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What You Need to Know About Moving Money In and Out of China

Key Takeaways

1. China has very strict anti-money-laundering laws, which can make it complicated for individuals who want to send money overseas.

2. For local Chinese people, there is a USD $50,000 annual limit on money transferred outside of Mainland China. For foreigners working in China, the limit on funds is based on how much legal, taxable income you have received in China.

3. International bank transfers are the safest option for sending money between China and another country; however, there are alternative P2P methods for moving money in and out of China.

4. Bringing money into China is relatively simple; much of the time, you can use your foreign card to withdraw cash at ATMs, or arrange international transfers directly to your Chinese bank account with little hassle.

Introduction

China has very strict rules related to taking money in and out of the country. These rules regulate the actions of individuals who are attempting to move money in and out of China.

There are different rules for local residents and foreigners.

It is vital to stay compliant with these rules to avoid sanctions or other adverse legal consequences.

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Use of Cash in China

Many vendors in China readily accept other forms of payment, such as cards or mobile payment.

Increasingly across the world, cash is used less and less. It is seen as being riskier, subject to theft and destruction. Although it is illegal for businesses to refuse cash, the use of cash is particularly less used in urban areas in China. 

There are also times when technology fails or a small vendor may not be set up to accept other forms of payment when cash must be used. 

Move Money In and Out of China – Rules and Restrictions

There are a variety of restrictions regarding the amount of money you can bring into the country, as well as how much you can take out of it.

Generally, travelers can take the equivalent of $5,000 US of foreign currency out of the country. They can take local currency of 20,000 RMB in or out of China.

This limit is applicable to local residents and foreigners. This is the general allowed amount and does not require any additional action. This amount does not need to be declared with customs.

Travelers can sometimes take out more than this designated amount, but this will require additional steps.

For cash transactions up to the limit of $10,000 US, you will need a special permit that provides you with permission to bring in or take out the money from the country. A bank issues this permit.

If your transaction involves more than $10,000 US, you will need to obtain a special warrant from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange.

Customs will examine any declaration record of foreign currency when a person enters China before it authorizes admission to the country.

Because these regulations can be complicated, many people rely on service providers of strategic consulting services to help them remain compliant with these rules.

There are additional limits if people quickly exit China. Individuals who exit the country twice within fifteen days of each other are subject to a cap for foreign currency of USD $1,000. If the traveler leaves China twice in the same day, the cap drops to USD $500. 

Limits that Apply to Cash Withdrawals from Bank Cards

Foreigners must also be aware of rules regarding the move of money in and out of China from their bank cards.

Foreign currency restrictions have become more heightened in recent years, including when a Chinese bank card is used.

The State Administration of Foreign Exchange limits the amount of overseas ATM withdrawals at 100,000 RMB per person per year. These restrictions were imposed to prevent the nefarious use of cash, including funding terrorist activity, money laundering and evading taxes.

If a person makes withdrawals that exceed this annual cap, his or her overseas withdrawals can be suspended for the rest of the year, and card service could be terminated. This change does not affect the daily limit of withdrawals. 

Purchasing Currency in China

You may wish to buy currency while in China. However, it is important to know that there are different rules for foreigners and locals

Rules for Non-Nationals with a Work Visa

Non-nationals who have a work visa are permitted to purchase a greater value of foreign currency than tourists. These individuals are permitted to purchase up to $500 US cash in foreign currency each day at the bank. However, in practice non-nationals who want to purchase cash valued at $500 US can only do so 4-5 times per month maximum. As of 2022, most banks to not have foreign cash reserves on-site.

To complete the transaction, they must meet several conditions, including the following:

  • The non-national has a visa that allows him or her to legally work in China.
  • The non-national must provide documented proof of where their money came from, like working for a Chinese employer

The non-national will also need to bring relevant documents that show their identification and eligibility for the transaction, including the following:

  • Valid identification card
  • Passport
  • List of income issued by the company
  • Tax bill
  • Employment contract

Additionally, there may be further restrictions depending on which country the non-national is traveling to. The destination country may have regulations about how much cash can be brought into it that may be lower than the amount that China allows to leave the country. 

Rules for Chinese Nationals

Chinese nationals are subject to a cap of purchasing up to $50,000 US in foreign currency at financial institutions each year.

As long as the amount of a daily withdrawal is less than $10,000 US, you can finalize this transaction at the local bank. However, if the amount exceeds this amount, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange finalizes the transaction. 

Performing International Transfers in China

Some individuals may prefer to complete an international transfer in or out of China instead of using cash.

There are differences for the procedures and regulations regarding local residents and foreigners.

International Transfer Rules for Non-Nationals 

The legal income that a worker has earned in China that is in their account can be transferred overseas without any imposing limitations.

However, the foreign national will have to provide proof that the source of the money is legal and legally obtained through income in China.

International Transfer Rules for Chinese Nationals

Chinese nationals can make an international transfer up to a daily limit of $50,000 US. This transaction can be finalized at the local bank.

