Start a Hong Kong Company Remotely: Digitally Yours

At the start of 2021, nobody doubts that our world is going digital. Most business operations in all industries have already become electronic. Hong Kong has caught the wave and offers foreigners various online services and opportunities to do business and register companies remotely. Let’s discuss what advanced cyber solutions will help you start a Hong Kong company this year and how to use them. 

E-solutions for remote company incorporation in Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Companies Ordinance (new CO) requires that every legal person doing business in Hong Kong should apply for company registration within 1 month from the date of launching the business activities. 

Firm in Hong Kong

This regulation refers to the following legal entities:

  • private companies limited by shares;
  • private companies limited by guarantees;
  • representative offices/branches/daughters of foreign private entities;
  • partnerships.

Once you have compiled the necessary documents for opening a company, you can forward them together with the application to the address of the Companies Registry to start the process of registration of your legal entity. 

Anyone can submit documents electronically through the e-Registry portal, or by using the CR eFiling mobile application (you can download it for free from the App Store or Google Play). 

The advantage of remote registration is that it takes only 1 hour to process such a digital application. 

For your information: papers in hard copies are processed by the Hong Kong Registry within 4 days.

The offline/online registration package includes: 

  • Incorporation Form – Form NNC1 (for a company limited by shares) or Form NNC1G (for a company not limited by shares);
  • A copy of the company’s articles of association (samples are available for use at e-Registry); and;
  • A Notice to Business Registration Office (IRBR1).

The above-mentioned forms are available on the official website of the Hong Kong Companies Registry. The Articles of Association should be prepared in advance. We recommend doing this under the guidance of a competent expert (for example, one of our team members). 

On-line verification of the new company name availability in Hong Kong

When starting a legal entity, please note that its name needs to be approved by the Hong Kong Companies Registrar. 

The main requirement of the Registrar is that the name of the new company must not be the same as the name of some existing legal entity. To prevent the Registrar from rejecting the application, the company name must be verified for plagiarism in advance through the Company Search Mobile Service (SMS) of the Integrated Companies Registry Information System in Hong Kong (ICRIS). 

The names of registered companies in English and Chinese can be checked in the electronic database. Users upload the company data or the document image to the service and get information about similar or identical names (if any). 

If the name is already occupied by a firm in Hong Kong, the founders will have to research other ideas for business names, and finally,  being sure that all requirements are met, start the registration procedure. Otherwise, the Registrar will refuse to register the legal entity, and further efforts of preparing the portfolio of documents will be in vain.  

Do you have doubts about the right name suggested for your company? You are welcome to send us your questions and request our professional advice. You can contact us at the e-address given at the top of this page.  We work remotely and are committed to assisting clients promptly and proficiently. 

Remote filing of documents for setting up a company

The portal of the Companies Registry has an arrangement for electronic filing of documents, which allows any client to upload to the database more than 80 primary and additional forms containing the information required for registration of a legal entity. 

The Hong Kong Electronic Registry service operates 24/7. Before you start working in the system, you need to register as an individual or corporate user. 

The individual user status is intended for individuals and company representatives – directors, secretaries, authorized representatives, managers with the right to sign electronic documents. 

The corporate user status in the electronic system is for local and foreign firms registered as legal entities in Hong Kong.

Electronic Registry services

To simplify the electronic filing of documents and the company registration process, the user can:

1. Use the third-party program interface service (TPSI) – with its help registered visitors of the portal can send completed and signed electronic versions of necessary documents. 

The ICRIS Unified Registry System accepts files in formats that meet TPSI requirements. There are two ways to submit documents:

  • purchase the software (e.g. Versitech e-Form Processor or other compatible software product) to work with electronic templates that can be downloaded from the electronic registry database; 
  • upload XML files and convert them to VXF by using the TPSI e-Registry function.

