Open a bank account in China as a non-resident – Why, How, and Where? – that will be the topic of today’s article.
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Table of Contents
After the covid-19 related cases came to an end, the Chinese tourism industry is slowly rising. According to the stats obtained from FDI China, around 1.6 million foreigners are living there.
The foreign population comprises employees from other countries, overseas Chinese workers, and foreign students.
Especially, the low cost of living and the growing economy is making the country favorable for attracting foreigners.
So, there are many essential things to do after arriving in China, which include managing finances.
For managing one’s finances effectively, it is necessary to have a bank account in the local currency.
Even though it sounds pretty complex, the process of opening a bank account in China as an expat is simple and straightforward.
Today, I will be focusing on the complete process of opening a bank account as a non-resident in China.
Without any delay, let us dive into our topic for today, i.e., Opening a bank account in China as a non-resident.
As mentioned in the title, this would consist of three segments namely Why, How, and Where.
‘Why’ would refer to the reason why any foreigner would need a bank account in China.
‘How’ would cover all the details on how to open a bank account as a non-resident.
Finally, ‘Where’ would consist of information on the best choices available for opening a business bank account as a non-resident in China.
Let us begin with the ‘Why?’
Why would anyone need a bank account in China while living there as a non-resident?
There are numerous reasons why a foreigner should have a bank account in China. Let us take a look.
First of all, most individuals who visit China do so because of three main purposes. Business, Employment, and Education.
Let us begin with why a foreign business should have a Chinese bank account.
Before that, let us see some interesting facts on how foreign businesses can profit from their endeavors in China.
As you might already be familiar with the fact that China is one of the major business hubs in the world.
China is supportive of businesses local and non-local alike, while having beneficial aspects. Let us have a look at some of the advantageous aspects for businesses (foreign) in China.
First of all, China has a massive population of over 1.45 billion people as of May 2023.
This makes it the world’s most populous country, which in turn makes it a great market for businesses.
The huge population would always present a vast market opportunity for businesses to increase their customer base.
The next thing that we need to talk about is the economy of the country, which has been rising significantly.
For those who may not be familiar, China happens to be the second-largest economy with a GDP growth rate of 6.90% (2023).
When an economy is as large as China, we can expect certain positive economic factors such as:
• Low unemployment rate
• High GDP
• Low inflation
• High consumer confidence
• Stability in the currency
• Robust infrastructure
• Stable politics
— Government backup
Next, the government of China is also supportive of foreign businesses and investments.
The Chinese government realizes that foreign business being conducted on their grounds would open doors for development.
Keeping that in mind, the Chinese government offers several incentives to foreign businesses in China.
These incentives include tax benefits, smooth regulations, SEZs (Special Economic Zones), etc.
Following that, the labor force in China needs no specific mention as it is obvious from the huge population.
Unlike the old days, the education system in China is seeing a lot of development.
This means a foreign business can easily access skilled workforce like engineers, software professionals, etc.
There have been a lot of infrastructure developments in China over the recent years.
Such noteworthy developments include high-speed rail networks, shipping ports, airports, etc.
Such infrastructure advancements help in the transportation of goods, which is crucial for most businesses.
With the digitalization we are experiencing, most businesses have started making effective use of the Internet.
China is a world-leading e-commerce market with a huge number of individuals showing interest in online shopping.
The middle-class category of people is also seeing a lot of development in their income. This would lead them to have more disposable income, which may be beneficial for businesses.
— Innovation hub
With a vast number of start-ups every year, it can be safely said that China is one of the best innovation hubs in the world.
By keeping all these aspects in mind, I feel that China is a great place for foreigners to start their businesses.
Now, while doing business, one must need to have a bank account.
However, a normal bank account may not be useful for businesses, and therefore, you must have to open a business bank account.
The process of opening a business bank account will be discussed in the ‘How’ section of this article.
If you are a non-resident living in China and need to invest in any Chinese investments, then you will need a Chinese bank account.
The investments may include Chinese stocks, Chinese mutual funds, and so on.
However, it is possible to invest in a Chinese stock or ETF, or mutual fund without a Chinese bank account.
This is usually done with the help of an international broker or international investment platform.
Nonetheless, certain investment assets necessitate an individual to have a Chinese bank account in order to invest.
Another major reason for most people to live in China as a foreigner apart from business is employment.
When you are employed by a Chinese company, you will need a local bank account.
This is specifically the case when the employer intends to credit the salary directly into your account.
The Chinese bank account will help in receiving wages/salary, paying bills, handling finances, etc.
In some cases, the employer may credit your salary through another mode of payment such as PayPal.
If that’s the case, then you may not be required to have a Chinese bank account (it is good to have one though).
Individuals who are in China for educational purposes are also required to have a Chinese bank account.
This also applies to the people who are living in China for research purposes.
This is necessary because such individuals receive stipends or they might have to pay their course/tuition/college fees.
Such individuals may also benefit from a local bank account in order to get on with their daily life activities.
