About Registration of a Society

  1. What organization may register under the Societies Ordinance?
  2. How to apply for registration of societies or exemption from registration?
  3. What is the difference between registration of a society and exemption from registration?
  4. How to register as a “non-profit-making organization” under the Societies Ordinance?
  5. How many person(s) does it apply to registration of societies or exemption from registration?
  6. How long does it take to process an application for registration of a society / exemption from registration?
  7. Is the society concerned notified once processing of its application for registration or exemption from registration is completed?
  8. Are the registered societies / exempted societies required to file tax return?
  9. How to update particulars of a registered society / exempted society?
  10. Is the society concerned notified once its application for change of particulars of a registered society or exempted society is completed?
  11. How to apply for replacement of a lost Certificate of Registration of a Society or Certificate of Exemption from Registration of a Society?
  12. How to get the list of office-bearers of a registered society / exempted society?
  13. How can I verify the registration of a society in Hong Kong?
  14. What is reference number of a society? Where can it be found?

1. What organization may register under the Societies Ordinance?

According to the Societies Ordinance (Cap. 151), Laws of Hong Kong, any organization established in Hong Kong may register as a society under the Societies Ordinance, except those that have been registered under other Ordinances. An organization, depending on its object, nature and operation, may decide to register under any appropriate ordinance. For queries on a specific association, advice may be sought from a legal advisor.


2. How to apply for registration of societies or exemption from registration?

Any association which intends to apply for registration as a society or exemption from registration under the Societies Ordinance shall submit to the Police Licensing Office within one month of its establishment an application form together with supporting documents including:

  1. Copies of HKID Cards or other valid identity documents;
  2. Document to prove the place of business of the Society;
  3. Consent letter from the lawful occupier of the premises (if applicable);
  4. Constitution, articles of association or minutes of a meeting, to establish the society and show the objects and purposes of the society;
  5. Relevant qualification of the office bearers (e.g. certificates, if any); and
  6. Consent letter for the name of the society (if applicable).

For details, please refer to the “Guidance Notes” of the application form.

If insufficient information is provided for the application for societies registration or exemption from registration, this office will return the original application forms to the applicants and request re-submission of supplementary information/document together with the original application forms.

Application forms can be downloaded from here or obtained by fax by calling 2860 2973 (24-hour telephone hotline).


3. What is the difference between registration of a society and exemption from registration?

A society can apply for exemption from registration if it is established solely for religious, charitable, social or recreational purposes or as a rural committee or a federation or other associations of rural committees. However, the application process and legal obligation of a registered society and an exempted society are the same.


4. How to register as a “non-profit-making organization” under the Societies Ordinance?

The Societies Officer may register societies of different nature and objects or exempt them from registration under the Ordinance. However, the Ordinance provides no definition for "non-profit-making organization". Nor does it state any difference between “non-profit-making organization” and other organizations in respect of registration.


5. How many person(s) does it apply to registration of societies or exemption from registration?

The application for registration of societies must signed by three office-bearers. The particulars of office-bearers must be completed in full, signed and to be returned to the Societies Office of Police Licensing Office with copies of their HKID cards or other valid identity documents if they are not holders of HKID cards. Office-bearers are required to provide their individual correspondence addresses which are different from the society address and telephone numbers for record and contact purposes. Addresses can be either residential or business addresses in Hong Kong.


6. How long does it take to process an application for registration of a society / exemption from registration?

The performance pledge is normally 12 working days provided that sufficient information is submitted for the application.


7. Is the society concerned notified once processing of its application for registration or exemption from registration is completed?

When the Societies Office has finished processing an application for registration or exemption from registration, the society concerned will receive an acknowledgement together with a “Certification of Registration of a Society” or “Certificate of Exemption from Registration of a Society”. Please refer to the sample acknowledgement and certificate as follows:

acknowledgement of registration/exemption    certificate


8. Are the registered societies / exempted societies required to file tax return?

The Societies Ordinance does not restrict the operation of a registered society / exempted society. For queries about tax affairs, please contact the Hong Kong Inland Revenue Department directly on 187 8088 or visiting their website at
(http://www.ird.gov.hk/)


8. How to update particulars of a registered society / exempted society?

An application form for change of particulars of registered or exempted societies shall be completed and sent to the Police Licensing Office within one month from such change. Relevant supporting documents are required for certain changes:

  1. Change of officer-bearer(s):
    -Copy of identity document(s) of incoming office-bearer(s); and
    -Outgoing office-bearers shall sign on the application form for verification, or provide the handover documents.

  2. Change of principle place of business:
    -Address Proof of the new principle place of business;
    -Original Certificate of Registration of a Society or Certificate of Exemption from Registration of a Society; and
    -A written consent from the property owner.

  3. Change of Society name or Dissolution of a Society
    -Original Certificate of Registration of a Society or Certificate of Exemption from Registration of a Society

  4. Change of object
    -You are required to submit document purporting to show the objects and purposes of a society.

Application forms can be obtained by fax by calling 2860 2973 or press here to download.


10. Is the society concerned notified once its application for change of particulars of a registered society or exempted society is completed?

When the Societies Office has finished processing an application for registration or exemption from registration, the society concerned will receive a written notification.

If there is a change of society name or address, the society concerned will receive an acknowledgement of amendment together with an updated “Certification of Registration of a Society” or “Certificate of Exemption from Registration of a Society”. Please refer to the sample acknowledgement of amendment and certificate as follows:

acknowledgement of amendment (1)    certificate

If there is NO change of society name and address, the society concerned will receive an acknowledgement of amendment only. Please refer to the sample acknowledgement of amendment as follows:

acknowledgement of amendment (2)


11. How to apply for replacement of a lost Certificate of Registration of a Society or Certificate of Exemption from Registration of a Society?

For replacement of a lost Certificate of Registration of a Society or Certificate of Exemption from Registration of a Society, the Chairman of the society shall write to the Police Licensing Office and submit a loss report issued by any police station by mail.


12. How to get the list of office-bearers of a registered society / exempted society?

The list of the office-bearers could be released with the prescribed consent of the data subject(s), or accordance with the provisions under Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (Cap 486), Laws of Hong Kong. Please write to the Police Licensing Office by mail and provide the written consent of the relevant officer bearers. For obtaining photocopy of personal data or the constitution, a photocopy charge set by the Treasury will be levied. HK$1.2 will be charged for each copy of A4 photocopying, while HK$161.2 will be charged for each copy of A4 certified true copy (including photocopying charge).


13. How can I verify the registration of a society in Hong Kong?

The list of registered societies or exempted societies is both available online (click here) and kept in the Police Licensing Office at 12/F., Arsenal House, Police Headquarters, No. 1 Arsenal Street, Wanchai, Hong Kong for inspection by members of the public during office hours free of charge. Our office hours are 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. (Monday to Friday except Public Holidays).


14. What is reference number of a society? Where can it be found?

A registered/exempted society will be given a reference number starting with “REF.CP/ LIC/SO/19/” or “REF.CP/SR/19/” which can be found at the top or bottom left hand corner of the Certificate of Registration or the Certificate of Exemption from Registration of A Society.

It is also listed in the leftmost column of the “List of all societies and branches registered or exempted from registration” published on the Hong Kong Police Force website.