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How to get your earned money out of China?

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor money transfer

Getting money out of China is a question that frequently comes up. Many expatriates have their jobs and daily lives in China, saving up their hard earned Chinese Renminbi (RMB) for the future. There may come a time when some will decide to go back to their home country, whether for a short vacation or because their working contracts have ended. It is likely that those wanting to leave China will want to take their RMB with them. For those legitimately employed in China and paying their taxes, this will not be a problem. However, many expatriates, by design or default, fall into grey areas of employment where they are not properly registered or are not paying taxes.

Currency regulations are relatively strict in China and are designed to prevent large sums of money from leaving the country. The State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) is the authorized institution that controls foreign exchange, including the amounts of money entering and leaving the country. To legitimately take money out of China an application must be made to SAFE, usually through a bank, to show proof of income taxes paid in China. The reason for this policy is to prevent too much money from suddenly leaving the country, as this could severely damage China’s economy. In addition, the Chinese government wants to ensure the correct amount of tax has been paid.

There are several ways to take money out of China and there is a distinction between the official, legitimate ways and valid, yet more complicated ways. We have outlined several of the most common methods below. 

Individuals exiting China are required by law to declare amounts of RMB 20,000, or the equivalent of USD 5,000 in foreign currency, to customs. This is the maximum amount of currency any individual is allowed to leave China with. All foreign nationals living in China are allowed to withdraw USD 500 a day without needing to provide documentation, proof of ownership or records of paid taxes.

However, if you need to withdraw large sums of money quickly, this is not practical. For individuals who are properly registered in China and have been paying their taxes, withdrawing money is no problem. The best way to do this is by making an application through your bank to SAFE and then transferring your money through an international money transfer.

The first step in this process is to fill in an application form and provide a bank with the following documents:

  1. Valid identification documents (typically a passport)
  2. Work permit
  3. Valid employment contract
  4. Payroll
  5. Tax bills

Your bank will then be able to make an application on your behalf to SAFE and if everything is in order, your funds will be released for a foreign transfer. You will be required to present all the account information: branch number, account number, institute number and branch’s address in the foreign country. It is important to include the foreign bank’s SWIFT code and routing number. These can be provided by your bank. Be aware that the sending bank will usually charge a commission fee and telegraph fee and the receiving bank may also charge a commission fee. If RMB is being transferred into a foreign bank account in another currency, a fee will also need to be paid to exchange the RMB into the foreign currency. In some cases, like with the Bank of China, you may have to fill out a separate form to convert the RMB into a foreign currency. There are no daily or annual limits on the amount of money that can be transferred out of China this way.

There are also companies that can perform international money transfers. One example of such a company is Western Union, please be advised that this company will only accept transfers in U.S. dollars. Western Union cooperates with several banks in China and these can be used to send your money abroad. These banks are:

  • Postal Savings Bank of China
  • Agricultural Bank of China
  • Bank of Jilin
  • Zhejiang Chouzhou Commercial Bank
  • Fujian Haxia Bank
  • Yantai Bank
  • Longjiang Bank
  • Bank of Wenzhou
  • Huishang Bank
  • SPD Bank
  • China Construction Bank
  • ICBC
  • China Pay
  • Bank of China
  • Everbright Bank
  • Harbin Bank

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor western union

To send money through Western Union, the sender will need to provide the receiver’s name, their address, ID number and telephone number. The sender will receive a “Money Transfer Control Number” that they should give to the recipient, in order for them to collect the money. As with bank transfers, Western Union will also charge a commission fee of between USD 15 to USD 30, depending on the amount of money being sent.

The above methods are fine for foreigners legitimately registered in China. However, some foreigners are not correctly registered and so cannot meet the SAFE requirements to proceed with the processes above. These people are, for example, those who have been working on a tourist or business visa and have not paid any taxes on their incomes. Individuals in this category are also allowed to remove USD 500 per day without providing any documentation.

One way to solve this issue is to ask a Chinese national to help transfer funds out of China. Chinese nationals are able to transfer up to USD 2,000 a day to an overseas bank account, with a maximum of USD 50,000 per person per year.

Another option is to use PayPal to move money out of China. PayPal currently supports money transfers in more than 190 countries and regions throughout the world, in more than 20 currencies. To send and receive money through PayPal, both sender and recipient will need PayPal accounts. To send money internationally:

  • Log in to your PayPal account                                    
  • Enter the recipient’s email address or mobile phone number
  • Enter the amount in the desired currency

PayPal will transfer the money immediately and will notify the recipient when the amount has been deposited. There will usually be fees attached to sending and receiving money internationally, PayPal will show the fees beforehand. The amount of the fee depends on the amount of money sent and the countries and currencies involved. The individual sending the money can choose who will pay the fee – them or the recipient account.

It is also possible to physically take cash out of China when leaving. As aforementioned, the amount of money is limited to RMB 20,000 or the equivalent of USD 5,000 in any other currency. If you are travelling with friends or family, splitting the cash so it still meets Chinese requirements, is a popular way to avoid restrictions.

If you are an individual who is looking to repatriate foreign funds from a Chinese investment, ensure that the investment has abided by Chinese regulations. It is well known that Chinese regulators will overlook illegal schemes to get foreign investment into Chinese companies. However, when it comes to money leaving the country, Chinese regulators are known to block the transfer of these funds when foreign investors seek to cash out on their investment.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor unionpay

Lastly, if you have a bank account in China, it is likely you will have a Chinese bank card with a China UnionPay logo on it. Opening a Chinese bank account is easy, for a basic account all you need is your passport. It is unlikely that you will be able to use your China UnionPay bank card to withdraw money in another country; for example, in the entire country of The Netherlands, there is no ATM that will accept China UnionPay cards. If you did find an ATM which accepted China UnionPay, then it is likely you would incur heavy withdrawal fees. It is, however, entirely possible to use your UnionPay bank card to process transactions abroad. UnionPay cards are accepted in 141 countries and regions around the world. For example, in the United States it is possible to use your China UnionPay card where you can pay with a debit card. As long as the card terminal will accept a 6-digit PIN, the payment should be fine. For this type of transaction, there is no exchange transaction fee. In addition, there are foreign investment companies that accept China UnionPay as a form of payment. The products they tend to offer are usually savings plans and investment platforms. By using this method, you will not be able to withdraw large amounts of money but you will be able to spend and utilize your RMB.

In short, whether through the formal or informal ways, it is possible to take money out of China. In the future, ensure that any employment contracts within China are legitimate and the appropriate taxes are paid, to make getting money out of China easier. Additionally, make certain that any investments into Chinese companies are through legitimate and legal schemes.

Maxxelli Consulting always advises people to check whether they are properly registered in China and are paying their taxes in order to comply with China’s laws and regulations. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions on this topic. 


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