Getting Cash Money RMB Out of China

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Op-Ed Commentary: Chris Devonshire-Ellis

Nov. 11 – An issue that frequently crops up at this time of year is the question of getting earned income out of China. As many expatriates look to leave to go home for Christmas, those piles of RMB that have been stacking up nicely begin to look mouth-watering in terms of repatriating the readies. But here comes a catch – for expatriates legitimately employed in China, and paying tax here, there is not a problem. But for those working in China’s grey economy – there is. Let me explain.

China employs strict currency regulations that are designed to prevent large amounts of currency moving out of the country. Your small amount may not seem like a huge deal, but if everyone moved out a few thousand dollars, it would impact upon China’s economy. The movement of illicit cash both into and out of China is known as “hot money” and it can seriously damage a country’s financial stability if not regulated. China controls and monitors the amounts of money coming into and out of the country through a mechanism known as SAFE – The State Administration of Foreign Exchange. In order to legitimately take money out of China (typically wire transfer), an application needs to be made to SAFE (your bank would normally assist with this procedure) with proof of income taxes paid in China, and details of the overseas bank account the funds are to be wired to. The onus is on the applicant therefore to demonstrate the money was legitimately earned and taxes have been paid on it. If so, the money is permitted to be repatriated and there is no daily or annual ceiling limiting the amount an individual can transfer. This should not be a problem for expatriates in China with proper working contracts, visas and tax registrations.

However, many expats in China fall into a different category. Either by design or default (Chinese employers sometimes take advantage and do not fully explain this issue), there are expatriates in China who are not properly registered with the authorities, are not paying taxes, and who have nonetheless acquired a bundle of RMB. Here, there is a problem. Firstly, such individuals cannot meet the SAFE requirements, and this becomes a block. Chinese banks will not allow you to exchange and wire overseas any amount over the RMB equivalent of US$500 for you without SAFE approval, and if there is no tax paid receipts (employers should provide this) or no work permit or visa, this route is barred.

It should be noted, though, that foreign nationals can transfer any amount under or equal to the equivalent of US$500 once per day without providing proof that the money was legitimately earned or that taxes have been paid on it. Chinese nationals are able to transfer the equivalent of US$2,000 per day into a foreign bank account, however Chinese nationals face a US$50,000 annual ceiling when exchanging RMB into foreign currencies while foreign nationals do not face such restrictions.

Under these circumstances, the only practical ways to solve this are as follows:

  1. If you thought your employer has misled you over your status, you may have a case. In which case, you’ll need to find a local friendly lawyer to assist. However this may take time to resolve.
  2. China does permit the traveling outside of China with up to RMB20,000 or equivalent. You may pack up to this amount and be safe (any more and you face confiscation of all the money if caught). The problem with this is that RMB is not freely exchangeable, and it may be hard to convert it when back home. Hong Kong does provide such facilities – although be warned – the exchange rate issue will be a killer.
  3. If more than RMB20,000, you may divide the total up among friends to limit the amount each carries. But make sure they’re good friends!
  4. If you have a Chinese friend that you trust, you can transfer the money to their Chinese bank account and they can wire a maximum of US$2,000 per day to your overseas bank account. You can also do this yourself, but foreign nationals are limited to US$500 per day.
  5. If you intend to return to China, deposit the money into a bank and withdraw up to the legal amount each time you leave.
  6. Convert your RMB into a saleable asset that you can convert to cash back home. China does limit the amount of goods value being exported from the country, but are less likely to question personal belongings. Buying and shipping items from a reputable Chinese fine art dealer may be a solution.
  7. Next time, be aware that working in China without paying tax is illegal. It can impact on even realizing the money earned. If in doubt, get a friendly lawyer to look at your employment contract terms and ensure that hard won income can be readily – and legally – repatriated.

In terms of item (6), I can relate a recent anecdote. Admiring a hugely expensive diamond necklace in a Chinese jewelry store recently, I enquired about who was going to be lucky enough to wear it. The carefully worded reply was “Oh Sir! This necklace will never be worn.”

Dezan Shira & Associates can review employment contracts and provide advice on their legalities and impact on expatriate employees. Please contact the practice at, or visit the firm’s web site at

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103 thoughts on “Getting Cash Money RMB Out of China

    Eddy says:

    Note: the USD 50k/year is both for Chinese as foreign nationals. What I do is to change the RMB to Euros and take it cash in my suitcase to Europe. The tax bureau knows I work in China for the past 7 years, and they even send me a letter that I dont need to declare taxes anymore in Holland. So if they open the suitcase and discover the cash, its easily explained that its from the job in China; no pobmens there.
    I advice not to take too much at a time, e.g. Euro 10.000 / flight and deposit it in your home-bank. If you want to exchange e.g. RMB in the value of USD 200k, just take 3 friends or 3 of your employees to the bank and you can easily x it into Euro or USD!

    Ah Suei Yeo Christensen says:

    My husband works in China and very often I travel here to visit him. I have a personal account with a local bank, for the convenience of having travelling money. Why Chinese government impose a USD50K p.a. ceiling for transfers into the account?

    @Eddy – You’re taking a risk – the maximum amount of cash you;re allowed to take either in or out of China is the equivalent of slightly less than USD3,000; anymore than that and you’re caught, you face having it confiscated as well as potentially being fined.