The XML data file will be converted into an electronic form file once it has been successfully uploaded to the Hong Kong Companies Registry. The uploaded electronic form XML files will be processed by the system on a first-come, first-served basis.

The time of conversion will depend on the loading of the eRegistry and the conversion schedule at the time of uploading

Normally, the report on the conversion and the converted electronic document file will be sent (within 1 day after the upload) to the TPSI user message box and the e-mail address specified during the registration and authentication process in the system. 

You can submit up to 10 XML data files per upload. The size of an electronic document should not exceed 10 MB.

2. Contact the e-Monitor service designed to keep track of the status of registrations in the Registry (if you need it at the stage of creating a legal entity). 

Users of the Hong Kong e-Registry can use this service for free when they check the status of their own company. For a fee of HKD 17, the e-Monitor service also allows you to monitor the third-party company registration data. There is no limit to the number of legal entities that you wish to follow by the subscription to the e-Monitor service. 

The e-Monitor service will notify the user electronically if there are any changes in the system. 

Opening a corporate bank account in Hong Kong

It is impossible to run a company without opening a bank account. For non-residents starting a company in Hong Kong, the task of setting up a bank account is a challenge, as in most cases they have to be interviewed in person before they can get the account details from the bank. 

How can one deal with this task? A foreigner can apply in-person to a branch of some international bank that has an office in Hong Kong (if the said branch is accessible for this applicant geographically). 

Please note: only some banks allow remote account registration, and each branch has its specific regulations and requirements, so you need to clarify the information in advance.

The pandemic has made adjustments to the procedure of opening bank accounts in Hong Kong. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hong Kong authorities introduced entry restrictions and quarantine requirements for inbound foreign nationals. Individuals wishing to visit Hong Kong to sign documents and receive their bank account details have to postpone the visit till they are vaccinated, or till the opening of borders. 

However, foreign shareholders and beneficiaries can rely on the system of remote account opening, which allows them to perform all operations electronically, including the final verification and signing of documents. The required in-person interview can be arranged at a bank branch in mainland China. 

The People’s Republic of China has not yet lifted all entry restrictions, but the situation is improving, and the list of countries whose nationals are allowed to visit is growing. One way or another, foreign shareholders and beneficiaries can monitor the travel regulations and look for opening opportunities. 

The HSBC bank in Hong Kong has incorporated digital technologies to develop the system of remote account opening as an extension of its system of mobile retail accounts. It is committed to meeting the needs of foreign customers. However, its services are available so far only to those foreign nationals who can remotely apply from Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and personally visit the offices of HSBC in these cities of China. 

All other non-resident clients can apply to the HSBC bank online on its official website. In case of approval, they need to visit the bank office in Hong Kong within 3 months from the date of confirmation of the account opening (subject to the opening of the borders). 

The application process at HSBC Bank is fully digitized and paperless. The system uses artificial intelligence technology – face recognition and verification with the customer’s ID. After uploading the files of necessary documents, the client receives an SMS with a one-time confirmation code to complete the transaction. 

The DBS Bank (Hong Kong) uses conference calls and courier delivery services to make the account opening application process as convenient as possible. 

Do I have to pay for submitting my documents via the e-Registry services?

The file conversion into the required format is free of charge. Only the registration fees (when required) for documents uploaded into the TPSI service need to be paid. They are deducted from the deposit account. Other payment methods (VISA / Mastercard / JCB / UnionPay, PPS Shop & Buy) are not accepted.

Is it safe to transfer files for company registration online?

The Hong Kong Registry of Companies has a 2-level security system to protect the integrity of files. First: the user registers on the site and is verified before submitting documents to the system. Second: all files are encrypted before they are sent.

How are electronic documents signed?

When using the e-Registry portal, the user can select the Versitech e-forms processor Java API function. The Versitech e-forms processor API function supports two signature methods – “password” and “digital signature”. You can use either of them. Alternatively, the user can also use the Versitech e-Form Filler to instantly sign an electronic document.

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