Applying for a Residence Permit

Information on getting a residence permit when coming to China to live...

Within 30 days of arriving in China, the visa holder must obtain (or at least have applied for) a residence permit. It is advisable to begin the process immediately on arrival, and for the passport holder not to have travelled on the passport for a month before arriving in China. In most cases, the employer or sponsoring institution assists with the residence application.

Upon arrival, foreigners intending to live in China must register with the local police station (Public Security Bureau - PSB) in the area where they live. An appointment should be made within 24 hours. This is a legal requirement and, if not done, could jeopardise the application process. Applicants should take their passports, with the entry visa, as well as any documentation relating to work contracts and accommodation. The police officer may look through the passport and ask questions about any entry and exit stamps it contains. Once the interview is complete, an accommodation or residence registration certificate is supplied. This is needed for the residence permit application.

Foreigners who change address while living in China need to notify the PSB office with which they were initially registered, and also the PSB office in the area they are moving to, if it is different.

Shortly after a foreigner arrives in China, the sponsoring company or educational institution should begin the residence application at the local PSB Exit and Entry Administration Office.

In order to obtain a residence permit, applicants need the following documents:

  • Passport containing the relevant entry visa
  • Passport photo
  • Accommodation/Residence Registration obtained from the local PSB office
  • Completed application form
  • Job contract and work permit, or enrolment documentation (provided by employer or educational institution)
  • Medical exam results
  • Fee

Applicants may be required to pass a medical examination. Technically, this is compulsory, although some provinces are stricter about this than others. Tests should be arranged by the sponsor, and are usually carried out at an approved medical centre. Chest X-rays, eye and ear examinations, ECGs and blood tests are all part of the procedure. The medical examination can be failed for conditions such as HIV, tuberculosis, STDs, other infectious diseases or mental illnesses. The cost ranges from CNY600 to CNY1,000. In many cases, the employer or educational institution covers this fee, although they are not obliged to do so.

An appointment should be made at the PSB office to present the documents. An interview is conducted, which is often a formality rather than an in-depth interview. The residence permit can then be processed, which takes between two and six weeks. It is advisable not to leave China before the residence permit is issued, as a new entry visa needs to be issued to return to the country. Colour copies of passports and visa documents are enough to travel within the country and for hotel stays, while the residence permit is being processed.

It is illegal to work in China without a valid work visa or permit. If offered a job after arriving in the country on a tourist or student visa, foreigners should switch visas through their local PSB office, with the help of the employer, before they begin work.

Residency for Family Members

Spouses and children of foreigners coming to work in China are permitted to apply for the same visa and residence permit as their relative. The process is similar to that described for the principal applicant. Each family member is required to apply and to pay the appropriate fee. Some employers may assist with this procedure.

Renewal of Residence Permits

The same documents are needed to renew residence permits as for new permits. The expiring residence permit should also be supplied, provided that the individual is still working for the same employer or studying at the same institution. The sponsoring company should help, but the process should be started well before the original permit expires. It is possible to change employers or place of study, but the new sponsor needs to take care of the paperwork at the local PSB office.