China offers different type of visas for foreigners to enter and live in the country. It should not be big deal if you are entering with a work permit (Z or R visa) as your company HR and finance department will take care most of the arrangements. However, you should consider various aspects when you plan to enter and live in the country as a dependent or bring spouse/children as dependent with you.
Note: This article is based on my living experience and not an official guideline. Get in touch with your consular office for getting the applicable advise.
Dependents in China
In most cases, dependents are spouse or children of a working professional. Dependent visa could be for family reunion for short/long term (Q2 / Q1), family visit for short/long term (S2 / S1) or any other type. You can refer the official FAQ page in English and introduction page for Chinese visas to get more details about different types of visas in China. Make sure to apply for correct long term visa if you are planning to stay for more than 180 days.
1. Temporary Residence Certificate
Regardless of your visa type, registering in local police station is the first thing you should do after arriving in the country. The hotel guys will help in this as they are also liable if you live without registration. Once you get an apartment, you can ask the agent’s help for getting this done. Some communities allow you to register within the compound or give you a letter that you are residing there. You need to produce the letter to the nearby police station to get a temporary registration certificate.
The certificate is valid as per the end date of your house agreement or visa date whichever is earlier. If you have multiple entry visa and travelling out of country, make sure to register again when you enter in. This is a legal requirement required for all foreigners regardless of you are dependent or working.
2. Difficulty in Money Management
For opening a bank account in China, you need a work contract from a local organization. Since you will not have a work contract as a dependent, you will not be able to open an account with most banks. It is also not possible to use joint account with your spouse or colleague.
The problem comes when you want to use WeChat Pay or Alipay which needs a linked local bank card with real name verification. Unfortunately, you need one of these digital payment services for everything like transportation (bus or metro), local vendors payment and online ordering. In WeChat Pay, You can use foreign credit card or register with other source of income option. However, these things will not work and mostly WeChat will reject your payment setup. As a dependent, you need someone to send you a money (like Red Packet or Relative Cards in WeChat) and keep it in the app’s account balance to spend. This will be hassle if you are looking for financially free life.
3. Money Transfer to Foreign
Generally, the person who is working needs to provide tax paying certificate for transferring eligible amount. Since you are not earning money, you can’t transfer any amount to foreign country when you are a dependent in China. However, you can still do money transfer or payment from your WeChat Wallet or Alipay balance to any local person.
Note: You can do inward remittance of $50K per year regardless of whether you are a dependent or working professional.
4. Schooling for Dependent Kids
Local government systems will only accept Chinese name with ID card. It’s even more complicated as the education system works based on native place or stay location. This means foreigners name can’t be entered into the system and you can’t send your dependent son or daughter to a local Chinese school with free education. The best option is to check your embassy whether they offer any schooling. Otherwise, international schools will cost you 250K to 300K per year for primary school. You should consider this and negotiate with your company before arriving in China.
5. Language, Food and Internet Barriers
These stuffs will not be a problem for those going to work in a corporate environment, especially in management positions. However, dependents need to talk with local people, cook and use internet for social networking.
All social apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are blocked in China. You need a VPN connection to contact outside world. Since VPN apps are not available in App Stores, you should install the app and purchase a subscription before landing in China. Again, these apps will not work consistently and hence you may not use free internet as if you can do in US, Europe or in many other Asian countries. Directly calling from mobile phones is the most reliable option when you want to contact someone outside China.
Language will be a big constraint for purchasing food and other items. There are very few apps (like WeChat, Alipay, DiDi) offer English interface. You need a Chinese person’s help for all other stuffs like ordering food in Meituan or ordering an item from Taobao. Even you can order the items online on your own, most of the time the delivery guy will call you and you should be able to answer in Chinese. For example, the food delivery guy might have kept the items outside your apartment or the taxi driver might be waiting around the corner and asking you to come over. You should have a free mind to live with these barriers.
If you travelled to US or Europe as a dependent before, then do not imagine the same lifestyle in China. You will be surprised with the infrastructure and facilities; however, they will not be useful without the language. Most importantly, you will be restricted financially without bank account and isolated from family/friends with no social networking apps. As mentioned, working people will have different environment with office colleagues, outing with team, etc. As a dependent (or with dependent kid), make sure to prepare beforehand and arrive in China with free mind to enjoy the culture.
No, opening bank account needs to have valid work permit and contract from a local organization.
In summary – No. Though joint accounts are allowed in some banks like Bank of China, both parties should be from same country and it will be fixed deposit account without bankcard. Learn more on Bank of China site here.
If you have a student visa with more than a year of validity, most banks allow you to open an account. If you are studying in a school as a dependent, you can’t open an account as mentioned above.
No, outwards remittance needs personal income tax pay slip. So, you will not be able to send as you are not earning money in China.
Possible, but most companies will not do this.