    @Ah Suei Yeo Christensen – China has currency movement restrictions in place, and as there are a lot of Chinese, the impact of overseas relatives bringing money in and out can disrupt the economy. It’s known as ‘hot money’ and is considered an unreliable assets as it can be injected into and withdrawn from China at any time. Hence the restrictions. I agree, with relatives in China living to a certain standard (I have an elderly Grandmother living here, she needs more than USD50k per annum in living expenses) it is a nuisance. But this figure is high enough not to affect most Chinese nationals. Thanks – Chris

    Sarah says:

    I have a proper contract and can show that I have paid the appropriate taxes. How much foreign currency am I allowed to carry out of China and what paperwork do I need to complete?

    Phil says:

    Can you help please?

    I am a foreigner living, working (legally), and paying taxes in China. I am employed by a Singapore Company, and seconded to our strategic partner in China. My company cannot pay me in RMB, and can only pay me in a Foreign Currency (USD or AUD). They have no problems in sending foreign currency into my Citibank Account, but I am restricted to changing USD50K per year. I plan to live here for the next 10 years, buy a car, and buy a house.

    I am told that I will need to apply to SAFE to get permission to exchange any additional USD to RMB, but I cannot find what documents are needed and what the process is? Can you please guide me to these English Regulations or a Guide?

    Also, if I keep USD in my Citibank account in China, when I eventually leave will I be able to transfer these funds to another country in USD?

    Thanks for your help.

    @Phil – you have numerous issues here, not least an underlying China tax situation in addition to the repatriation matters you raise. You need specific advice – can you please email us at stating where you are in China and our pertinent regional office will be in touch. Thanks – Chris

    Phil says:

    Many thanks. I sent an e-mail, but am still waiting to hear back from your people. I am based in Tianjin. Can you give me the contact for someone I can speak to here – that speaks good English?


    Jim says:

    Hi. Interesting comments. Our situation is a bit different. As a foreignor based in China, my expense reports are reimbursed in rmb into my Bank of China account. I now find out that the expense reimbursments can not be transferred out of China because it is not salary and it is not taxed. The bank dosen’t know what to make of it and I’m stuck with a great deal of money in the bank that I need to transfer to NY. What to do??

    Eric says:

    How about precious metals? I see the banks selling gold and silver bullion — I assume this stuff is legit? I also assume you’ll pay some kind of premium so it may be a death of a thousand cuts… Anyone have any experience with this?

    chakri says:

    i am studing in china i am having internet banking account ican do it.

    Roger says:

    You need to transfer it to a Chinese friend to transfer abroad, its so quick and easy
    Filling in all the papers is just too mafan

    Transferring precious metals and so on – if you get caught, you’ll have it confiscated. Be careful with these ideas. – Chris
    Phil :

    Fantastic ideas…I like the idea of purchasing gold/silver bullion. Better than converting it to USD, haha.

    Russ says:


    Thanks very much for this informative article. I am planning to purchase a house in Kenya with taxed income RMB I have earned in China.

    Is getting money back into the country also relatively easy?

    Also, do you know any further details about SAFE?



    Hi Russ, Provided you have paid tax in China on your income (I assume this is salary) then there is no problem in getting it out of China, although there are procedures with SAFE to follow. In terms of Kenya, you’d need to ask a local tax / investment professional there about inbound investment into that country. We do have a partner firm in Nairobi, let me know if you need their contect or assistance with SAFE procedures. You can email me directly:
    Best wishes

    arn says:

    i use to transfer to philippines when encounter large amount, because its so hassle to transfer in small amount and have to do many times also they have limit in china. and i always have someone to arrange for me when large amount. and only have to paid small fee. but atleast safe.

    joni avery says:

    I am having tremendous problems trying to get legitimately earned salary out of China
    I foolishly have let it build up (like the balance of 2 years salary) because I have not experienced this problem when repatriating my salary before. The school I work for has said it has paid the tax – but the tax certificates now reside at the education department and cannot be accessed. The bank will not accept this – or the letters from the school stating this, plus my all my official documentations that I currently work for the school etc. I’ve and others are spending so much time doing whatever the bank wants – but after a week of this running around I am totally frustrated. Arn you mention an agent who can assist for a fee. Can you give more details please.

    S.SRIDHAR says:

    I am indian and would like to visit china for a 8 days business Visit. I am first time traveling to abroad.. how to exchange my indian money to china money. I have to book the ticket as I got visa today only.I have to move with in another 3 to 4 days from india.Let me know the procedure, how to exchange my money and procedure of return back the remaining money while coming back from tour. how much money i can take while going to china.

    @Joni: You should have been given your own copy of the tax paid receipt in your name by the school – where is it? You should ask for this, it is their legal duty to give it to you. If they haven’t, or won’t, I suspect they are messing you about and possibly did not pay your tax or contribitions. In which case, you’ll need to take further action.
    @Sridhar, You can exchange money at any Chinese bank although I recommend you bring USD rather than Rupees. Yoir ATM card will also work in China. If you change at the bank they will give youa receipt, keep this and if you don’t spend it all when you leave give them the receipt and they’ll return your money in the original currency. – Chris

    Lee Nelson says:

    Hi all, help please would be very greatful. My gf is in china at the moment and tried to take 10k in cash out of china. She got stopped at the customs and took to the local police station. She has now been allows out and they have given her 1k back. She has to wait for the appeal to go through. Does anyone please know how long this takes as I was hoping to get her back fri christmas.

