Frequently Asked Questions

Company Formation, Visa, Compliance and Governance


Visa FAQs and 10 Tips on Visas in Hong Kong

What Visa schemes are available and what are the difference between Employment visa and Investment visa and others?

There are eight admission schemes for talents, professionals and entrepreneurs seeking to work and live in Hong Kong, namely  Employment Visa for professionals, Visa for business investors and entrepreneursMainland China talents and professionals, Quality Migrants, Technology Talent, Non-local Graduates, Second Generation Permanent Residents, and Dependants. Additionally there are visas to study, for training, i.e. student interns, and working holiday visas.

Can I bring my family?

Yes, persons admitted under the General Employment Policy, i.e, holding a visa for employment or as entrepreneurs can bring their spouses and unmarried children under the age of 18 as dependants. Spouses refers to married partners under Hong Kong or overseas law and celebrated civil partnerships or unions that are recognized by law in the place where they have been entered into. 

Is there a visa for job seekers?

An application for an employment visa requires a confirmed offer of employment. Thus, is not suitable for jobseekers. The Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS), however, is solely based on individual merits and does not require an employment. 

What are the criteria and requirements for a visa application?

The basic eligibility criteria are that the applicant is of good standing, ie. there is no security objection and no known record of serious crime, has a good academic background, normally a first degree in the relevant field, proven professional abilities and relevant experience, there is a genuine job vacancy that cannot be readily taken up by the local work force and the applicant has a confirmed offer of employment at a remuneration package broadly commensurate with the prevailing market level for such professionals in Hong Kong.

Which visa is the best?

The best visa is the one that is most suitable to the circumstances. 

How long is the visa processing time?

For an employment visa, the estimated time frame is eight weeks to compile the application and for the immigration department to assess. Additional time may be required where supporting documents are not readily available or in cases where the immigration department seeks further clarification.

How much money is required to sponsor a visa application by my company?

There is not one figure that is right or wrong. The company sponsoring an application or an entrepreneur establishing a business should be able to show sufficient funds to sustain and remain operational. As a rule of thumb, there should be enough funds to cover the increase in expenses from the foreign hire or to establish a business for a period of six to twelve months.

Can I work in China with a Hong Kong Visa?

No. Hong Kong and Mainland China a separate under the one country – two systems policy. Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region and administers its own immigration policy. Applications to work and reside in China must be filed with the applicable Chinese authorities.

When can I get Permanent Residency?

The prerequisite of applying for the right of abode or permanent residency in Hong Kong requires a continuous stay of at least seven years. 

What happens if I lose my job or resign and do I have to leave Hong Kong?

When an employment relationship is terminated, irrespective of the reason or terminating party, the employing company should inform the immigration department of the cessation of sponsorship. It is the general policy of the immigration department not to cancel or revoke visas. Thus, the visa holder may remain in Hong Kong for the remaining duration of the visa. Subject to additional conditions of stay, employment visa holders will need to seek the immigration department’s approval should they wish to work for another company. 

Hong Kong Company Formation FAQs

What companies can be incorporated in Hong Kong?

The most common form of business entities that are incorporated in Hong Kong is a company limited by shares, or simply, a Limited Company. Limited companies are further distinguished into private and public companies, depending on their size. Public companies are subject to stricter compliance regulations than private companies. The majority of registered companies in Hong Kong are considered private companies limited by shares. 

A limited company means that the liability of the shareholders do not extend to them personally, unlike a sole proprietorship or a general partnership, and is wholly contained within the company. The incorporation of a limited company establishes a separate legal personality for that company with the same rights and obligations of a natural person.

Other than a limited company by shares, you can incorporate a limited company by guarantee. Limited companies by guarantee are always public companies. They do not have a share capital and instead the members undertake or guarantee that, subject to the guaranteed amount specified, they will bear the liabilities and cost of winding down the company. Limited companies by guarantee are typically used for not-for-profit causes. 

Which entity is the best?

In most cases, a limited company will be the most appropriate.

How long does it take to incorporate a company?

The incorporation of a company typically takes 5-7 working days. The signed incorporation form is required to be submitted to the Companies Registry. Thus, you should add a few days for the courier to deliver the documents.

Alternatively, submissions can be made in electronic form and are usually processed within the same day, however, the e-incorporation service is available to registered users only.

What are the requirements for a company incorporation and are local officers or representatives required?

To register a company, the shareholder(s), whether they are individuals or other corporations, must appoint at least one director, who is a natural person.

The director(s) may be the same person(s) as the shareholder(s).

Private companies may even appoint corporate directors, provided that there is at least one natural person director.

Following the principle of separation of ownership and management, the shareholder(s) may appoint unrelated director(s).

Other office bearers appointed to the company are the Company Secretary and Designated Representative, who are required to be ordinarily residing in Hong Kong.

It is highly recommended to appoint a professional service provider to this office, such as Encore, to ensure statutory compliance and good governance.

The company name must not be the same or of confusible similarity as a name appearing in the index of company names kept by the Registrar of Companies.

Do I need a service provider to incorporate a company for me?

