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Opening a Business and Business Etiquette in Tonga

If you want to register a business in the Kingdom of Tonga the first thing to do is to search the register in order to see if the name of your future business is still available. Every application to form a company must be preceded or accompanied by a name reservation. The name reservation is active for twenty days after it is filed, so your company application form must be submitted within this twenty day window. You may submit the name reservation form with the application to incorporate.


Your application form must be delivered to the Registrar of Companies together with the payment of the appropriate fees and a copy of the constitution of the company if it differs from the standard constitution. Once the application has been approved, you will be sent a Certificate of Incorporation and the company is entered on the Tongan Register.


Visas for foreign investors choosing to reside in Tonga (business visa) are granted by the Immigration Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The application for a Business Visa should be made before entry to Tonga, otherwise the application is rejected.


When doing business with locals you should be aware of the local customs.


The business attire of most Tongan men consists of the traditional ta’ovala which resembles of wrap skirt. Foreigners doing just fine wearing casual pants combined with a collared shirt. Women (local and foreign) should wear ankle length skirts and a shirt or top that covers the shoulders and chest.


As Tongans want to please their business partners they will usually give you the answer they think you might want to hear. So if you need a definite answer best ask questions that can only be answered with yes or no.


Gifts are often exchanged at meetings. If you are a foreigner food or small souvenirs from your home country are fine. Never open a gift in front of the person who has given it to you. All presents should be opened in private.


Tongans have a different sense of time than most Westerners do, so don’t expect them to be on time for scheduled appointments. And they might just show up at your office without any appointment at all if they deem it important. Be prepared for prearranged meeting times and standard opening hours to regularly be ignored without a hint of remorse or social consequence.


Business hours are flexible, but are usually from 9am until 4.30pm, with most shops open from 8.30am to 5pm on weekdays (some close for an hour at lunch), and 9am to noon on Saturday. Restaurants usually operate from 8am to 10am for breakfast, noon to 2pm for lunch, and 6pm to 10pm if they serve evening meals. Larger hotels and a few Chinese restaurants open to the public on Sunday, but most restaurants are closed as Sunday is strongly revered and most Tongans will attend religious services.

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