    Thanks Nelson

    Paul says:

    In 2002 I sent some money to my girlfriend working in HK to put in a gold mine mutual fund. The small sum has turned into a 7 figure balance. She is returning to HK in February to bring back 400k to Canada. After reading about the problems bringing cash out of China I wonder how best for her to get the invested amount back to Canada. Can you please advise me how best to do this?

    Bob J says:

    I was under the impression (even from one of your previous articles I believe) that one could take 20k RMB AND US$5k in cash for each overseas trip. Is this not the case?


    @Paul: Hong Kong has free movement of currency, and your/her bank should be able to arrange this.

    @Bob J: Yes you can take out RMB20,000 AND up to USD5,000 (or equivalent) in foreign currency:

    Best wishes

    Marco says:

    I have more than 5000USD legally earned money which I want to take out of China. I know I have to declare that in the airport. Do you know if it is enough for the customs declaration if I bring them certificates of salary and taxation in China?

    Armina says:

    Hi Chris,
    I have worked for five years in a organisation engaged in bilateral cooperation with the Chinese government. I was employed on a local consultancy contract and was issued a foreign expert certificate plus a working visa (did not hold any diplomatic nor service passport).The MoU between the two governments stipulated that foreign employees should not be paying individual income tax in China, thus my colleagues and I never did. In the beginning we made enquries to the local Chinese tax bureau but no-one seemed to have a straight answer. In addition, out of five years, for three years I had been paying the individual income tax back to my own government in the EU. My salary was in EUR currency transferred from my Embassy’s bank account in China (and sometimes HK) to my Chinese bank account.
    I have saved the earnings as long-term deposit in China. Now I am considering to repatriate the EUR savings back to the EU.
    Will I be allowed to transfer this amount of EUR considering the above tax situation? Will the SAFE ask me for tax payment proof? If so can a copy of the MOU be used as proof? How about the proofs of the taxes already paid to my own government?
    Thank you.

    @Marco – You may have issues at the airport. Why not transfer it out using a bank? It’s far easier than carrying wads of USD bills about, and safer. And yes, if you have all the tax paid certificates its not a problem;
    @Armina – You need professional advice to look into this, it is unclear what you mean by an “MOU” and yes, I can well imagine the China tax authorities and banks not understanding this either. I think you need to contact us at to sort this out.
    Best wishes – Chris

    ricky says:


    I am a foreigner ,I have brought home in china .
    if in future i will sale my home to transfer those few million Rmb from china to hongkong.
    any sugestion ,ofcourse by legal ways.

    @Ricky – there is no capital gains tax in China – yet. I suggest discussing the matter with our Hong Kong office – to work out getting the proceeds from the sale of the property in China back to Hong Kong in the most efficient manner. Please email to for advise on the subject.
    Best regards;

    Andy says:


    I’m english, live work pay tax etc all in uk, I married a Chinese girl whose chinese national parents want to send her the funds for a house approx 200k gbp, what’s the best method for them to use?

    @Andy – China operates a closed capital account and limits the flows of RMB out of the country. Your inlaws need to talk to an international banker in China, someone like HSBC or StanChart. However it is not easy as China severely limits the amounts that can leave the country. I’m sorry but I do not expect to see a solution to this any time soon. But maybe the bankers can assist. It’s really not our field of expertise. – Chris

    Reza says:

    Hi i live in Taiwan as a foreigner,
    Ii came back from Beijing and bring back some RMB (the amount is RMB 10,000+ ). I want to exchange it to NTD and deposit it in my Bank account in Standard Chartered Taiwan. When I went to Standard Chartered branch in Taipei this afternoon, they said i can’t exchange it to NTD unless i can provide an evidence that i bought RMB from Taiwan. This is the problem, the RMB I have is originally from China and they cannot accept it.

    I know that RMB is “restricted currency” but i didn’t know this is going to be a problem once I’m in Taiwan. Before, i intended to transfer the money from my bank account in Beijing to Standard Chartered in Taiwan but the transferring is failed for unknown reason. Because I don’t plan to go back to China anymore, i just withdrew all the money inside and hoped i can deposit it in Taiwan.

    @Reza. I suggest next time you use a bank in China to transfer it for you. They do provide such services. Carrying large amounts of cash about in suitaces across borders is always a bad idea, and you should have checked the Taiwanese regulations concerning RMB before you travelled. It’s your money – be more responsible next time.
    I guess you’ll have to find some Taiwanese businessman who reguarly travels to China to exchange it for you. – Chris

    Christina says:

    Hi Chris,

    I am currently trying to transfer 300k GBP out of China, in order to make an investment into the UK stock market.

    What would be the best solution to transfer money out? (In a very short time)
    If necessary, I can try to set up an account in HK. So, will that solve the problem?


    @Christina: No, I’m afraid that won’t solve the problem. Banks in China and Hong Kong have institutional barriers between them and you will need to show you paid tax on that money before you can transfer it out, even to Hong Kong. You need to talk with your bank in China over the admin procedures required to do so. – Chris

    Roger says:

    Hi Chris,

    would there be issues to repatriate money from funds originating from property sales in China, if I couldn’t prove that the funds used during the original purchase of the property were properly taxed in the first place?

