Leaving Hong Kong and Moving on

Information on what to do when moving from Hong Kong, including notifying schools and residency officials, closing bank accounts, ending contracts for utilities and insurance, exporting cars and moving pets...

Whatever the reason for leaving Hong Kong and moving elsewhere, there are a number of tasks to be completed before departure.

Below is useful information on what to do, and how and where to do it:

Anyone who registered with their Embassy on arrival should advise them that they are moving.

Local Authorities

Anyone planning to leave Hong Kong for a period of three months or longer must notify the Registration of Persons Office. Hong Kong Identity Card holders may be required to surrender their ID card at that time.

  • To find a local Registration of Persons Office: Click here

Housing Issues

Few foreign residents buy property in Hong Kong, so for the vast majority, home will have been a rented apartment, either furnished or unfurnished.

Rental contract

Most people will have either a contract between the landlord and a company representing the tenant or a contract between the tenant and landlord, making this a "personal" lease.

The rental contract should clearly state the terms of the lease, and any terms relating to notice and early termination of the agreement. Neither the landlord nor the tenant can terminate the tenancy agreement unless there is a valid break clause in the agreement. The standard lease is for two years, with a break clause built into the contract and agreed by both parties. Notice should always be given in writing.

Tenants may have been paying various additional costs including a form of property tax levied quarterly by the government (although the figure is calculated monthly). These payments can be cancelled on departure and it may be possible to get a small refund. However, the majority of people renting in Hong Kong will have an exclusive contract and the tax will have been included in their monthly rent.

Tenants usually have their own contents insurance which again should be cancelled on departure.

At the start of the rental period, the landlord will have requested a security deposit - generally two months' rent, but some landlords request three or more months' rent. The landlord should return this in full unless there are any repairs or replacements required.

Owned property

Anyone who has bought property will almost certainly have a mortgage which will need to be paid off by the sale proceeds. Some lenders have penalties for early redemption.

The whole selling process can take time - typically, two to three months. If leaving Hong Kong before the final sale has gone through, owners should check whether they need to be there for the final signature or whether it is possible to give power of attorney to a third person.

Utilities

As with any house move, there are utility bills to be settled and meters to be read. Don't forget that if meters are not outside, access to the property will be required. Leave a forwarding address with all the companies involved.

Most of the public utility providers in Hong Kong offer online services which make it easy to close accounts. All are privately owned except the water supplier.

Some utility companies will have asked for a deposit when the account was opened and customers should have been given a receipt for this amount. This deposit is refundable when the account is closed.

Water

The Hong Kong Water Supplies Department should be informed 14 days prior to the date that the account is to be closed. The final bill will be sent three days after the final meter reading, and any outstanding charges will be deducted from the deposit, if applicable.

  • Tel: 2824 5000
  • For further information on closing an account: Click here
  • It is also possible to initiate this process in person at a Customer Enquiry Centre. For addresses: Click here

Gas

Towngas supplies 85 percent of households in Hong Kong. Accounts can be closed online via a downloadable form. Alternatively, go in person to one of their customer service centres as listed on their website:

  • Tel: 2880 6988

Two working days' notice is required and a technician will make the final meter reading. If a deposit was paid when the account was opened, this is offset against any outstanding balance due on the final statement. The balance is then refunded by cheque, together with the final statement.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG): For areas not serviced by Towngas it is possible that residents have had LPG cylinders delivered. There are various suppliers. Contact the supplier to arrange termination of delivery and to have cylinders collected if appropriate.

Electricity

There are two main electricity suppliers, Hong Kong Electric Holdings (HEH), which services Hong Kong and Lamma Island, and China Light and Power (CLP), servicing Kowloon, the New Territories and the Outlying Islands.

HEH have an online facility for terminating an account. It is important to allow at least two working days for a request to be processed. Anyone who has a deposit receipt should post this to them and they will issue a cheque, usually within five working days, or go to a customer service centre and exchange the receipt for cash. The deposit can also be refunded directly to a bank account.

  • Tel: 2887 3411
  • For further information on closing an electricity account: Click here

CLP Power asks customers to give at least two working days' notice of termination of an account. A termination of electricity account form can be downloaded from the CLP website. This form can be sent online, by fax, by post or in person at one of the customer centres. The deposit, if applicable, may be refunded either in cash at a customer service centre, by cheque within five working days or through bank transfer to a bank account.

  • CLP Record Office
    At: 13/F, 6 On Lai Street, Shatin, New Territories, Hong Kong
    Tel: 2678 2678
    Fax: 2678 6749

Telephone and Internet

Contact the appropriate provider giving approximately one week's notice for disconnection of the line. For mobile telephones, check the notice period and contact the provider to cancel the contract.

Company Contact
Pacific Century Cyberworks Limited (PCCW Ltd)
At: 39/F PCCW Tower, Taikoo Place, 979 King's Road, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong
Tel: 1000 or 2877 8877
email
Website
Hutchison Global Communications (HGC)
At: 19/F Two Harbour Front, 22 Tak Fung Street, HungHom, Kowloon
Tel: 2128 2828 or 2128 3388
Website
Hong Kong Broadband Network
At
: G20, G/F, Greenwich House, 260 King's Road, Fortress Hill 
Tel: 128 100 or 2926 1234
Website
HKTV Tel: 2926 1234
Website
One Tel Tel: 2907 6000
Website
EC Telecom Tel: 2157 2157
Website

Health Care and Social Security

Subsidised medical services are available to all eligible residents holding a Hong Kong identity card. However, the majority of foreign workers legally in Hong Kong will have an employer-sponsored health insurance policy for themselves and their families. Cover will normally cease when the employment comes to an end.

