Opening a personal bank account in Hong Kong is pretty straightforward, much more so than in the United States, United Kingdom, or Europe. Opening a business bank account, however, requires much more effort. But Hong Kong banking rules are always changing—often becoming stricter—so always consult with your bank or your intended bank before attempting to open a bank account. Note that the process could take several weeks, so do so well in advance before your arrival to Hong Kong.
Personal Bank Accounts for Residents and Visitors
It is not necessary to be a resident in Hong Kong to open a bank account—it’s usually possible for foreigners, too, given how many expats live in the city. If it's your first account in Hong Kong, you'll need to apply in person, but once you've already opened one personal account, you can open more with the same bank online.
Keep in mind that if your home bank has a location in Hong Kong, you can open the account with your home bank before arriving in the city—do so at least 30 days before you leave. When you arrive, you'll need to visit the branch in person to verify your identity. The process may take anywhere from two to four weeks.
To open a personal bank account in Hong Kong all that's typically required is government ID, proof of address, and a valid visa. Accepted forms of ID are a passport or Hong Kong Identity Card, which all visitors who plan to stay over 180 days must acquire (it's free and takes less than two weeks to receive after applying in person). For those with a permanent address in Hong Kong, you need to provide proof of address, such as a utility bill or official government communication. Non-residents need to also provide one of these documents from their home country address.
The bank will then post a letter to that address, which you must furnish at the bank to open the account.
Additional requirements may include a letter of employment if you're working in Hong Kong or a letter stating your enrollment at a local school if you're a student.
There will likely be a minimum balance requirement for your personal account—this varies by bank.
Popular Banks for Expats
HSBC, Hang Seng, and Standard Chartered are all popular with expats in Hong Kong. Be aware that not all bank employees are fully up to speed on their own bank regulations and may not know exactly what documents you’re required to provide. It’s best to head to the larger branches in the Central neighborhood where you will find English speaking staff and managers more used to the specific needs of expats.
There are also branches of most major, international banks in the city, although not all offer private banking services. Those that do include Bank of America, Citibank, and Deutsche Bank, among others. Check with your home bank to see if it has a branch in Hong Kong.
Business Accounts for Residents and Visitors
While Hong Kong once was a haven for business banking, with hardly any limitations on account transactions, there has been a crackdown in recent years to prevent money laundering, terrorist funding, and other illegal operations. There are now the Know Your Customer (KYC) rules, which requires banks to intensely screen customers about their businesses before they can open business bank accounts—a process that may take up to a month. You may be refused for any number of reasons, including being a citizen of certain countries (including Office of Foreign Assets Control [OFEC]–sanctioned countries like Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela, among many others) or running businesses in certain industries (including cryptocurrency, charities, gambling, and shipping, among many others).