Tourists might need a bank account in China so that they can access the local currency for withdrawals, payments, etc.
Example – Imagine that you are a tourist and want to try out some tasty street food in China.
If you have brought enough money to China in the local currency, then it is fine.
But if you run out of funds, then you will have to face some issues.
Such issues can be avoided through having a local bank account as you can easily access funds in local currency.
If you own a property in China, then again, it is necessary to have a local bank account.
This is important to pay the bills, taxes, or any other fees & charges related to that specific property.
This might’ve led to a question in the minds of most people, i.e., can a foreigner buy a property in China?
The simple answer is “Yes, you can”, and I’m not going into the details in this article. That’s for another day.
These are basically the reasons why a non-resident would need a Chinese bank account.
As an endnote, any foreigner living in mainland China must have a Chinese bank account to get on with their daily activities.
The next aspect of Chinese bank accounts for foreigners that we will discuss is ‘How’. This refers to the process of how to open a bank account in China as a non-resident.
As I said before, any foreign national living in China should have a local bank account.
Although it is not mandatory in all cases, it will prove to be helpful for everyone.
Unlike in some other countries, you can have multiple bank accounts in China. However, having two accounts with the same bank is not possible.
So, if you want multiple bank accounts, you can succeed in it by opening accounts at different banks.
The process of opening a bank account in China can be hard unless you are prepared with the necessary documents.
Having all the necessary documents available will make the process easier than it usually is.
The documents needed for opening a bank account in China as a foreigner are as follows.
— Address proof
— Money for the minimum deposit
— Work permit (for employees)
— Student visa (for students)
— Chinese phone number
The passport you provide should have the details related to your valid Chinese visa.
As for the address proof, you can submit a residence permit or a receipt from the hotel in which you stay.
Most banks usually have a minimum deposit requirement, which may vary depending on the bank chosen.
In some cases, you’ll be asked to provide a copy of the work permit or student visa copy for opening a bank account.
As the bank account is going to be associated with a local phone number, you’ll definitely need to get a Chinese sim card.
There are several places from where you can get a sim card such as airports, electronic stores, mobile network stores, and online.
Typically, these are the only set of documents that are to be provided while getting a non-resident bank account.
As I said, some of the necessary documents may not be necessitated or additional documents might be required. This primarily depends on the bank that you choose to have an account with.
In most of the banks, you will be able to find English-speaking staff without any trouble.
Such a person would assist you in knowing all the necessary information related to opening a bank account.
Alternatively, if you have a Chinese accomplice (friend or colleague), you’ll be able to deal with the language issues.
As a tourist, you can hire a freelancer to assist you with the process if you did not get access to English-speaking staff in the bank.
Types of accounts
There are different types of accounts available for non-residents in China, which have been listed below.
— RMB Accounts
You should note that RMB accounts are not available for all types of non-residents. This is due to aspects such as nationality, location, and Chinese bank policies.
Opening an RMB account in China can be difficult, but you can make the process easy with the necessary documents at hand.
I have already mentioned the necessary documents earlier and you can refer to those.
Additionally, RMB accounts need other paperwork such as:
— Police registration form Chinese address
— Original housing contract (sometimes)
— At least 100 RMB (may differ)
It might take around three weeks for the processing of your non-resident RMB account based on the demand.
— Non-resident accounts
In 2009, the China State Administration of Foreign Exchange made a change regarding foreign currency accounts.
This allowed banks to open non-resident foreign currency accounts for foreign entities.
Domestic and foreign banks can offer these accounts for their operating positions and the deposit reserves follow Chinese rules.
Deposits in this account no longer occupy the full-scale quota on domestic banks.
Transferring funds between a domestic account and a non-resident account is considered a cross-border exchange.
The domestic agency must have a corresponding transaction permit and provide proof of the authenticity of the transaction to the bank.
The bank is also responsible for reporting the international balance of payments.
— Offshore accounts
Overseas institutions can open offshore accounts at one of the four offshore commercial banks in China, which are:
— Bank of Communications
— China Merchant’s Bank
— Ping An Bank
— Shanghai Pudong Development Bank
These banks have separate departments that handle offshore accounts and have strict regulations for managing them.
Offshore accounts cannot provide RMB settlements and sales transactions.
These banks must keep funds received from overseas accounts separate from domestic accounts.
Offshore accounts handle various transactions, including deposits, financing, loans, and settlements.
The interest rates for these accounts are independent of rates for corresponding domestic accounts.
Offshore accounts in China offer four primary advantages namely:
— Greater independence
— Savings advantage
— Fund transfers without domestic exchange controls
Confidentiality means bank account owners’ identities, shareholder status, and share of capital are kept private.
Offshore businesses can be registered anywhere, not just in China, and are not subject to interest income tax or a deposit reserve.
Additionally, offshore account owners have more flexibility to transfer funds compared to domestic exchange controls.
— Hong Kong bank accounts
Hong Kong has traditionally been a hub for finance in China, with many companies setting up entities in Mainland China.
