On 28 May 2021, the Securities and Futures Commission (the “SFC”) issued a circular regarding the grant of exemptions for senior executives of licensed corporations from the three-week compulsory quarantine arrangements in Hong Kong under Cap. 599C and Cap. 599E (the “Circular”).
The exemption is available to (i) all senior executives, including senior executives of a licensed corporation; and (ii) global or regional heads or senior executives of financial institutions travelling from, returning to and/or visiting Hong Kong, who have been vaccinated. The maximum number of entries into Hong Kong each month for each licensed corporation is two for returning executives and two for visiting executives.
In order to be eligible for the exemption, the executive must:
- arrive at Hong Kong on or after the 14th day after completing vaccination;
- produce a COVID-19 vaccination record (the “Record”) meeting the following requirements:-
- the Record must be in English or Chinese or translated into English or Chinese by a certified professional;
- the Record must be issued by a healthcare institution or a relevant authority of the government of the place where the vaccine was administered;
- the Record should bear (i) the name of the vaccinated person, which is identical to that in his or her valid travel document showing that he or she received the recommended dose of vaccination; and (ii) the name of the vaccine administered which must be included in the list of vaccines recognized by the Government of the HKSAR.
An application for exemption could be made by the sponsoring licensed corporation of the returning or visiting executive by completing the form attached in Appendix I to the Circular, supported by the following documents:-
- a copy of the executive’s identity card or passport photo page;
- itinerary of the proposed exempted executive for the entire duration of the trip, with information about his or her arrival, departure, accommodation or designated quarantine hotel(s), organisations and venues to be visited with the dates and times of the visits;
- a COVID-19 vaccination record complying with the aforesaid requirements.
The forms and supporting documents must be sent to the SFC at least five days before the business trip. The proposed exempted executive is only allowed to conduct essential business activities during his or her visit.
The application form should be signed by a responsible officer or the manager-in-charge of compliance function of the sponsoring licensed corporation. The Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau (the “FSTB”) will issue an electronic authorization letter to successful applicants.
Upon entry into Hong Kong, the exempted executive is required to fully comply with specific conditions of exemptions set out in the authorization letter issued by the FSTB. The exempted executives are only allowed to attend the activities listed in the details of the trip and are required to self-isolate at the accommodation sponsored by the licensed corporation.
On the other hand, the sponsoring licensed corporation is required to keep an up-to-date record of the itinerary of the exempted executive for the entire duration of the trip in Hong Kong and to ensure that the exempted executives in self-isolation adhere to the guidelines issued by the Department of Health’s infection control guidelines. The responsible officer or the manager-in-charge of compliance function must submit an attestation form every three working days or at the half-way point of the trip, whichever is earlier, and on the last day of the exempted executives’ trip. It is the licensed corporation’s responsibility to report to the SFC as soon as possible if an exempted executive is confirmed or suspected to be infected with COVID-19.
If an exempted executive is found to have violated the self-isolation requirement, his/her exemption status will be removed immediately and will immediately be sent to the HKSAR Government‘s Quarantines Centre for compulsory quarantine for 21 days. It is also an offence for the exempted executive who failed to observe any of the exemption conditions. The exempted executive will be liable to a fine of HK$5,000 and imprisonment for 6 months upon conviction.
This comes on the back of the exemption from compulsory quarantine arrangements granted by the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong (the “HKEx”) to directors of the companies listed on the HKEx or directors of companies applying for listing on HKEx who are on duty travel from foreign places to Hong Kong, or return from duty travel in foreign places to Hong Kong. This exemption is only available to directors carrying out specific duties:-
- travelling to Hong Kong from foreign places to attend shareholders’ meetings of listed companies held in Hong Kong, these includes: Annual General Meetings, Extraordinary General Meetings and Special General Meetings;
- travelling to Hong Kong from foreign places to attend the hearings held by the HKEx including listing hearings, disciplinary hearings and review hearings; and
- returning to Hong Kong after travelling to foreign places for attending shareholders’ meetings of Hong Kong-listed companies, these includes: Annual General Meetings, Extraordinary General Meetings and Special General Meetings.
For more information on the requirements of the compulsory quarantine arrangements or assistance with applications for exemption under the SFC and the HKEx schemes, please contact us today.