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Chinese Residence Permits & Registration

Your visa has been sorted and you have finally arrived in China, ready to start your expat life in earnest. But wait, don’t forget that your presence needs to be registered with the police and that some visa categories necessitate acquiring a Chinese residence permit after arrival.
If you are staying at a hotel, their staff will take care of your initial residence registration, but not your permit!

Registering with the Police

In accordance with the Chinese Exit-Entry Administration Law, all foreigners have to register with the Public Security Bureau (PSB) within 24 hours of arrival. If you are staying at a hotel, the staff will take care of this registration for you.

In other cases, you have to take care of this registration yourself. In order to do so, head to your nearest police station, i.e. the local PSB, and bring along the following documents (originals and photocopies):

  • your passport (including your visa),
  • the lease or deed of your home, or
  • your host’s household registration, and
  • a completed Temporary Residence registration form.

Note that depending on where you are registering your resident address, further or different requirements may apply. Once registered, you will receive your approved Registration Form of Temporary Residence, which is essential for those who need to get a Chinese residence permit. Also, remember to register any change of address when, for example, moving from a hotel into your own apartment, or any changes connected to your visa.

Temporary Chinese Residence Permit

Holders of long-term visas (Z, D, X1, S1, J1, Q1) also need to acquire a temporary Chinese Residence Permit within 30 days of their arrival in China. In order to do so, head to your nearest Exit-Entry Administration Service Center of the PSB and take along the following:

  • your passport (including your visa),
  • the registration form of your Temporary Residence (see above),
  • a filled out Foreigner's Visa and Resident Permit Application Form,
  • a passport photograph,
  • your official Health Certificate (issued by the Health & Quarantine Bureau), and
  • any supporting documents which were previously needed for your visa application (e.g. your employment contract, marriage certificate, etc.).

Permanent Chinese Residence Permit (D Visa)

Through family relations with a Chinese citizen, after having lived and worked in China for a number of years, or thanks to “outstanding and necessary contributions to China”, it is theoretically possible to apply for permanent Chinese residence through the so-called D visa. In order to get the necessary Confirmation Form for Foreigners’ Permanent Residence Status from the Ministry of Public Security, a variety of requirements must be met and different supporting documents handed in. What exactly these are, depends on which category the applicant belongs to (from investors to family relations).

Additionally, a Health Certificate and proof of a lack of criminal record are needed to apply for this permanent Chinese residence permit. You need to file the application at the local Public Security Bureau or at the nearest Chinese embassy if you are not living in China when applying.

However, even if the number of approved, permanent Chinese residence permit applications has gone up in recent years, China is still far from being an immigrant country. In 2012, only about 1,200 such permits were handed out, with more than half of them going to people with Chinese family relations. Still, with the country’s growing need for foreign professionals, requirements for getting a permanent Chinese residence permit may well be relaxed in the near future, particularly for holders of the R visa for qualified foreign professionals.


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