    Thanks for the info and cheers,


    @Roger – That’s a tricky one. Yes, you could face issues. You’ll need help with this, please email to for assistance, we can have someone look at the matter for you and advise on your position (and what to do about it).
    Best wishes

    RG says:

    After 4 months working I will be leaving China. I have approximately 40000RMB I’d like to get to my UK bank account somehow.
    The problem is that my (soon to be former) company never got me the correct visas and I spent 2 months on a tourist visa and then 2 months on a business visa. They tell me that they can provide tax receipts for me but there is no residence permit or working permit I can show.
    Can you advise me if I can convert and transfer the money? I don’t want to go the bank and raise some red flags that ends up with me losing my cash and getting deported. The company has been highly unhelpful.

    @RG: You should be able to repatriate the money with just the tax paid receipts, that’s all your bank will normally ask for. If you have issues drop us an email to letting us know where you are in China and we’ll have our pertinent local office assist.
    Best regards – Chris

    Michael says:

    Hi Chris,

    When you make the request at the bank to transfer money overseas, is the proof of paid income tax essential? or is the labor contract and work permit enough to suffice?

    Please advise.


    anjeli mehta says: parents just transferred usd into my bank accnt in china.. but after one week it is still in remit.. any help?

    @Michael: You have to show the tax paid receipt to the bank. It’ll be in your name. Otherwise they will not allow you to convert your RMB earned in China to the foreign currency you specify or permit you to transfer it out of China. – Chris

    @Anjeli – it can take time to transfer funds and banks are horrible about this. I find it personally unbelievable that with todays speed of internet and so on banks have to take so long. They don’t of course, they are just using your money for free while it is in transit. Its a disgrace that they are able to do that without permission.

    Anyway, you should normally allow at least five working days for transfers in and out of China. Yours may be taking longer because China just had three days holiday. I guess you’ll just have to be patient. – Chris

    Michael says:

    Hi Chris,

    What documents do Chinese nationals need to provide to transfer money overseas?

    @Michael; The documents vary slightly from bank to bank and even province. However they all basically require the same thing: approval from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, and proof of taxes paid on the amount. You’ll need to confirm with your bank over the procedures they will need to go through, some banks are more helpful (HSBC for example) than others (Provincial Chinese banks, etc) depending upon how used to the systematic processes they are.
    Best regards;

    Ben says:

    My anecdote from today: not having tax receipts (as paid the maximum 4800RMB before income tax applies) I didn’t have the required documents to transfer my yearly earnings (48,000RMB) from my Bank of China account to the UK. I managed it by transferring the money to my Chinese girlfriend’s BoC account, then she transferred it. She had to show her ID and business card. I was surprised she could do this as I’d read she could only transfer a maximum $2000 per day.

    @Ben: Chinese nationals can transfer the equivilent of up to USD50,000 per annum out of China. The amounts in which that can be done are irrelevant – but usually tax paid receipts are required. She probably provided these, some other proof of legitimate earnings, or has a friend in the bank. – Chris

    amer says:

    What exactly is the tax receipts document required to be shown to the bank for remitting money. I only get pay slip from my company which shows that tax has been deducted from my salary. I checked with the HR and they said they dont know anything about tax receipts. Will the salary slip work when remitting money. I have valid work visa and residence permit.

    @Amer – if your employer have been deducting tax from your salary they should have been paying it for you. This means they should have tax paid receipts in your name. If they haven’t or can’t give them to you it suggests something is wrong. You should demand your tax paid receipts. If they’ve paid it they must have the receipts. – Chris

    Ken Jones says:

    Chris —

    Is this tax we’re talking about here the responsibility of the employer to deduct, or the employee to submit somewhere/somehow? My teacher’s contract calls for “XXXXRMB per month before taxes.” … but I’ve never seen anything /heard of /paid anything personally. Am I to presume that the school staff finance office will know about this subject? Hah! I’m not sure about that at all, but now it looks like I must instruct them…which is not attractive to me at all.
    All I want to do is go home after three years with the money I was paid. Dang.

    @Ken – it is the individuals responsibility to pay their individual income tax.
    Regrettably what often happens – and especially in many schools and some other Chinese companies – is that they never actually deduct and pay your tax. Then you’re screwed.
    Your schools finance dept. should be able to advise if you’ve been paying IIT. Or they may regard that as an embarrassing issue and try to fudge a response.
    The deal is this: If they’ve been deducting your IIT they should be able to provide you with tax paid receipts in your name. If they haven’t, they won’t.

    They have you by the balls here because if you haven’t been paying IIT that’s illegal and ultimately your problem, so if you complain you’ll get fined. Unless you go to see a local lawyer about it.

    It is a common problem in China I’m afraid. English teachers get abused because they are unfamiliar with China’s tax structures and they just don’t pay that as they should be doing. – Chris

    gary skaggs says:

    Hello, can a US citizen transfer income earned in Singapore as an individual or a corporation out of the country as it is earned without limitations? The funds will be in Citibank and BNP. Thanks. Gary Skaggs

    @Gary – I’m not sure I quite understand your question as this thread is about money earned in China. I have emailed you separately. – Chris

    Jonathsan says:

    I am starting work in China soon and I believe the company will be legit (I haven’t been there yet). Anyway, I have to pay student loans amounting to about $300 per month. I only am concerned with sending enough money to keep up with those. Basically it sounds as if I could do this without dealing with tax receipts and stuff. I will be paid in RMB and wish to convert about 300USD and wire it home each month.

