China, (People’s Republic of China). It is one of the largest nations in the world and has an area approximately equal to that of the United States, except that its population (1.4 billion) is four times that of the United States. China also includes two special administrative regions: Hong Kong and Macau, which have partial autonomy. The official language is Mandarin Chinese and very few speak English, so if you want to move to China, you need to know that it is not a challenge for everyone.
There are about 700,000 immigrants in China. Considering that there are one million expats in a country like Portugal, this means that immigration to China is extremely low.
Move to China visas
You need a visa to enter China, with the exception of Hong Kong, a special region of China. Citizens of about 170 countries can visit Hong Kong visa-free for periods ranging from 7 to 180 days. Check the immigration website to find out if you need a visa.
There are different visas depending on the duration and purpose of your stay in China, which you should apply for at the Chinese consulates in your country.
- Tourist visa (L) is issued for a stay of 30 days or more (upon request) and can be used within 90 days from the date of issue. It is illegal to work in China with a tourist visa
- Student Visa (X), there are two different types of visas for students or trainees. 1) If you are doing a study course in China, for example a Chinese language course that lasts longer than 6 months, you must apply for the X1 visa. 2) If the course is less than 6 months, you need to apply for X2 visa. It is not possible to work in China on a student visa, even part-time
- Work visa (Z) is issued to individuals who have an employment contract with a company, including a foreign company that has a branch in China. The visa must be used within 3 months and allows you to enter China once. Once you are in the country, you have one month to obtain a temporary work permit (for the duration of the employment contract) and the corresponding residence permit
- Business Visa (F or M): There are two types of business visas, the M visa (for commercial visits) and the F visa (for non-commercial visits). They have a duration of 3 to 12 months and can be issued for a single entry or multiple entries
Students, tourists, and anyone else who does not have a Z visa are not allowed to work in China. However, if you have found a job in China, you can change your visa by leaving the country and going to a Chinese consulate abroad to get the work visa. In some provinces in China, it is possible to change the visa directly at the local public security bureau.
For more information about visas, you can contact the Chinese visa application center in your country or one of the many agencies in China and Hong Kong that specialize in issuing visas, which can obtain visas that seem impossible for a fee. Beware of scams, however. The Internet is full of self-proclaimed agencies offering visas for China, but their aim is only to defraud foreigners.
Once you arrive in the country, you must register your residence with the local Public Security Bureau (PSB) within 24 hours of your arrival, no matter how long you stay. Those staying in a hotel are exempt.
Move to China and find accommodation
To rent a house, you need a work visa, otherwise no one will rent you anything. When you sign the contract, you usually have to pay a deposit of a few months, which you will get back if there are no damages when you leave. It is best if you have a Chinese acquaintance, because as a foreigner it is easy to get scammed. If you do not have a local acquaintance and do not speak the language, your only option is to hire an agency, but be sure to visit the house before signing a contract and find out what is included and what is not. The bills are usually not included in the rent.
The brokerage commission is split between the tenant and the landlord or is borne entirely by the owner. In Beijing, you can find two-bedroom apartments in a good area of the city for as little as 700/800 / $ per month. If you leave the house before the end of the contract, you will get back the deposit you paid (equivalent to one month’s rent for a room or two months for an flat) only if you find someone to take your place.
The cost of living in China depends on the city. In Beijing and Shanghai, the cost is comparable to that of a city like Rome, while in other cities and towns it actually drops sharply.
Moving to China real estate websites
Here are the main websites to find accommodation in China:
- Thebeijinger, online newspaper in English, including real estate ads in Beijing
- Smartshanghai, online newspaper in English, including real estate ads in Shanghai
- Weechat, an application that works like Whats Up and Facebook together. Here you can find houses, flats and rooms
Move to China, health care and Internet
The public health care system in China is not free, treatments and medicines must be paid in full. Therefore, it is advisable to take out private health insurance, preferably international, which offers greater coverage than Chinese.
Using the Internet in China can be a problem for a foreigner. This is because censorship blocks sites like Google, YouTube, Google Map, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The only solution is a good VPN (Virtual Private Network), which hides the location of the Internet connection and allows you to access all websites and Internet.
Moving to China conclusion
China is certainly a fascinating place full of history and traditions, but if you wan to move to China you have to consider the negative aspects such as very high pollution and difficult relations with the people, especially if you do not speak Chinese. You will have to get used to habits and customs that are different from the Western ones, but in general everything will be easier once you get used to the mentality.
Knowing Chinese, even at the basic HSK 2 level, will certainly not be enough to help you find your own accommodation, but it will certainly help you appreciate people and make your experience better, because few people speak English. You will probably speak English at your workplace, but do not think you will meet anyone who speaks English in a shop, restaurant, or office.