Advice for British people living in China.
This guide sets out essential information for British national 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. See our information on what consulates can and cannot do for British nationals.
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. We encourage British nationals in China to sign up for Travel Advice e-mail alerts and to follow the UK in China on social media including Facebook and Twitter. Here you will find information and news for British nationals in China.
If you have a child in China and your child is eligible for British Citizenship, you can register the birth of your child with us, but it is not a legal requirement.
If a British national dies in China, please inform the nearest British Embassy or Consulate-General.
Registering with the Public Security Bureau
If you intend to stay in China longer than 180 days, China’s immigration rules mean you will need to obtain a Residence Permit. Every foreigner living in China has to register with the Public Security Bureau (PSB) via you local police station on arrival, for tourists hotels normally complete the registration process for you. 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) 10 8402 0101
Office hours: Monday to Saturday 8:30am-4:30pm.
Telephone: (+86) 23 63961944
Office hours: Monday to Saturday 9:00am-11:30am, 1:30pm-5:00pm.
F6 No.155 Jiefang South Road,
Telephone: (+86) 20 96110110
Office hours: Monday to Friday 8:30am-12:00am, 2:00pm-5:30pm.
Pudong New District,
Telephone: (+86) 21 28951900
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, or Consulate Generals, 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 / 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 local PSB; however you can also try service companies that offer to help foreign residents
- in Shanghai’s district (Including municipality of Shanghai, provinces of Jiangsu, Anhui 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 municipality of Chongqing, provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou), 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; timeframe for this service is approximately 6 working days and two copies are issued - 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:
Social ethics and traditions
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT)
Homosexuality and Chinese law: In China, homosexuality is no longer illegal and, in general, homosexuals are not subject to harassment. Homosexuality in China was decriminalised in 1997. In 2001 homosexuality 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 is becoming more and more accepted, particularly by young people in big cities.
Civil partnership registrations/ceremonies: The British Embassy/Consulates-General in China are currently unable to perform civil partnership registrations as we have not been authorised by the Chinese government to do so. Couples wishing to formally register their relationship should consider travel to the UK or countries whose laws recognise such registrations. Adoptions by foreign same-sex couples or individuals of Chinese children is currently prohibited by the Chinese authorities.
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, remember 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.
Healthcare: 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.
Visas: 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.
State Pension: 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 and is 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.