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Money Transfers for Expats in China

Submitted: August 2013

There are capital controls in China with respect to capital account transactions. However, current account transactions are liberalised. All flows to China must be converted into Chinese currency, and all flows from China must be converted into foreign currency. See Foreign Exchange for Expats in China.

The easiest way is transfer money to China is to have a Chinese bank account opened, and then to proceed with an international bank transfer. Alternatively, you can withdraw money from a cash dispenser in China.

Don’t forget to get your visa and your Chinese tax right, especially if you have come to China for work. Failure to do so may cause you trouble when you need to transfer money outside China. This is because international money transfers are regulated by the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE). SAFE regulations often require proof of income tax payments before approving a transfer.

The purpose of SAFE regulations is to make sure that any money transferred outside China is legitimate after-tax income.

Fees

Your bank is likely to charge you for transfers to a Chinese account and international cheques, although fees may vary. You might wish to check the applicable charges and restrictions at your bank.

Alternatively, you can use the services of a money transfer company. This can be helpful if you do not have a Chinese bank account yet. To save money, you can also use a price comparison website specialised in money transfers. Typically, your charges are largely passed on to the applicable foreign exchange rate. See Foreign Exchange for Expats in China.

The fees charged by a company specialised in money transfers are without prejudice to the fees that your bank may charge.

Capital controls

Transferring money from China to a foreign bank account can be a tough and lengthy process. Expect to go to your local Chinese bank for three hours to complete the transfer. Thus, you should get your documentation right before going to your bank (e.g. your foreign bank account number, full mailing address of your foreign bank, and its SWIFT number).

Any foreign national can convert Chinese yuans up to $500 per day. If your employer provides you with the appropriate tax documents, this limit can be waived. If your employer doesn’t, or if it fails to comply with its tax obligations, you have to stay within the $500/day limit.

Chinese citizens are not allowed to convert Chinese yuans for more than $50,000 per year.

You might hear stories about Chinese citizens who successfully evade capital controls. However, failure to comply with these rules is illegal.

Cash control rules

You cannot carry cash worth more than RMB20,000 (or currency equivalent) when you leave China. Failure to comply with this rule may result in confiscation.

 

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