As a business owner, you may have been asked to show certified true copies of company documents when opening a corporate bank account in Hong Kong, applying for a business loan or selling a property.
But what exactly is a certified true copy? In this article we’ll answer all your general questions about the certified true copy:
- What is a certified true copy
- Purpose of certified true copies
- Format of a certified true copy
- Who is authorized to certify true copies
- Fees charged when certifying true copies
- Validity of a certified true copy
- Where to get a certified true copy
Note that when we’ll mention the terms certified true copy, certified copy, and true copy interchangeably, but they all refer to the same thing.
Let’s start with the definition of a certified true copy.
What is a Certified True Copy?
A certified true copy is an official version of the original document, certified by a qualified professional as being true and accurate to the former. The qualified professional stamps the copies to prove they can be used to substitute the original documents.
However, a certified true copy isn’t proof that the original documents are authentic. For example, a certified true copy of a document that had been stolen or forged isn’t evidence of the original documents’ authenticity.
Purpose of a Certified True Copy
Certified true copies are required where the individual or company needs to apply for important personal or company documents. Since third parties are not allowed to retain the original documents, certified true copies are used as a substitute instead.
In Hong Kong, a certified true copy is required in the following instances:
- When opening a corporate bank account in a Hong Kong bank
- When applying for a business license
- When engaging in international transactions
- Legal purposes
- Government proceedings
For example, when opening your company’s bank account you’ll be asked to present the following certified copies:
- Certified copies to prove identity of shareholders and directors where a national ID, passport or driver’s license can be used
- A certified true copy to prove residential address which can be done using a recent utility bill
- True copies of company incorporation documents including articles of association, registration certificate, and registers of shareholders and directors
These requirements may vary from bank to bank, so you should enquire first with your bank which documents are needed to avoid certifying the wrong documents.
Format of a Certified True Copy
The format of a certified true copy is determined by the certifier. Still, in most cases, the following information should be included:
- Name and signature of certifier
- Certification date
- A statement with wordings such as: “I confirm that this is a true copy of the original” or “Certified to be a true copy of the original seen by me”
- Professional stamp of certifier
- Position of certifier
- Number of pages
In Hong Kong, the certified true copies must be in Chinese or English. If the documents are in another language, they must be translated.
Who can Certify True Copies?
The companies act Cap 622 states that the following persons can offer certified true copies in
- A practicing certified public accountant (CPA)
- A practicing notary public
- A practicing lawyer
- A court officer in Hong Kong
- A practicing professional company secretary in Hong Kong
- A consular officer
Before certifying your documents with any of these professionals, it’s essential to confirm first with the institution requiring the documents which of these professionals are allowed to certify your documents. The rules vary; some institutions may even allow certification from other eligible persons like a bank officer.
For example, to open a corporate account with HSBC Bank Hong Kong, you should provide certified true copies from any of the following persons:
- An accounting profession such as a CPA or an auditor regulated by the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants or equivalent
- A legal profession such as notary public or lawyer regulated by law society Hong Kong equivalent
- A chartered secretary with active membership on Hong Kong Institute of Chartered Secretaries
- A justice of the peace
- A trust company in Hong Kong
- A member of the judiciary
Certified True Copy Fee
The cost of certifying documents in Hong Kong can vary, where the fee is determined by the type of professional you use and the type of service you need.
For example, the recommended minimum fee in the Hong Kong Society of Notaries is:
- Certified True Copy but without a Formal Notarial Certificate is HK$1,600
- Formal Notarial Certificate is HK$2,200
Certified public accountants charge different rates from the above. For example, Startupr fees are:
- US$125 to certify a set of company documents
- US$75 to certify a single document
Certified True Copy Validity
The validity for certified true copies in most cases ranges from 3 to 6 months, meaning it’s recommended to get certified true copies only when they’re needed.
Where to get a Certified True Copy in Hong Kong
As we’ve mentioned, the professionals mandated to offer certified true copies in Hong Kong are solicitors, notary public, and certified public accountants.
Some official bodies of these professionals where you can apply for a certified true copy:
- Certified public accountants – Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants has a database of CPAs that you can search
- Notary Public – Hong Kong Society of Notaries
- Hong Kong solicitors – Hong Kong Law Society
Certified True Copy Hong Kong – FAQ
What is the difference between document certification and document legalization?
Document certification is a process where a third party confirms the accuracy of a document. The third-party can be a CPA, solicitor, or notary public.
Document legalization (authentication) in Hong Kong means authenticating signatures, seals, and the origin of documents. This means even certified true copies can be legalized.
Legalizing documents in Hong Kong is possible thanks to the apostille service by the Hong Kong High Court.
The apostille service costs HK$125 per apostille and some of the accepted business documents include a certificate of incorporation and a business registration certificate.
Apostilled documents are required when opening a foreign corporate bank account.
Can the CPA certify documents in Hong Kong?
Yes, practicing certified public accountants can certify documents in Hong Kong. Ensure that you work with a CPA that is in good standing with a recognized official body like the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants to have the highest chance of your documents being approved.
Can non-practicing solicitors certify documents in Hong Kong?
No, the solicitor must be practicing and recognised by an official body to be eligible to provide certified true copies. If you obtain certified true copies through a non-practicing solicitor, your documents will most likely be rejected.
Can a bank certify documents?
Yes, some banks can certify documents. This is possible where the bank has a qualified professional that can work as a certifier.
To recap, a certified true copy is a copy of an original document that has been certified as an accurate representation of the original.
The purpose of a certified true copy is to provide a copy of the original document that can be used for legal or official purposes.
The format of a certified true copy, in general, includes the name of the certifying authority, the date of certification, and the stamp of the certifying authority.
Finally, CPAs, solicitors, and notary public are authorized to certify true copies in Hong Kong. Fees charged when certifying true copies vary; the validity of certified copies is 3 to 6 months.
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