However, if the transaction exceeds this amount, the Chinese national is required to present proof of current expenditures. 

Video: How to Transfer Money Out of China [2021]

Alternative Options for Transferring Money In and Out of China

There are also several other ways to move money out of China, although they are not always the safest or most preferred ways. As of this writing, using the methods below are not illegal to use; however, you should always make sure that the money you earn and transfer has been earned legally and in full compliance with tax laws in China and your destination country.

1. Cash

Covered above in detail for the Chinese side, one way to move money in and out of China is by carrying physical cash with you to your destination country. Of course, the comes with a certain amount of risk, and not everyone would be comfortable carrying large amounts of cash.

For those who are comfortable holding large amounts of cash, there are still risks, mostly coming from regulations around how much cash you are permitted to carry by customs regulations. The amount depends on the country. For example, individuals or groups of travelers entering the United States must declare any amount over USD $10,000. In China, any individual carrying more than USD $5,000 worth of foreign currency (or CNY 20,000) in or out of China must declare that amount to customs.

Please check the most up-to-date customs regulations before your departure to ensure smooth travel.

In terms of acquiring foreign cash, individuals can do so at a bank. It’s better to call ahead to set an appointment for purchasing cash, or to purchase it ahead of time using the bank’s official APP. This will save you time if the bank happens to be out of foreign cash to purchase.

2. Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Platforms

Peer-to-peer money transfer tech solutions have gotten more popular in recent years. While most of the popular Western platforms are banned in China, some are still permitted. 

1. Paypal

  • PayPal is a well-known financial tool for making online payments. While it is not possible to add your Chinese card to your international PayPal account, it is possible to make a Chinese Paypal account with your Chinese bank card. You can then transfer money between your international and Chinese PayPal accounts. Note the fees for using PayPal are high, and there may be additional IRS reporting requirements on the funds you receive if your PayPal account is in the US. 

2. Swapsy

  • Swapsy is a P2P money transfer startup (est. 2017) developed by international Chinese students in California who wanted an easier, more affordable way to transfer USD – CNY for their frequent trips between the two countries. The platform matches you to someone who wants to purchase the currency you want to sell: if you want to buy USD, then you can search the dashboard for a similar amount. After selecting the swap you want to make, you follow the platform instructions, send the amount in CNY via WeChat or Alipay, and receive USD via PayPal or Zelle in your US bank account within 2 business days. The fees for Swapsy are about half that of PayPal (25% as much for students).
  • For such “Swapping” platforms, always pay attention to the law and follow the guidance of the government where you are based. At the time of writing, there are no laws against Swapsy or similar platforms; however, these platforms are also not encouraged by the national government of China. While we refrain from giving financial advice in our blog, we recommend following all laws in your country of residence with an abundance of caution.

3. Gold, silver, and Precious Metals

  • Gold and precious metals are a possible (if inconvenient) method for moving money in and out of China. Physical gold can often be purchased in China in jewelry shops or in banks by both locals and foreign nationals.
  • If you import or bring with you any amount of gold to China, be sure to declare it at customs and keep a copy of the receipt/record. While there are no laws on how much gold, silver, and precious metals you can bring into China, there are strict customs rules about how much you are permitted to take out. Having documentation about how much you brought in with you will be essential to getting it out when you choose to leave. 
  • If you chose to carry gold, silver, and precious metals out of China with you, pay attention to customs laws. Generally, if your precious metal items are less than 50g (2 ounces), they do not need to be declared. Please check the most up-to-date customs regulations before your departure to ensure smooth travel.
  • Finally, if you do decide to travel with precious metals, be sure to keep all receipts from those purchases for the exit check. 

4. What About Cryptocurrency?

  • Cryptocurrency is strictly forbidden in China. This is not a method for moving money in and out of China.

Seek Assistance for Help Understanding Move Money In and Out of China Rules

As you can see, the rules related to moving money in and out of China can be complicated and specific to your immigration status and other factors.

It is important to remain compliant with these rules to avoid unintended consequences.

When you trust your business to Horizons, we can help you with every aspect related to compliance and financial regulations.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your business.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

The most common methods of moving money out of China include:

  • International wire transfer to a banking institution abroad using a bank which falls under Chinese banking regulations
  • Taking physical cash upon departure
  • Taking physical goods such a precious metals upon departure
  • Taking cash out using an ATM abroad

Regulations in China and in receiving country apply to each of the above methods. Be sure to know and follow all applicable laws when engaging in international money transfer.

Note that cryptocurrency is strictly forbidden in China.

The most common methods for bringing money into China include:

  • International wire transfer
  • Using a foreign card to withdraw cash at an ATM in China
  • Paying directly with foreign card 
  • Using local mobile payment options that are tied to a foreign card
  • Bringing physical cash upon arrival and transferring/depositing it at the bank

Regulations apply to the above methods, but in general it is easier to bring money to China than to take money out.

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