    Just to be clear, I can convert and wire/send $500 USD per day from china with only my passport? (no tax receipts etc) It’s not that I won’t have them I just figured it would be simpler.

    Ken Jones says:

    Yes, you can buy $500 USD per day from your bank in person every day. I do it now. There are some hoops to jump through, but not too many. Depending on the bank, you might not find it easy to express yourself. Not all bank clerks are brave and venturesome when it comes to speaking a foreign language (English is a foreign language–and you are a foreigner) but a smile and a pleasant tone of voice always helps. You will need your passport (and I just use my bank card). I use ICBC and have no problems. The clerk will hand you a form printed in Chinese. At my bank, they use a pen to check seven spots for me to fill in. I always only do six of them. Name, local phone number, passport number, where you’re going to be using the money (I’ve said China and USA at various times and it doesn’t change anything), what currency you want to buy (USD, or US$) and the amount in numbers. Sign your name at the bottom. What I never fill in is the largest space on the form where I have eighteen or so possible reasons for wanting the money, like Overseas Legal Expenses, Travel, blah and blah. I never give a reason, and I never have a problem, because it’s five hundred dollars and they don’t care. After several visits to the bank, I go online with them and transfer the money to my account in the States. There’s about a one percent transfer fee. Two days later I see it in the account. Llife is good.

    Matiss says:


    I was wondering how is it with traveler checks? I mean technicaly the money is still in China untill you cash it so you should not have to declare it same as your credit card? And you can take out up to 10 000$..

    Thank you

    @Matiss – Travellers cheques are considered to be legitimate currency so the currency restrictions apply. – Chris

    michael sze says:

    hello there, my parents received money from the Chinese government for property the government took for the state. this money was given to them about 10 years ago, and their RMB has always been in deposited in a bank in china. They have all the documentation and the taxes they pay annually on the interests earned. they would like to take the money out of China and deposit into US bank account in USD. they are US citizens. My understanding is that there is no limit or ceiling to the amount of money they can take out of China, as long as they have all of their documentations in order and they summit a proper request to SAFE. is that correct? also how long would it take for Safe to approve the transaction? thank you very much

    @Michael Sze: Thank you for your enquiry. It’s difficult to comment without being aware of various specifics and I don’t think a popular public forum is the best place to discuss personal property issues. I suggest you email us for professional advice at and state where the asset is based. You’ll then be directed to our pertinent regional office for discreet assistance.
    Thanks – Chris

    Al says:

    I am leaving China to return to Australia and have 40k US to move. What is the best way to do this quickly

    KenNeth jones says:

    Find a trusted Chinese who has not used their yearly allowance. (Perhaps not trivial.) Chinese may move $50,000 per 12 month period without national objection, provided a valid reason is given. Overseas travel is one possible reason. Doesn’t say who does the travel. You transfer the money to them, they interbank transfer it to your account in wherever, and Bob’s some relation to both of you, I suppose.


    @Al: Follow what the article says and provide the tax paid receipts on that income. Then you can transfer whereever you wish. Your bank will be able to assist. – Chris

    gaby says:

    i’m a student in china how can i do to transfer money!?

    John says:

    I’m starting a business in HK and WFOE will follow in future, but for the moment I want to be able to accept payments from the mainland into my HK account. Seems like this will be a problem for a number of Chinese companies? Big ones might be alright but small ones might have issues?

    Any ideas? Thanks =)

    @John – That business model is not going to work. The RMB is not a convertible currency and Chinese companies cannot remit monies to Hong Kong without approval. Even if you can find Chinese clients willing to do this, you will face receivables and potential withholding tax issues. It’s really not a viable option. I’d try and get that WFOE set up asap.
    Best regards – Chris

    @Gaby – As a student you shouldn’t be earning money in China. I’d read through some of the replies above and chose one of the options suggested. – Chris

    John says:

    Thanks for the reply Chris. We will be providing filming services as well as selling films for television to Chinese buyers. If Chinese buyers cannot transfer to foreign accounts, how do they purchase television content or services from other foreign distributors?? And I will get working on that WFOE…

    I talked to a couple banks in BJ, one told me it was not a problem, the other said it was very complicated to wire money to HK. It doesn’t match what I’ve read, but I was told by Agricultural Bank they could wire RMB directly to HK. I am very confused now.

    Someone else told me the transfers from local companies to HK is not a problem, but they couldn’t do it in RMB, so the clients in China would have to transfer to another currency first.


