Taxation, Money and Legal Matters
Paying US Income Tax
If your Hong Kong employer is a US-based company, they may withhold US Social Security and income taxes from your regular salary.
Confirm this when you begin your work here. If your employer is a Hong Kong company, they typically do not withhold any taxes from your salary, either for US or Hong Kong taxes.
If your employer does not withhold US income taxes, you’ll need to pay quarterly estimated income taxes to the US Treasury and Social Security taxes to the Social Security Administration.
There are several certified public accountants in Hong Kong who specialize in the preparation of US tax returns and can help you with this. The US Consulate has a list of such individuals.
Currently, Hong Kong does not have a double taxation avoidance treaty with the US. The US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) ensures that details of US taxpayers who have foreign financial assets and overseas accounts are reported by foreign financial institutions to US tax authorities. The Bank Secrecy Act, similarly, requires US taxpayers with foreign financial assets to report them to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Currently, Hong Kong does not have a double taxation avoidance treaty with the US.
Whether or not your employer is a local company, you will need to pay Hong Kong income taxes. In April or May each year, your employer will provide you with a statement of your yearly income and you will need to file relevant tax forms with Hong Kong’s Inland Revenue Department. Taxes on personal income are paid yearly, generally in two installments — approximately 75 percent due early in the year and the remainder due in mid-spring. The filing process normally takes less than an hour to complete, and taxpayers are encouraged to do so online.
Opening Bank Accounts and Credit Cards
Different banks have different requirements for setting up a bank account.
Once you decide on a bank of your choice, there is a list of documents you will be required to produce. This typically includes: original copies of your identification documents and proof of address (this can be found on a utility bill or tenancy agreement).
Some banks in Hong Kong have branch offices overseas. If you already have a US account with them, opening an account in Hong Kong will be much easier.
Once you have set up an account with a local bank, applying for a credit card issued by the same bank is fairly straightforward. Proof of income is usually required for the application of a credit card. That proof can be supplied by notices of salary payment or a letter from your employer confirming your employment and your salary.
The birth of a child in Hong Kong must be registered within 42 days at a local district birth registry.
(After 42 days, parents must pay a nominal registration fee; if registration occurs more than one year after birth, the parents have to make a special application and pay a much higher fee.) Birth registration within 42 days following birth is free of charge. A birth certificate will be issued following the registration.
To register a birth, one of the parents must appear in person at the birth registry and present the HK ID cards as well as passports of both parents and (if available) a marriage certificate. The process takes about 30-40 minutes.
More information about registering births can be found on the Hong Kong government’s website.
Registering Births with the US Consulate General
If one or both parents are US citizens, they may wish to obtain a Consular Report of Birth Abroad to prove US citizenship of the child. The fee is US$100 for the Report of Birth and US$115 for the child’s passport.
For issuance of a US passport or a Report of Birth and registration for a Social Security number, parents must make an appointment and appear at the US Consulate with their newborn child in person and present their US passports and their child’s birth registration.
A full list of requirements for the Consular Report of Birth Abroad is available on the US Consulate’s website.
Marriage and Divorce
A couple wishing to marry in Hong Kong must complete a “Notice of Marriage” on a prescribed form and submit it to one of the five marriage registries in Hong Kong at least 15 days before the ceremony.
In special circumstances, the marriage registrar may shorten the 15-day notice period. The notice and all proceedings will become void if a marriage does not take place within three months after the notice.
The ceremony may be performed by a registrar at a marriage registry or in a licensed place of worship by a minister. You may also appoint a civil celebrant of marriage to perform the ceremony at any place in Hong Kong. Two witnesses are required.
A person under the age of 21 must secure written consent of his or her parent or legal guardian before submitting the Notice of Marriage.
A divorced person must submit proof of the dissolution of his or her former marriage; a widow or widower must submit proof of the death of their spouse.
There are no residency requirements for marriage in Hong Kong and no restrictions relating to the couple’s nationalities.
