Living in China
Advice for British people living in China.
This guide sets out essential information for British nationals residing in China, including advice on health, education, benefits, residence requirements and more. We are unable to provide any guidance on general lifestyle enquiries apart from the information and links listed below.
Consular Assistance Network
The British Embassy in Beijing and British Consulates-General in Chongqing, Guangzhou and Shanghai have dedicated consular departments positioned to provide assistance to British nationals in China in times of need. See our information on what consulates can and cannot do for British nationals.
We advise that you make note of the contact details of your nearest consular department, should you or a British national you know require consular assistance while in China.
Please read our Travel advice for China and sign up for email alerts which will provide you with information, news and updates to ensure you stay safe, avoid problems, and make informed decisions when living or travelling in China.
Entry and Residence Requirements
Registering with us
If you live in China, you do not need to register with the British Embassy or Consulates-General. The Embassy no longer keeps a register of long-term British residents in China or British nationals who travel to China. We encourage British nationals in China to sign up for Travel Advice email alerts and to follow the UK in China on social media including Facebook and Twitter; WeChat users may search for ‘UK Consular’ to sign up for news alerts. There you will find information and news for British nationals in China.
If your child is born China and eligible for British Citizenship, you can register their birth, although there is no obligation to do so.
If a British national dies in China, please inform the nearest British Embassy or Consulate-General and read the guidance on how to register a death.
Registering with the Public Security Bureau
Foreign nationals in China must register their temporary residence with the Public Security Bureau (PSB) within 24 hours of arriving in the country. This is mandatory for any length of stay. If you are staying in a hotel, the hotel should be able to register you with the PSB. If you are residing somewhere other than a hotel (for example with family or friends), you must register yourself at the nearest police station within 24 hours of your arrival in China, and obtain a ‘Registration Form of Temporary Residence for Visitors’.
If you intend to stay in China longer than 180 days, China’s immigration rules require you to obtain a Residence Permit. All foreigners living in China must register with the Public Security Bureau (PSB) on arrival via their local police station. Resident permit holders should also be aware that you are required to re-register each time you return from a trip abroad.
If you need to change or extend your visa, renew your residence permit or if you have had a baby, you will need to contact the local Public Security Bureau office for the area where you live. If you obtain a new British passport, you will also need to register the new passport with the PSB. Foreign resident issues are handled by the Entry-Exit Administration of the PSB. English speaking services are available. Please note that we cannot contact the PSB on your behalf.
PSB contact details for Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzhou and Shanghai are as follows:
No.2 Andingmen Dongjie,
Telephone: +86 (0)10 8402 0101
Office hours: Monday to Saturday 8:30am-4:30pm
Telephone: +86 (0)23 6396 1944
Office hours: Monday to Saturday 9:00am-11:30am, 1:30pm-5:00pm
F/6 No.155 Jiefang South Road,
Telephone: +86 (0)20 9611 0110
Office hours: Monday to Friday 8:30am-12:00am, 2:00pm-5:30pm
Pudong New District,
Telephone: +86 (0)21 2895 1900
Office hours: Monday to Saturday 9:00am-5:00pm
Criminal Record Checks
China’s visa regulations state that proof of no criminal record is required for foreign nationals applying for a work or resident permit. To obtain a criminal record check for use in China, covering time spent in the UK you can:
- contact the UK police authorities nearest to where you lived at the time
- seek records via the Association of Chief Police Officers Criminal Records Office (ACRO)
- if you work or are seeking to work with children, you can also apply via ACRO for an International Child Protection Certificate (ICPC). The ICPC is a police check available to overseas schools and organisations with no formal link to the UK, who are recruiting British nationals (or any national who has spent time living in the UK) to work with children; note that you, not your employer, must apply for an ICPC - employers can ask you to provide an ICPC or can contact the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)
- check the information from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS - formerly the Criminal Records Bureau) to see if a DBS check is suitable for you or your employer’s requirements guide: Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks
The Chinese authorities may ask for this document to be “legalised”. The process of legalisation involves submitting a UK public document to the Legalisation Office and having this document counter-signed by the Chinese Embassy in London.
The British Embassy and Consulates-General in China have no authority to conduct criminal record checks and are unable to provide British nationals with proof of no criminal record. If you wish to obtain a criminal record clearance from the Chinese authorities, you will need to apply for a Certificate of No Criminal Record (Wu Fan Zui Ji Lu Zheng Ming 外国人无犯罪记录证明) from the Chinese authorities. The British Embassy and Consulates-General cannot provide such a certificate for your time in China.