    @John: Chinese companies have to go through a strictly controlled procedure to wire money overseas (including Hong Kong).
    I discussed this procedure in the article above:
    “China controls and monitors the amounts of money coming into and out of the country through a mechanism known as SAFE – The State Administration of Foreign Exchange. In order to legitimately take money out of China (typically wire transfer), an application needs to be made to SAFE (the Chinese company bank would normally assist with this procedure) with proof of any taxes paid in China, and details of the overseas bank account the funds are to be wired to. The onus is on the applicant therefore to demonstrate the money was legitimately earned and taxes have been paid on it.”
    You therefore need to issue an invoice, the company needs to have that assessed for any (withholding) tax due, obtain a tax clearance certificate, get permission from SAFE and then wire it too you. It is time consuming and leads to receivables issues. For State-Owned Enterprises it wouldn’t be a problem to get this done. But I am 110% sure you won’t get paid on time. As I said from the start, in my experience (which I presume you are asking for) it is NOT a viable business model.
    So you either take my advise and get that WFOE set up and invoice in RMB – or don’t and you can see how it works first hand. If so, be prepared to face long delays in receiving payment.
    Best wishes – Chris

    Alan Chappell says:

    Hi Chris. I am probably posting this in wrong section but I am trying to get cash INTO china. I am trying to transfer 460,000RMB or its equivalent into my ICCB account in China. The money is currently with Hong Kong Standard Chartered.It will be used to buy a residence for myself and my Chinese fiance. I have lived and worked in China for 12 years but have been retired for the past two. I am getting conflicting reports that I can only transfer 20,000RMB a day or I can transfer the complete amount in HKD. I am concerned that the latter is not correct. Can you please advise?

    @Alan – there shouldn’t be a problem. But make sure you have all the correct documents and so on from the property agent and can verify what it is for. The danger is if you send it to an individual or certain unscrupulous companies that the Chinese tax authorities will regard that as taxable income at 25%. So you need to make sure you are dealing with a bona fide property agent and that the money is cleared by SAFE as for a definable property purchase and not as taxable earned income in China.
    Concerning the transfer mechanisms, HSBC can help you. If you’re unsure about the China end of things, email us :
    Best regards;

    Greg says:


    I am US citizen, wife is Chinese. We live in China. I work in Middle east and want to transfer my payroll by wire transfer from my company to my wifes HSBC-china account in USD. Its a sizable amount each month.

    1. Do we owe taxes on it once it comes to china?
    2. Can she transfer it out unlimited USD to a bank outside of china?
    3. Any limitations on this amount?


    @Greg -I have emailed you personally about this issue.
    Best wishes

    Victor says:

    Hi Chris,

    I wish to transfer approximately 1 million RMB from mainland China to a US brokerage account. I am a foreigner and previously (2011) have successfully transferred about the same amount overseas to my personal bank account, using wire transfers via mainland banks. I did this by getting several Chinese family members to wire the money to my overseas account form theirs – each being permitted $50K. There were no issues at all and the money was in place within 24 hours. No tax or other documentation – beyond the usual stuff for identification purposes – was required.

    Anyway, now I wish to wire cash direct to a brokerage account in the US. We already set up the account in the name of my Chinese wife and now I am faced with wiring cash there. However, it seems the Chinese banks cannot grasp the concept of a wire transfer with a “further credit to” provision. This is standard operating procedure for TT transfers to brokerages, as the broker itself is but a client of the bank and needs to assign the incoming funds to the correct sub-accounts for clients. I am being told that personal transfers are fine – meaning to an individual account holder, but that wires to companies that entail “Further credit to” provisions are either impossible or not understood by the bank staff.

    Ideally, I would like to avoid transferring cash first to an overseas account and then to the brokerage. We do have a HK foreign currency account which could be used for this, but I hope to avoid too many fees and currency conversion charges. Wire from china to HK and then HK to US, is feasible but not desirable.

    I am wondering if you can offer me any advice on the best path forward in this instance?

    Many Thanks

    @Victor; There’s not much I can really add to this. China does not have a fully convertible currency and mechanisms are in place at the banks to prevent abuse of the system. If you can’t show you paid tax on it then there is an issue with that. It is also breaking the law. You need to be careful here as banks have papertrails.
    Best regards;

    Jay says:

    Hi Chris, everyone

    I’ve heard stories of people taking large amounts of cash 30k usd plus, through the airport no problem. Then I hear stories of people getting busted for 7k usd, and sent to a police station. How strict is airport security when it comes to taking cash through the airport, Beijing airport specifically? Is this a common strategy, taking 10k usd plus through the airport? What’s the success rate? Can be as vague as you wish.

    I’m Thinking of taking 30k usd cash through the airport.

    Kumar says:

    Hi, I am working in China for the last six months and need to go back to India. I have around 15000 RMB which I would like to take back home. I am working on residence permit but just do not want to create noise by asking for tax receipts. I can get RMB converted back to Indian currency easily but not sure if I can carry around 15000 RMB in cash.
    From some of the posts it seems I can “wire” certain amount of money everyday. Could you please explain what exactly does that mean and what is the process to do that. I have a company provided world money card and do not have any bank account in china.

    Alex says:

    Hi Chris
    I didn’t know about these restrictions and my cash sum of used 100k has been raked at the airport. I m a legal worker and has been working for a Chinese company for 2 years.i have been told to wait for 3 days until decision are made. Can you advise?

    @Jay – the law permits individuals to carry up to RMB20,000 (about USD3,000) cash out of China. If you take more they can confiscate it. You can also go to prison. The inference is that you are smuggling money on which tax has not been paid out of the country, or are engaged in some other cash-based business which is probably illegal, or are engaged in money-laundering activities. It would be up to you to prove how you got it. I wouldn’t carry USD30,000 through if I were you. Laws are laws. Don’t break them – or be prepared to face the consequences.

    @Kumar: You are allowed to take RMB15,000 out (or the equivalent in other currency such as Rupees). It is below the RMB20,000 threshold.