More information about marriage in Hong Kong is available on the Immigration Department’s website.
Hong Kong doesn’t yet allow same-sex marriage or civil unions. In recent court rulings, however, spousal dependents’ visas were granted to couples married overseas and such couples can jointly file tax returns.
The only grounds for divorce in Hong Kong are that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and that the marriage has lasted over one year. They must be established by proving, for example, the commission of adultery or that the couple has lived apart for more than two years. Once granted, a divorce decree becomes effective six weeks later.
A separation can be obtained more easily than divorce. An annulment usually requires a more time-consuming and difficult procedure.
A Hong Kong court can order property settlement, a lump-sum payment or maintenance payments for either party or for the children. A court can also order adjustments in payments in the event of new circumstances, including the custody and education of each minor child.
Estate Planning and Death
For US citizens, moving to Hong Kong generally doesn’t require major changes in estate planning.
Hong Kong recognizes and enforces valid wills from other jurisdictions. Taxes on an estate’s assets located in Hong Kong can usually be credited against any US estate tax payable on those assets.
For anyone who passes away without a will, Hong Kong law provides first for the decedent’s spouse and children. If there is no spouse or children, it then provides for the decedent’s parents; and then for grandparents and more distant relatives.
If you have maintained close connections with your home country, your estate will principally be settled there. If you have noteworthy assets in Hong Kong, however (e.g., property), it is advisable to prepare a local will and appoint a local executor.
If you have noteworthy assets in Hong Kong (e.g., property), it is advisable to prepare a local will and appoint a local executor.
In the unfortunate event of death of a friend or family member who is a citizen of another country, there are several important points to remember.
The body of the deceased must not be handled without the involvement of a physician, paramedic or the police. Call the emergency services (dial 999) in any case for medical examination and pronouncement of death.
If burial or cremation is to take place in Hong Kong, consult with a funeral parlor and your spiritual adviser. If the body is to be shipped overseas, consult with a funeral parlor for proper arrangement. To deal with the deceased person’s financial affairs, contact a Hong Kong solicitor or foreign lawyer.
Surrender the deceased person’s Hong Kong Identity Card to one of the registration offices of the Immigration Department, and the foreign passport to the consulate of the country of issue.
Registering Deaths with the US Consulate General
If an American citizen dies in Hong Kong, it should be reported to the police and the US Consulate General, which will report it to the US Department of State. They will also provide advice on funeral arrangements. In the absence of an immediate relative or legal representative, they will arrange shipment of the remains to the US and can take possession and dispose of personal estates located in Hong Kong.
The US Consulate General has more information, including a list of funeral homes that have provided English-language services for American citizens in the past, on its website.
Residents of Hong Kong between the ages of 21 and 65 who meet the specified criteria are liable to serve as jurors.
Exceptions include consular officials and their spouses, doctors and civil servants.
Persons summoned for jury duty may be excused or given a postponement on written application to the Registrar of the Supreme Court. Special hardship to your employer or family vacation plans can be accepted as reasons for excuse.
Any Hong Kong permanent resident over the age of 18 is eligible to vote in elections for the Legislative Council and District Boards.
If you want to vote in these elections, you will need to register. Voting in Hong Kong elections will not put your US citizenship or voting rights at risk.
US citizens over the age of 18 living in Hong Kong are also eligible to vote in federal elections and may also be eligible to vote in some state and local elections depending on the laws of specific US states. In accordance with the MOVE Act of 2009, overseas voters need to register every single calendar year in which they wish to vote.
- Information about voter registration in Hong Kong is available on the government’s website.
- Vote from Abroad offers comprehensive information for US citizens living abroad.
- The US Consulate in Hong Kong has a voting assistance officer who can help answer questions about voting from abroad. Americans can also drop off completed signed and sealed ballots in addressed envelopes bearing adequate US postage at the US Consulate in Hong Kong. (Make sure to check the website or contact the consulate for the deadline for dropoff.)