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Import and Export Guide – What Hong Kong Businesses Need To Know

Author Osome Content TeamOsome Content Team

5 min read
Running My Business

Importing and exporting through Hong Kong can feel a little confusing, but with our guide you’ll earn everything you need to know, quickly and without the jargon. Save this one for later!

Import and Export Guide – What Hong Kong Businesses Need To Know

As a seller, the process of importing products into Hong Kong or exporting goods can be challenging. The to-do list is long: dealing with customs declarations, navigating restrictions and of course, all of the paperwork.

As a business or international seller, it is crucial to understand the steps to take when importing or exporting goods. This article will cover some of the frequently asked questions about importing or exporting goods in the Hong Kong.

FAQs About Importing Goods Into Hong Kong

Does Hong Kong impose any restrictions on imports?

As it’s a free port, Hong Kong places no restrictions on the right to import goods. Any company or individual can import or export goods, though they must obviously comply with Hong Kong’s regulations.

Do I have to pay any customs tariffs?

Given that it’s a free port, Hong Kong levies no customs tariffs, surcharges, taxes or tariff quotes on imported or exported goods. This is one of the main reasons why it’s such an attractive place for businesses to operate in. That said, it’s worth noting there is an excise duty on tobacco, hydrocarbon oil, alcoholic beverages, and methyl alcohol.

Which goods are subject to import taxes and duties in Hong Kong?

Most imports are tax-free. However, dutiable goods (the aforementioned tobacco, hydrocarbon oil, alcoholic beverages, and methyl alcohol) are subject to payable duties. The specific amount depends on the items—liquor that contains over 30% alcohol content is subject to a 100% rate, while those with less than 30% alcohol content have no duties levied.

Tip

For more information, check out the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department website.

Do I have to seek pre-approval before importing goods into Hong Kong?

When importing or exporting strategic commodities, such as dual-use IT or medical goods (i.e. can be used for both civil and military purposes), companies must first gain approval from the Trade and Industry Department (TID). Having gained approval, they will then receive a TID licence allowing them to import into Hong Kong.

Tip

For a full list of strategic commodities, head to the Strategic Commodities Control System website.

Which goods are subject to Import Control?

Goods such as food, pharmaceuticals, and vehicles are subject to import control. If the goods are considered “prohibited articles” or is a “reserved commodity” (i.e. rice), then shipping companies, airlines and transportation companies must provide appropriate manifests and import licences to the TID within 14 days of the import.

How do I find out if my items require a Hong Kong import licence?

Head to the Hong Kong Trade and Industry Department’s Strategic Trade Controls website and search to see whether your items require an import licence.

What is a Commodity Classification Automated Tracking (CCAT) Number, and do I need one?

Goods that contain encryption require CCAT certificates. Manufacturers must obtain these certificates by applying for a licence from Hong Kong Trade and Industry. If the goods successfully pass the technical and risk assessment process, the manufacturer will be granted a Hong Kong TID pre-classification number.

What Is the customs control process when importing goods into Hong Kong?

All goods, whether they’re imported via air, land, or sea, are subject to customs control. Customs officers may physically examine goods on a selective basis.

What forms do I need to complete when importing goods into Hong Kong?

Importers must complete customs clearance and declaration formalities with the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department. When completing these forms, they should provide accompanying documents to facilitate customs clearance, such as manifests, import licence or removal permit (if required), a copy of detention notice (if applicable) and other documents such as bills of lading, airway bills, invoices, packing lists, and so on.

Companies must then lodge accurate and complete import declarations to Hong Kong customs within 14 days of importing the goods.

Which items are prohibited?

The following categories of items are prohibited from being imported into Hong Kong:

  • Animals and Plants
  • Controlled Chemicals
  • Dangerous Drugs
  • Dutiable Commodities
  • Explosives
  • Firearms and Ammunition
  • Food
  • Infectious Goods
  • Motor Vehicles
  • Optical Disc Mastering and Replication Equipment
  • Ozone Depleting Substances
  • Chinese Herbal Medicines and Proprietary Chinese Medicines
  • Pesticides
  • Pharmaceutical Products and Medicines
  • Prescribed Articles
  • Radioactive Substances and Irradiating Apparatus
  • Radio Transmitting Equipment
  • Rice, Frozen or Chilled Meat and Poultry
  • Game, Meat, Poultry and Eggs
  • Sand
  • Smokeless Tobacco Products
  • Strategic Commodities
  • Rough Diamonds
  • Waste
  • Hazardous Chemicals
  • Weapons
  • Toothfish Items
  • Mercury
  • Alternative Smoking Products

Tip

Find out more information on prohibited items being imported into Hong Kong.

FAQs About Exporting Goods From Hong Kong

Does Hong Kong have a bulk licence for exporting strategic commodities?

Unfortunately, Hong Kong doesn't have a bulk licence for exporting strategic commodities. Licences for strategic commodities are granted on an individual consignment and pre-shipment basis. Carriers must obtain a valid export licence before accepting the goods for export. Note that approved export licences are only valid for three months.

How do I know whether a product is subject to licensing control?

There are two potential options. First, you can compare the product’s specification with the description of the equipment/technology and its uses as laid out in the Schedules to the Import and Export (Strategic Commodities) Regulations. Second, you can lodge an export licence application enclosing all necessary technical information and outlining the goods’ specifications. The TID will then advise you on whether you require an export licence.

Is Hong Kong treated separately from China under the Export Administration Regulations (EAR)?

Hong Kong is treated the same as any other city in mainland China under the EAR, meaning licence requirements for Hong Kong are the same as they are for anywhere else in China.

My buyer has told me the goods don’t require an export licence. Can I proceed with the export?

Before you go ahead and export the goods to Hong Kong, you must first obtain a copy of a written statement issued from the Hong Kong government to the Hong Kong importer stating that no import licence is required. For example, this might be a “No Licence Required” (NLR) notification.

You can also double check yourself by heading to the Hong Kong Trade and Industry Department’s Strategic Trade Controls website, or if you can’t find the item on the website, get in touch directly with the Hong Kong TID.

My buyer has sent an Approval-in-Principle Letter from the Hong Kong Government. Does this mean I can ship my items before I obtain a Hong Kong import licence?

If you are a frequent shipper, then yes, you can use the Approval-in-Principle Arrangement for Bulk Users of Strategic Commodities Licensing Service” (AIP) program to expedite licence processing instead of having to gain an import licence. The AIP letter, detailing the relevant products, suppliers, end-users, and so on, is valid for one year.

Tip

With this long importing and exporting to-do list, the last thing you need to worry about is your company’s financial admin. Luckily, we have a team of experienced tax advisers who can take care of just that.

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