co-pilot and chart a course for sustainable success.

Contact us today to book a consultation and discuss your needs with our experts.