January 2018

Hong Kong Certificate of Incorporation - An Introduction

A Hong Kong certificate of incorporation is a document issued to limited liability companies upon registration by the Hong Kong Companies Registry.

Most Hong Kong businesses will possess this certificate and you should consider requesting a copy before doing business with them.

To learn more about the Hong Kong certificate of incorporation, and learn how you can check if it is authentic, read on.

What is a Hong Kong Certificate of Incorporation?

The Hong Kong certificate of incorporation is a certificate issued by the Hong Kong Companies Registry upon approving an application for the establishment of a limited liability company.

The certificate is a standard design that is written in both English and Traditional Chinese characters.

Note that it is easy to confuse this certificate with others sharing a common design - so make sure you check that the title "Certificate of Incorporation" is present. There are other certificates that look very similar and serve a similar purpose, including "Certificate of Continuing Registration", "Certificate of Change of Name" and "Certificate of Registration as a Trust Company".

This is what the Certificate of Incorporation looks like:

What Information is Contained in a Hong Kong Certificate of Incorporation?

From top to bottom the key items covered in this certificate are as follows:

  • Registration Number
  • Certificate Type
  • Official Company Name in Chinese, English or both
  • Date of Establishment

How Can I Check the Authenticity of a Hong Kong Certificate of Incorporation?

If you want to check that a Hong Kong certificate of incorporation is authentic it is possible to do so using the Hong Kong Companies Registry's online system, ICRIS.

ICRIS, which stands for "Integrated Companies Registry Information System", can be searched in English, but you may face difficulty identifying the company if they only have a Chinese name.

A more convenient alternative to using the ICRIS system is to order one of China Checkup's Chinese Certificate Verification or Hong Kong Company Verification reports. We can research the company in question and send our PDF report direct to your inbox.

Do all Hong Kong-registered Entities have a Hong Kong Certificate of Incorporation?

No, there are different types of company incorporation in Hong Kong and only limited liability companies are issued with this certificate.

Although the vast majority of entities in Hong Kong are limited liability companies registered with Companies Registry, there are still many sole proprietorships which can simply register with the Inland Revenue Department’s Business Registration Office.

These entities are provided with a Business Registration Certificate, which you can see displayed here. It is also a dual-language English / Traditional Chinese characters document.

Details of these types of business registrations can be checked using the GovHK website or by using our verification services.

Why did a Mainland China Company provide me a Hong Kong Certificate of Incorporation?

This is a very common situation we encounter which often leaves our clients confused over the status of a Chinese company.

Although Hong Kong is part of China, companies registered there operate under a different legal, taxation and economic system, which can be quite attractive to owners of Mainland Chinese companies.

There are many reasons why a company, seemingly based in Mainland China, might be registered in Hong Kong which we go into more detail in this article. If you are dealing with a company in Mainland China it is preferable to reduce your risk by dealing directly with this entity rather than via a Hong Kong holding company.

Are there also Certificates of Incorporation in Mainland China?

Yes, in Mainland China, certificates of incorporation are known as a China business license and are issued by the Administration for Industry and Commerce (AIC).

All companies operating in Mainland China are required to be registered by the AIC and should be able to provide you with a copy of their business license on request.

Click here to read our introduction to the China Business License.

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