    @Alex: You’ll need to explain how you got that money. You still broke the law, but they’ll be more lenient (and may even let you off) if you can show them tax paid receipts for that amount.

    EVERYONE: Don’t take more than USD3,000 cash out of China – or be prepared to have it confiscated. For larger amounts you could be detained and held in jail while they investigate.

    Best regards

    herman liu says:

    Hi Chris

    My mother, a chinese national, lives in china and would like to give me a sum of RMB 850,000 as a gift. I have a business bank account in HK although I live and work in UK. I have a couple of questions

    1) what is the most effective way of transferring or taking the money out of her bank account to my HK bank account?
    2) if I or chinese friends take the money out of China, within the daily limit (RMB 20,000 ?) per person, could I bank the RMB to my HK bank account ? as some banks do not like cash deposit !


    @Herman – I’d be careful about transferring that money to a “business” bank account (not sure what you mean by that actually) as it will be subject to audit as income and potential income tax liability. I’m going to reply to you personally on this and put you in touch with our Hong Kong office for some advice.
    Best wishes

    Che Platini says:

    I’m a bit confused about the qty of cash you can carry with you out of China. In some answers you mentioned 5000 USD and others 3000 USD. I know that the max is 20,000 RMB ( which will be a conversion of approximately 3000 USD, that I get). Where, however, is the 5000 USD come from? Is it perhaps that if I only take out dollars it would be 5000, and if I take RMB and only RMB that would would be 20000 RMB?

    ben says:

    Regarding the 20000RMB one can take though the airport. Is the foreign $5000US part of this amount? Or is it 20000 RMB plus $5000US? Thanks

    @Che: The maximum quantity of cash that you can take with you without customs declaration is RMB 20,000 and USD 5,000 (or equivalent), which means if you only take RMB with you, the maximum is RMB 20,000. If you only take foreign currency out of the country, the maximum cannot exceed USD 5,000. However, if you carry RMB and foreign currency at the same time, the maximum is RMB20,000+ USD5,000.
    Hope that clarifies the situation.

    Teodor says:

    I am traveling out of China with my wife and 2 kids. I was wondering if the currency export customs regulations of max cash export USD 5000 apply to kids under 18. Are kids allowed to carry cash when traveling with parents? In other words could the four of us carry a total of 20K USD cash without worrying for having issues with customs?

    Hi. Interesting comments. Our situation is a bit different. As a foreignor based in China, my expense reports are reimbursed in rmb into my Bank of China account. I now find out that the expense reimbursments can not be transferred out of China because it is not salary and it is not taxed. The bank dosen’t know what to make of it and I’m stuck with a great deal of money in the bank that I need to transfer to NY. What to do?

    @Patricia: Certain ATMs (those that have the UnionPay symbol) in the US accept China’s UnionPay bank cards for withdrawing cash from a Chinese bank account up to a certain limit and subject to certain amounts of bank fees. Having discussed your situation with a few of our Dezan Shira & Associates colleagues here we think that would be the most convenient and hassle-free solution, depending on how large the amount of money is.
    Best wishes

    Bojue says:

    China has a tax treaty with most countires, so the taxes paid are an offset yo your local country taxes payable. If you are not declaring the income, then I hope you get nailed and go to jail. because you are a criminal.

    Mee May Lesquereux says:

    Dear Chris
    My parents are Chinese but no longer Chinese Nationals as they lived in the UK for 50 years. Some years ago they thought they would like to retire in Shanghai so bought an appt. They lived in Shanghai for 6 months of the year then 6 months in the UK. They are now over 80 and think they would prefer to Live in the UK to be closer to their family. They wish to sell their appt in Shanghai and buy something in England. Can they simply Transfer the Money from the sale of their appt to the UK?
    Thank you
    Mee May

    Dear Mee May;
    According to the current regulations, your parents can go to the Bank of China to apply for transfer of the funds obtained from the sales of their apartment in Shanghai upon producing the following documents:
    1) Passport or other forms of proof of identity
    2) Commodity house transfer contract
    3) Service Trade Outbound Payment Tax Filing From
    Other documents may also be required, but according to BOC since this is valid income, there should be no problem transferring the funds to the UK and it also should not take long for the bank to process these monies.

    Best regards;

    Bola Okunola says:

    please how much is RMB20 in Naira (NIGERIA)Currency.?

    Matthew Zito says:

    Dear Bola,

    According to Google’s exchange rates as of January 21, 2015, RMB 20 is equal to 609.22 Nigerian Naira.

    Best regards,


    Greg says:

    Hi Chris

    I was recently paid US$5000 into my Bank of China account (for work done in the past, outside of China), although I requested he pay into my South African account.

    Nonetheless he paid in US$ into my BOC account, and I can see it sitting there, as a US$ Remittance (online banking).

    I’m out of China now, indefinitely. Going back to convert the money into RMB (in-branch), or sending it out like I did in the past in US$ would cost a fair amount of money.

    Can I access the US$ from ATMs in other Asian countries?

    Your advice would be appreciated.

    Scott says:


    2 questions for you…

    I live and work in Shenzhen. I earn money legally, and I file my home country taxes as required.

    I intended to walk my legally earned RMB across the border, deposit it into a HK bank account, and then transfer it directly to my US bank account.

    Unfortunately, I was recently denied the ability to open a HK bank account. I was told I needed to be a HK resident or owner of a HK business.