- to apply for a certificate while you are resident in China, you should apply to your local Public Security Bureau (PSB)
- to obtain a certificate after you have left China you should contact the PSB local to you when you were in China; you can also try service companies which offer to help foreign residents
- in Shanghai’s district (including Shanghai Municipality and the provinces of Anhui, Jiangsu and Zhejiang), the local Notary Public is responsible for issuing such a certificate
- in Guangzhou and Shenzhen, the local Notary Public is responsible for issuing such a certificate
- in Chongqing’s district (including Chongqing Municipality and provinces Guizhou, Sichuan and Yunnan), the nearest police station (to be visited first) and the local notary public are both responsible for issuing such a certificate
- in Beijing, the Shuang Xiong Company offers this service for current or former residents of Beijing; the timeframe for this service is approximately six working days, and two copies are issued – one each Mandarin and English
Their contact details are:
No.3 Dongdajie (100m east of Public Security Bureau),
Dong Cheng District
Tel: +86 10 6402 7616 / 6402 7596; Fax: +86 10 6402 7596
You will need to present:
- your current passport
- your expired passport if it contains a previous Chinese visa for the period you wish the non criminal certificate to cover
- photocopy of the data page of your passport and Chinese visa(s)
- registration form of temporary residence
Or, after you have left Beijing:
- photocopy of your residence permit/visa at the time you were resident in China; or a certificate issued by your employer confirming the details of your employment, citizenship, sex and date of birth
- if you were a student, a certificate issued by the school’s overseas student office confirming details of your study, citizenship, sex and date of birth; or a photocopy of your diploma
- power of attorney signed by yourself - Shuang Xiong does not accept applications by post; The person you give the power of attorney to will have personally to submit the documents to the office
For further information on Criminal Background checks in the UK please visit the following page:
The British Embassy and Consulates-General do not deal with passport applications and cannot provide advice on this. For information on how to apply for your first passport or renew an existing passport, please visit the overseas passport section of this website.
Emergency travel documents
In certain situations, the British Embassy and Consulates-General can issue an emergency travel document, which enables British nationals abroad whose passport is lost, stolen, unavailable because it is being renewed or has been sent for visa application, to make a single or return journey to the UK or another country of residence, via a maximum of five transit countries.
Health & safety
Visit the Health section of our Travel Advice page for detailed advice on medical services, vaccinations and health risks in China.
If you are on a prescription for any form of medication you should ensure you have a supply of it available, or are able to obtain it once in China. Certain medicines may not be available in China (including major brands readily available in the UK), and may be prohibited from entering the country. You should consult your GP before travelling to China to learn of any alternatives which may be available.
If you are resident in China ensure you have taken out an appropriate health insurance policy. If you are a visitor, arrange comprehensive travel insurance before you travel. Make sure your policy covers the following:
- an air ambulance, in case you need to be flown home by this means
- full medical cover (medical bills can be expensive)
- repatriation of your remains in the event of death
- repatriation of your family in the event it is necessary for you to return home due to illness or injury
If you need emergency medical assistance whilst in China, dial 120 and ask for an ambulance. Ambulances can be very slow to arrive and may not have trained responders. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company as soon as possible to inform them of what has happened. Hospitals may seek immediate payment by cash or card before treatment is given.
Health and safety standards
Health and safety regulations are not always enforced to the standard of the UK. You should be aware of fire hazards and the location of fire exits where you stay.
If you live in China, ensure your home has both a working fire alarm and a working carbon monoxide alarm installed. There have been incidences of carbon monoxide poisoning due to incorrectly installed gas equipment, including one which caused the death of a British national.
List of hospitals in China
A list of hospitals & other medical service providers in China. Please note that inclusion in this list does not constitute official endorsement by the British Embassy or the UK government.
List of funeral directors in China
A list of funeral directors who may be able to assist in international repatriation, and funeral services in China. Please note that inclusion in this list does not constitute official endorsement by the British Embassy or the UK government.
Law and order
Visit the Safety and security section of our Travel Advice page for information on crime, transport, politics and other relevant issues.
See the Laws and local customs section of our Travel Advice page for an overview of what to expect regarding the law in China.
The Terrorism section of our Travel Advice page outlines current guidance regarding terrorist attacks in China.
Social ethics and traditions
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT)
Homosexuality and Chinese law: homosexuality is not illegal in China and, in general, homosexuals are not subject to harassment. Homosexuality in China was decriminalised in 1997. In 2001 it was removed from the official list of mental disorders. However, there are no specific laws in place to protect the rights of LGBT people.
