Temporary Residence Registration in China – A Guide for Foreign Residents and Visitors

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Temporary residence registration is a mandatory process for all foreign nationals in China. Whether you are visiting or planning to reside in the country, it is essential to register with the local police within 24 hours of your arrival. We have developed a simple guide that outlines the necessary steps to complete the registration process.

When a foreign national travels to China and stays in a hotel or other form of residence, they are required to register with the local police within 24 hours of their arrival. This is both a legal requirement and an essential step for applying for important matters such as visa extension, stay permit, residence permit, driving license, or marriage registration in China.

Below we explain the requirements and processes for filing for the residence registration in China.

Who has to register and when?

According to the Exit and Entry Administration Law of the People’s Republic of China, all foreigners in China are required to register their place of residence or temporary accommodation with the local police within 24 hours of arrival at the address. This applies to all foreign nationals in China, as well as Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan residents, whether you are in China for a short-term visit, such as for tourism or business, or living in China long-term for work, study, or family.

In some rural areas, residents of Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan who live or stay in rural areas can register their residence within 72 hours of arrival.

If you arrive in China on a work or study visa and plan to convert this to a residence permit (as is required within 30 days of arrival), you will need to submit proof of your residence registration when applying for your residence permit. If you are only staying in China for a short period, you will likely not need to present the proof of residence registration at any time, however, there may be other consequences if you fail to register as required (explained later). 

Note that even if you already have a residence in China and live in a private long-term residence, you will still need to register your residence whenever you travel somewhere new, even if it is only for a short period of time, whether you are staying in a hotel or with friends and family.

Among others, the registration must be done/updated:

  • each time you re-enter China (even with the same visa);
  • when you stay at a different address in China (whether you move to a different residence or residence within the same city or to a different city or region); and
  • each time you change your visa category or have a new passport.

Who bears the filing responsibility and how?

When staying at a hotel (or other forms of paid residence such as guesthouses, hostels, serviced apartments, and so on, but not a paid home share arrangement such as an Airbnb), the hotel staff will handle the registration on your behalf. You will only need to provide your passport or other travel document, which should contain the visa that you have entered China with or your current resident permit.

If you are staying in a private residence, whether that is staying with friends or family, renting your own apartment, or staying in a homeshare (such as Airbnb), you will be required to register your residence by yourself. In many places in China, this will involve going to the local police station in person and providing the necessary documents. However, some cities have launched an online registration system, which is considerably easier.

If you are a student, your host institution will normally be responsible for handling the residence registration on your behalf, or arranging for you to go to the police station accompanied by administrative staff.

Filing the temporary residence registration

On-site registration

To register in person at the local police station, you will need to provide the following documents:

  • Original passport or travel document (containing your current visa or residence permit);
  • Copies of visa or residence permit and latest entry stamp (if any);
  • Proof of residence:
    • Lease contract if you are renting;
    • Real estate contract if you are living in your own home; or
    • The homeowner’s (or landlord’s) identity document if you are staying with family or friends;
  • A two-inch passport photo (only in some cities); and
  • A residence certificate issued by the property owner (only in some cities).

The required documents may vary from city to city.

After arriving at the police station, you will be required to fill in a form with your details, including your local address and duration of stay. It is strongly recommended that you bring someone who can speak Chinese if you cannot, as Chinese police rarely speak English or other foreign languages.

When the registration is complete, you will be issued with a Temporary Residence Registration Form. You must keep this form if you plan to apply for any visa extension, stay permit, or residence permit. If the form is lost, you will have to return to the police station and ask for a new form to be issued.

Online registration

For online registration, you normally only need to fill in an online form with the relevant details and upload an image of your passport and visa or residence permit. Required documents may differ from city to city. In Shanghai, you can register online here. In Shenzhen, you can register using WeChat. Once the registration is complete, you will receive a digital version of the Temporary Residence Registration Form.

If you are unable to register online, you must go to the local police station in person.

Both the in-person and online residence registration are free of charge.

Temporary residence registration for foreign nationals born in China

Foreign babies born in China who do not yet have a valid stay permit can first apply for a residence or stay permit at the entry-exit administration department of the local Public Security Bureau. Their parents or legal guardians can then use the acceptance receipt issued when submitting the application to file the temporary residence registration.

How to file temporary residence registration if you lose your travel document

If you lose your travel document, you must notify the entry-exit administrative department of the local Public Security Bureau, who will issue you with a loss report. You can then use this report to file the residence registration.

Penalties for failing to register

If you fail to register your residence within the prescribed 24 hours, you might be given a warning. In serious cases, you could be fined up to RMB 2,000 (US$274).

About Us

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done so since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

Dezan Shira & Associates has offices in Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, United States, Germany, Italy, India, Dubai (UAE), and Russia, in addition to our trade research facilities along the Belt & Road Initiative. We also have partner firms assisting foreign investors in The Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh.