MSO license Hong Kong

Launching payment business from scratch.

Hong Kong stands as one of the world’s major financial hubs, ranking high in ease of doing business. Several factors contribute to this status: a stable economy, transparent political and legal systems, relatively low tax rates, highly skilled professionals from around the globe, and a developed financial infrastructure with major banks and stock exchanges. Its advantageous strategic location makes the Hong Kong SAR an excellent place for investments and entrepreneurship.

If you plan to offer financial services and operate as a money service operator in Hong Kong, obtaining an MSO HK license is essential.

What is MSO License Hong Kong

For businesses conducting money exchange operations or money remittances within and outside the Hong Kong SAR, obtaining an MSO [Money Service Operation] license is required. The Department of Customs and Excise Department [CED] in Hong Kong issues the license for two years. Companies can apply for license renewal 45 days before the expiration of the MSO license HK.

Distinguishing MSO Hong Kong from SVF License Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, one can also acquire an SVF [Stored Value Facilities] license, considered analogous to the European EMI. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) is responsible for issuing this license. Similar to MSO, SVF regulates payment systems but also allows the issuance of electronic money. Its validity period ranges from 5 to 10 years.

Advantages of Hong Kong MSO License 

The key aspect is operating within the legal framework. This license permits providing services such as:

  • currency exchange [considered a primary business direction];
  • – sending, or arranging for the sending of, money to a place outside Hong Kong;
  • – receiving, or arranging for the receipt of, money from a place outside Hong Kong;
  • – arranging for the receipt of money in a place outside Hong Kong. 

Despite the favorable attitude towards foreign businessmen, Hong Kong strictly penalizes violations of legislative requirements, including operating without the necessary licenses. Engaging in activities without an MSO can lead to fines of $100,000 or a six-month imprisonment.

If you consider Hong Kong as the jurisdiction for your business, contact the SBSB team. We provide clients with comprehensive end-to-end legal support — from consultation and document preparation to a successful project launch.

How to Obtain Money Service Operator License Hong Kong

The license-obtaining process is meticulous, as potential licensees must meet specific criteria:

  • Register a company within Hong Kong. Limited or unlimited liability enterprises are permitted for registration. Applicants must submit certificates of enterprise registration.
  • Applicants must rent a physical office in Hong Kong to conduct meetings with local clients.
  • Hire local directors and an AML officer.
  • Draft a business plan confirming that the company’s operations will benefit the local market.
  • Prepare AML/CFT policies in English or Chinese.
  • Appoint a compliance manager to ensure compliance with anti-money laundering laws.

Among the mandatory requirements are supporting documents containing information about the organization’s charter, office, and details of owners, partners, or the company’s board of directors. Additionally, a special permission letter signed by all partners or management is required, confirming their approval for the license application.

Note that there are no requirements for the payment of registered capital.

Timeline and Stages of Obtaining Money Service Operator Hong Kong

The regulator may take over three months to review documents if no additional information is required, and all verification stages are successfully completed. While predicting the exact date of MSO issuance is challenging, it typically does not exceed six months.

To obtain an MSO license in Hong Kong, the following stages are necessary:

  • company registration;
  • document preparation;
  • opening a bank account;
  • payment of registration fees;
  • submission of documents to the regulator;
  • interview with the applicant;
  • representatives of CED visiting the office premises;
  • possible request for additional documents and information;
  • issuance of the license. 

If you aim to acquire a money service operator license in Hong Kong, SBSB specialists will assist you at every stage, including company registration, document preparation for the application, and opening a bank account. Upon receiving authorization for official operations, we are ready to provide clients with regular legal support.

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