There remain conservative elements in Chinese society for whom homosexuality is “taboo”, but it is becoming more and more accepted, particularly by young people in big cities.
The British Embassy Beijing has authority to conduct same-sex marriages in China under the law of England and Wales. It is not possible to convert a civil partnership to a marriage in China. Couples wishing to convert a civil partnership should consider travelling to the UK or another country where this is possible. More information about getting married overseas can be found at www.gov.uk/marriage-abroad. The Chinese government does not recognise same-sex marriage. Adoption of Chinese children by foreign individuals and same-sex couples is currently prohibited by the Chinese authorities.
If you travel to China to do business of any sort, it is important to be aware of the risks involved in doing so. Consult our guide Commercial disputes in China for information on where to find advice, and under which circumstances we are able to help you.
Foreign NGO Management Law
China’s new Foreign NGO Management Law will come into effect on 1 January 2017. All non-profit, non-government overseas organisations operating in China will have to register their offices or activities with the Ministry of Public Security (MPS).
This Law covers a broad range of organisations including charities, think tanks, trade associations, academic institutions, sports clubs and chambers of commerce. The law applies to organisations based in China and those who wish to carry out activities in China or fund Chinese NGOs. NGOs who do not register or report activities under the law will not be able to legally operate or donate funds to Chinese NGOs.
The law states that the activities of foreign schools, hospitals, natural science and engineering technology research institutions and academic organisations with Chinese equivalent organisations will not be included under the law. If however these organisations have non-profit, non-governmental status and work with other types of Chinese organisation then these activities will be covered by the law.
Organisations based in China who are not currently registered should apply for temporary activity permits if they wish to legally carry out activities prior to registering a representative office.
If you think you or your organisation may be affected by the law, you should consider doing the following:
- Read the Law and check the available information on the website of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security (MPS) including the online service portal, implementing guidelines and the list of approved professional supervisory organisations.
- Speak to a lawyer. We maintain a list of lawyers in China on our website.
Legal and other services
List of lawyers and interpreters
Lists of English-speaking lawyers, translators and interpreters who may be able to provide you with legal services and official translations in China. Please note that inclusion in this list does not constitute official endorsement by the British Embassy or the UK government.
Notarial and documentary services
Information on how to apply for notarial services available at the British Embassy and Consulates-General in China, such as official documents, certificates, and notes.
We have to charge a fee for some of the services provided by the British Embassy and Consulates-General in China, a full list of which can be found at Consular fees.
Guides we produce
We also produce guides for British nationals who need information about services that are not provided by our Consulates, but that you may find useful in specific circumstances.
- Marriage in China - including details of who you need to talk to and what documents you may require. Please find a country-specific guidance about Same Sex Marriage in China and Opposite Sex Marriage in China
- Adoption in China - including details of who you need to talk to and what documents you may require
- Giving birth in China - including details on Chinese nationality law and how to register your child with the Chinese authorities
- Bereavement in China – including information on support available and actions to be taken following the death of a British national
- British passports in China – including information on support available if you loss passport in China and visa expires before you get a new passport
- Nationality in China – including brief information nationality issues in China
- Medical treatment in China – including information on an overview of medical treatment in China and on support available from the FCO
If you live in China and are considering returning to live in the UK (for example on retirement) you should consider how you will support yourself, and how non-British members of your family may be able to accompany you. There is information available to help you make informed choices about living abroad and thinking about returning to the UK.
National Insurance: if you have not made full National Insurance (NI) contributions, you may not be eligible for state benefits or support. HM Revenue & Customs provide some useful information on returning to live in the UK for non-residents, including how to make NI contributions from abroad.
Your entitlement to free NHS treatment depends on length and purpose of your residence in the UK, not your nationality. You must be able to show UK residency to be eligible for free treatment, even if you are a British citizen. The Citizen’s Advice Bureau or NHS can provide further information.
If you wish to return to live in the UK with family members who do not hold British citizenship, they will need to meet the UK’s immigration requirements for settlement in the UK. See the UK Visa and Immigration page for more details.
For advice on claiming your state pension from abroad, please contact the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) international pension centre.
This information is provided as a general guide based upon information provided to the embassy by the relevant local authorities and may be subject to change at any time with little or no notice. The FCO and the British Embassy will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information. British nationals wishing to obtain any further information must contact the relevant local authority.
Published: 22 March 2013
Updated: 19 December 2016
- Criminal record checks updated.
- added Returning to the UK after living in China section
- First published.