No, but it is generally recommended. The Companies Registry accepts submissions from founder members and directors directly and the incorporation forms and model articles are available from the Registry’s website. However, if you are not resident in Hong Kong or are the sole director, you will need a Hong Kong resident company secretary and designated representative to be appointed as officers. In addition, if you are not familiar with the corporate governance requirements and records, a professional service provider can assist you.

Is it required to have an office?

It is not required to rent an office. The company must provide a Hong Kong address as its registered address which cannot be a PO box. 

Is it is acceptable to use a residential address as business registration address?

The Companies Registry will accept a residential address to be submitted as the registered address of a company. Having said that, apart from the use of a residential address at a reputational disadvantage, there may be building or lease conditions that restrict the use of premises. Compass Offices offers virtual offices services at a variety of well reputed commercial building where your new company can feel at home.

Can I do business in China with a Hong Kong company?

Hong Kong and China are two separate jurisdictions under the One Country – Two Systems principle. A Hong Kong company can enter into business with Chinese companies. In order to do business domestically in the Mainland, a Wholly Foreign Owned Entity (WFOE) in Mainland China can be established.

What are the statutory governance and compliance requirements for a company in Hong Kong?

Every Hong Kong company is required to maintain and keep its statutory records, file all government returns in time and have its accounts audited annually. 

Can I open a bank account with my company?

Yes, a Hong Kong company can apply to have a bank account opened at any Hong Kong or overseas bank. 

FAQs Accounting, annual Audit and Tax Compliance

Are all Hong Kong companies required to have audited accounts?

All companies incorporated in Hong Kong are required to appoint an auditor for each financial year in accordance with the Companies Ordinance. Further, the audit report forms part of the reporting documents the directors of a company must produce for the Annual General Meeting. Only dormant companies are exempt from the audit requirement. Dormant in this case refers exclusively to companies whose status is registered as dormant with the Companies Registry. The exemption to submit audited accounts together with the profits tax return for small corporations does not extend to the requirement to prepare audited accounts under the Companies Ordinance.

When does a company need to submit the annual audited report?

A company does not need to file its audit report to the Companies Registry and there is no publication requirement for unlisted companies. The audit report however is required to be attached to the profits tax return and submitted to the Inland Revenue Department if the company’s revenue exceeds HKD2million or for any of the other specified reason does not qualify as small corporation. Aside from external submission, the directors are required to prepare the reporting documents, which includes the audit report, for presentation to the members of the company at its Annual General Meeting. 

How do auditors charge?

Audit fees depend often on the estimated time involved in completing the audit engagement. In addition the auditor will often also consider their professional risk and exposure issuing an opinion. Good preparation and well prepared accounts can help to reduce the audit fee. 

How long does it take to finish an annual audit?

The time frame to complete an audit depends on various factors, but are mainly influenced on the quality of your accounts and availability of supporting documents for audit sampling. The complexity of the company structure and the company and any related party dealings are relevant as well. You should allow for four to six weeks for the auditor to review and prepare a draft. 

How does the monthly bookkeeping outsourcing work?

You may simply provide us the copies of bank statements, invoices and expenses. We are your accountant and prepare the accounting records and the agreed management reports. You do not have to hire a separate accountant or frustrate yourself with a complicated accounting software. 

What is a business transaction?

A business transaction or accounting transaction is a transaction that is required to be entered in the company’s accounting records. This includes transactions of sums of money received and expended and records of the company’s assets and liabilities.

What is financial year end date?

The financial year end date is the last day of the financial reporting period. Except for the first year, each financial reporting period is 12 consecutive months. The first financial reporting period begins on the date of incorporation and ends not later than 18 months thereafter. Thus, you can choose the preferred financial year end date yourself. Commonly used is the last day of the calendar year, or in line with the fiscal year which is from 1st April to 31st March. 

What are the benefits of management accounts?

There are many benefits to having updated management accounts. Without specifying a priority, these include understanding the company’s performance and being able to steer the business effectively, making informed decisions, awareness of the company’s liabilities and obligations, good governance and compliance with statutory requirements. 

What is the Annual Return, Profits Tax Return and Employer’s Tax Return and when are the filing deadlines?

The Annual Return is the reporting of the company particulars of the director and shareholder details and others to the Companies Registry. The Annual Return is due within 42 days after the anniversary date of the incorporation date. The Employer’s Tax Return is the reporting by the company of the number of employees and their salaries and earnings in the fiscal year. The Employer’s Tax Return is due within one month of the issue date of the return form which is normally sent out within the first week of April each year. The Profit Tax Return is the corporate earnings and tax reporting. The first Profits Tax Return form is issued after 18 months of the incorporation date of the company and due within 3 months after the issue date. The Profits Tax Return after the first return is issued in the first week of April each year and due to be filed within 1 month of the issue date. Companies can avail of a block extension of the filing due date if the appointed tax representative has applied for it with the IRD. In this case, the Profits Tax Return due date depends on the financial year end date. If your accounts are made up to 31st December, the filing deadline is 15th August and for accounts made up to 31st March, the filing due date is 15th November.

What happens if I miss a deadline?

If the filing deadline is missed, the company may receive a penalty notice from the IRD or a court summons for a hearing. The IRD may also issue estimated assessments which will become final if no objection is filed in time. 

C O N T A C T   U S 

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