Opening bank accounts in Hong Kong is easier for overseas money transfers and to avoid currency exchange restrictions.
However, Hong Kong bank accounts are now subject to stricter regulations.
These are being overseen by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, which follows international standards for limiting money laundering and tax evasion.
Despite this, Hong Kong remains a popular destination for tourists, job seekers, and property owners.
People from certain nationalities, such as those from the EU, US, or Australia, may have a simpler account opening process.
— Overseas bank accounts
Overseas bank accounts in China are those located in a foreign country by an individual or entity registered or residing in China.
It allows the owner to open an account in other countries without being physically present.
With an overseas bank account, individuals are allowed to access unlimited international transactions.
However, the opening process and regulations may vary depending on the bank and country involved.
As a non-resident, the process of opening a bank account in China has been given below.
1. Choose a bank. In the next part, i.e., “Where?”
2. Gather the necessary documents. Mentioned above are the common types of documents needed by an individual to open a bank account in China as a non-resident.
3. Fill out an application form. The application form, in most cases, is bilingual (in English).
4. Wait for the processing period.
If the documents haven’t been produced properly, there is a good chance that your application might get denied.
That’s why, it is ideal to get familiar with the process and documentation by contacting the bank.
How to open a business bank account as a non-resident in China?
As I said previously, most people prefer China as one of the lucrative places for setting up a business.
As a business, it is always useful to have a business bank account to handle the finances of your company.
Given below is the procedure related to opening a business bank account as a non-resident in China.
1. Choose a bank.
2. Gather the necessary documents.
3. Fill out an application.
4. Submit the application.
5. Complete the necessary procedures.
As with any type of bank account, choosing a bank account is a crucial step in banking.
The documents usually necessitated for opening a business bank account in China as a non-resident have been listed below.
— Proof of business registration. This can include a valid business license, tax registration certificate, articles of association, enterprise code certificate, etc.
— List of directors. This list of names should be provided along with a company stamp.
— ID proof of legal representatives of the company such as relevant officers, directors, main shareholders, etc.
— Company structure and ownership details.
Based on the account type selected, you may also be required to provide details such as the purpose of the account.
Companies registered abroad or those acting as joint ventures should provide state approval as well.
Like always, it is wise to contact the branch and know the essential details related to a business bank account.
This would help in avoiding any potential mistakes that could lead to the denial of the application.
It is also possible to open an account while living abroad with some banks.
Such banks will accept certified copies of the necessary documents through an intermediary.
It may not be possible for opening a business account online as a non-resident. This is mainly because the documents are presented in person for the bank to continue with your application.
Now, for our final part, i.e., where should you prefer a non-resident bank account?
This completely depends on the types of features that an individual would prefer while choosing a bank account.
If you are a tourist, then I suggest opening a bank account with limited possibilities without any advanced features.
This is because tourists normally won’t be staying long enough to make the most of such advanced features.
Given below is a list of some banks that are deemed best for non-residents in China.
First of all, let us have a look at the “Big Four” banks, which also happen to be the largest banks in the world.
Bank of China
Bank of China offers non-resident accounts for foreign individuals and companies to manage their funds in China.
These accounts are specifically designed for non-residents who have income or expenses in China.
Bank of China also provides convenient services for international transactions.
China Construction Bank
China Construction Bank (CCB) offers non-resident accounts for foreigners who want to conduct business in China.
These accounts are designed to provide a convenient way to manage financial transactions in both foreign and local currencies.
Agricultural Bank of China
Agricultural Bank of China (ABC) offers non-resident accounts to foreign individuals and enterprises who want to conduct business in China.
These accounts are called Non-Resident RMB Accounts (NRA) and can be opened by non-residents.
Individuals need to provide valid identification documents and proof of legal sources of funds.
Industrial Bank of China
The Industrial Bank of China offers non-resident accounts for foreigners who wish to do business in China.
These accounts are offshore accounts and are tailored for non-residents to conduct international transactions.
Best banks for non-residents
Based on some research, I have found the following banks to be the best choices for individuals who want non-resident bank accounts.
— China Merchants Bank
— Industrial and Commercial Bank of China
— Bank of China
— China Construction Bank
— Agricultural Bank of China
These banks have experience in dealing with foreign customers and provide services in English and other languages.
These Chinese banks offer a wide range of banking services to non-residents, including:
— Non-resident accounts
— International transfers
— Foreign currency exchange
— Online banking
— Customer support
Additionally, the banks mentioned above have a wide network of branches throughout China.
This makes it easier for non-residents to access banking services from anywhere in the country.
It is important to note that each bank has its own requirements for opening a non-resident account.
Therefore, it is suggested to check with each bank regarding specific details and eligibility criteria.
This guide was specifically created for foreigners to understand the process of opening a bank account in China.
I have mentioned most of the important information accurately, which is subject to changes by the time you read it.
That being said, I strongly hope that the details provided in this article are helpful for you in finding the information.
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I specialize in expat financial solutions and have helped numerous clients in reaching their financial goals.
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