    1. Do you know a way for me to open an account in HK as a US citizen? I think it will be much easier to make transfers from there, than jumping through all the hoops with obtaining the “tax paid receipts” you mention here.

    2. You mentioned buying $500 USD a day in china at your local bank, then transferring the USD easily after accumulating the money for a time. Do you buy the USD and leave it in you r local bank account? Meaning our accounts can hold more than one currency at a time.

    And for all the posters above, and myself, thank you so much for answering all these questions… as expats, we all understand it’s an amazing help to traverse the inner workings of our adopted homeland.

    @Greg – yes, you can use your ATM to withdraw this money. That’s probably the easiest way to deal with what are relatively small amounts;
    @Scott – Hong Kong banks are being highly selective to the point of downright unhelpful in their desire to be in FATCA compliance, an issue we covered recently here:
    It may be easier for you to open an account in your home country and use an ATM or debit card to access funds.
    Best wishes

    Chris says:

    You mention here that $5000 AND 20,000 RMB. Are you saying you can carry both amounts out at the same time legally?
    As I work in the middle of knowhere in China, the local bank does not have dollars. Can I change the RMB to Dollar at the airport without getting questioned?

    Great information. Lucky me I recently found your
    blog by chance (stumbleupon). I have bookmarked it for later!

    Tim says:


    I have lived and worked in China and paid taxes since 1994
    My wife is Chinese.
    We have purchased property together (joint names) which has increased in value substantially.
    How do we transfer the proceeds of a sale offshore – Hong kong or Australia ?
    Could a buyer pay portions of the sale price offshore ? What questions would the bank ask to demonstrate that the money was not ill-gotten ?


    Scott says:

    I had a similar situation earlier this year when I returned to UK after 20 years in China. I, too, had made a significant profit on properties. One is allowed to move money out of China if you follow the correct process. If your buyer wants to pay into HK or elsewhere, all well and good and no problem. If not, you are allowed to moved out of China the ‘official’ amount that you sold the property for. Official and actual amount paid for the property may differ depending on how you sold it. Anyway, you can move that money out as I did – mine to UK. Lots of documents needed and a helpful bank manager makes things easier but it does work.
    Also, if you have earned income in China and paid taxes on it, you can move out what you earned provided you can show the tax-paid documents. Again, quite a bit of paperwork, but certainly do-able. I managed it.

    Susan Allen says:

    My daughter will be visiting me here in China and will be bringing me some USD cash, which combined with her own cash will probably exceed $5,000 which it seems is the limit of cash you can bring in. She’s also bringing my 3 year old granddaughter–can the granddaughter count as an extra $5,000 leeway? I couldn’t understand what I read about this actually:

    “””Passengers carrying over RMB 20,000 in cash or foreign currencies with a conversion rate exceeding US $5,000 shall be processed by Customs in accordance with the current regulations. Passengers carrying foreign currencies exceeding US $5,000, which will be taken out of the country at the end of their stay, shall complete a Customs Declaration Form in duplicate. One copy of this form, endorsed by Customs, shall be returned to the passenger for relevant procedures at the time of their exit.”””

    Does it mean that it’s possible to bring it in, but it just has to be processed by customs?

    Margaret says:

    My employment contract with a Chinese company states I am to be paid in USD, net of taxes. Now, they want to pay me in RMB. They also want me to open two bank accounts. One with ICBC, the other with some other bank that they are friendly with. They want to deposit 60% of my salary into the ICBC account, and pay the taxes on that. The other 40% goes into this other bank. They tell me that the money in ICBC can be wired to the USA without limit because I can show them the taxes paid. We are having troubles getting me a Consultant Visa however, apparently because I cannot give them a copy of my college diploma – which was earned back in 1975. And I am too old to get a work visa. So, I’m not sure about how easily the money can be wired out of the country. And I have a question on how much I can get out of the country from that 40% account. I make in the mid-six-figures, so it is a hefty amount, and I spend very little here. The ICBC account has come with a Union Pay card that starts with a 6, but I live in a State in the USA where no one will take it. Any suggestions?

    Rita says:

    Hi I would like to know what the procedure is for getting money from Hong Kong direct in my bank in NZ (which a company claims I have won its 600,000HKD). Plz advice

    M.T says:

    I’ve taken $10,000 Canadian dollars (approx $7,500 USD) back to Canada on flights a couple of times, but I’ve never run into any difficulties.
    I chose that amount because that is the amount written on the Canadian customs card when you enter as the maximum you can bring in without declaring.
    I just assumed a cap of $10,000 was an international standard, if I could bring it into Canada then it should be okay to bring it out of China.
    Am I totally of base here?
    Have I broken the law by doing this?

    John Bacon-Shone says:

    What if the property being sold is an office, instead of residential, does this make any difference for taking the money out? Our bank told us they had never handled a case like this before and assumed it must be more difficult! Thanks a lot, John

    Anthony Huang says:

    Hi Chris,

    We are a Singapore based interior firm that has been awarded a project in China, WenZhou.
    Currently we face the issue of the company not being able to do a telegraphic transmission of our state design fee retainer, they have requested that we open a local bank account to do so but that would mean that the taxation will be on us which is not suppose to be so. So, would you be able to give a course of advice for situations like this. We would like very much to assist this China company but if payment is going to be an issue, we may even have to forgo the contract/s with them.

    Thanks & regards

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