Private healthcare is also popular among those who do not have employer-sponsored schemes. Any private health insurance cover which has been in force may need to be changed or cancelled. Ensure that health insurance remains valid until arrival in the new country of residence, or continues as appropriate.

Anyone who has received medical care in Hong Kong (either in a private or state run facility) should ask for their records to be forwarded to their new practitioner. The Department of Health website has downloadable forms which allow details to be changed and requests to be made for transfer of medical records held by state run clinics and facilities. They can be submitted by post or fax or taken in person to a local clinic.

When asking for records to be transferred overseas it is best to go in person to make the request.

Few foreign residents will have qualified for any of Hong Kong's limited social security benefits. However, anyone who has been receiving such benefits must contact their payments office prior to departure.

  • The Social Welfare Department (SWD) lists changes, which may affect entitlement to benefit on its website: Click here

Those who have been employed or self-employed may have been making contributions to a Mandatory Provident Fund in preparation for retirement benefits. Under some circumstances benefits accrued may be transferred to another scheme. If not they remain in a preserved account for the future. The employer or fund management company can provide assistance with this.

Business and Tax Issues

Banking

To settle all final bills, it is likely that a bank account will still be needed for a short period. Non-residents are allowed to have bank accounts in Hong Kong so it may be a good idea to leave an account open. Remember to cancel direct debits and any e-banking facility which may be running.

Ideally, accounts should be closed in person, but many banks will allow this to be done in writing or even online. It is common for banks to charge fees for closing an account.

Credit card companies will also need to be notified of a new address for statements.

Tax

Residents leaving Hong Kong must have cleared their tax liability before they leave the country. This applies equally to employees whose companies have been taking care of their tax liability. They should speak to the appropriate department at their place of work to ensure that matters are taken care of.

As this is a complex issue and not everyone will have been resident in Hong Kong for tax purposes, it is best to check with the tax office as soon as possible and to seek the advice and help of a professional if necessary.

  • The Hong Kong Inland Revenue department has comprehensive information on all the necessary formalities that must be completed: Click here to view the list.

As a rule, tax clearance can be processed quite quickly as long as the authorities are given all the relevant information. In certain cases, they will agree to estimate a tax figure but they warn that this could be a much larger figure than is actually due and is, therefore, best avoided.

Correspondence

Hong Kong Post provides a mail redirection service for three months, which can be extended for another 12 months. There is a charge for this service, and five working days' notice is required.

An application must be signed by all family members/residents aged 11 and above. A Hong Kong ID or passport number is required for each person. For children under 11, it is sufficient to write the word "CHILD" in the ID box of the form. Applications can be submitted at a postal counter or sent by post.

Applicants will be asked to produce original ID documents plus a copy of each. If applying by post, it is necessary to send a copy of each applicant's ID plus a copy of proof of the former address of the principal applicant, such as a utility bill from the current or previous month. After processing, these copies will be returned to the principal applicant.

  • For information about the postal redirection service: Click here

Vehicles and Driving

Hong Kong law states that if a vehicle is to be permanently exported from Hong Kong, the registered keeper of the vehicle must notify the Commissioner for Transport in writing within 15 days of the export. The owner must return the registration document and the vehicle licence.

Address all correspondence relating to vehicle export to:

Check with the new country of residence for any restrictions and taxes which may be due on arrival with a vehicle.

Driving licences

In certain circumstances, it is possible to drive in Hong Kong for up to 12 months on a valid overseas licence or an international driver's licence. Otherwise, it is necessary to hold a full or temporary Hong Kong licence. Full Hong Kong licences are valid for 10 years. When the details of the licence holder change (for example the address), notify the Commissioner for Transport within 72 hours of the change. Failure to do so constitutes an offence which carries a fine. However, in most cases, drivers will revert to using or reapplying for licences in the new country of residence.

Holders of a full Hong Kong driving licence can apply for an International Drivers' Licence while still in Hong Kong. This is accepted by many countries worldwide and is valid for 12 months.

  • Application can be made on a form TD51, which can be downloaded from the Transport Department website: Click here

Animals

Pet owners are allowed to bring their animals into Hong Kong subject to obtaining the necessary permit.

To take a pet out of Hong Kong again, owners must obtain a Health Certificate approved by the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) from a local vet.

  • The AFCD website has information about the import and export regulations: Click here

Dogs in Hong Kong must have a licence and the authorities should be told of relocation.

Depending on the destination, some animals may require a period of quarantine. They will almost certainly require documentation and possible additional vaccinations or similar medical treatment. Contact the embassy in the new country of residence for up to date information on importing animals.

Whatever the journey ahead, animals normally have to travel in approved containers and by approved routes.

  • In the UK DEFRA publishes details of approved carriers and routes on its site: Click here

Note: sudden outbreaks of diseases (for example Avian influenza) can affect pet travel.

Education

It is polite to give schools a reasonable amount of notice of your child's departure. Leave a forwarding address for any correspondence.

Many foreign children will have been attending schools in the private sector. There may be outstanding bills for school fees, transport or meals to be settled. Most schools will provide an up-to-date report or statement of a child's progress in English if required.

Insurance

Contact the relevant insurance company and get a proof of "no-Claims Bonus" if applicable. Some insurance companies need three months' written notice to cancel a contract so this should be taken into account when leaving Hong Kong.

Further Information