Starting an Employment Agency in Hong Kong with a license

Want to learn more about starting an employment agency in Hong Kong? You came to the right place! To begin with, what is an employment agency anyways? An employment agency is basically the messenger or the middleman between the employer and potential employee. The Hong Kong Employment Ordinance defines it as “an establishment or person who aims at obtaining employment for another person or supplying personnel to an employer.” An employment agency can also be called the following:


  • Manpower agency
  • Placement agency
  • Recruitment agency
  • Staffing agency


The placement made by the employment agency can be both local and foreign candidates. The positions and roles for placement can be junior level or senior management. In Hong Kong, the majority of the employment agencies are subjected to an employment agency license application. This happens through the Hong Kong Labor Department. So, any company or person needs to obtain a license before they can start doing business involving job placement. 


There are some employment agencies that do not need a license. Instead, these employment agencies apply for something called ‘Certificate of Exemption of License’ from the Labor Department. This includes agencies operated by:


  • Hong Kong Government
  • Merchant Shipping (Seafarers) Ordinance
  • Employers who are hiring employees for themselves
  • Contractors or subcontractors who are employing manual labor on employer’s behalf
  • Proprietors of publications for non-profit purposes
  • Recognized educational institution who are hiring employees for students or graduates


When applying for the employment agency license, there are some prerequisites that need to be followed. 

    1. Company Registration – Set up a Hong Kong company and get a Certificate of Incorporation from the Hong Kong Companies Registry
    2. Nominated Operator – Nominate someone as the agency operator who is a director or officer of the company and a Hong Kong citizen, Hong Kong Permanent Resident, or an Employment Visa holder. The nominated person cannot be an undischarged bankrupt or convicted for the past 5 years
    3. Placement of Overseas Domestic Workers – Staff of an employment agency for overseas domestic workers’ placement must follow regulations of employment of domestic helpers abroad

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