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Money Transfers in China

A range of capital controls are currently in place for all capital account transactions processed in China. Any in-bound transaction being received in China is required to be converted into the national Chinese currency (¥ Yuan), while out-bound transactions leaving China must be converted into the local foreign currency of the recipient. This is in contrast to current account transactions which, in China, are liberalised.

In response to these regulations, opening a Chinese bank account is highly recommended and is considered to be the easiest method for transferring funds and accessing them in China. If this isn't an option, it is also possible to simply withdraw cash from one of the many ATM's, although it is important to check whether your bank has any restrictions or fees associated with withdrawing money within China.

Having a valid Chinese visa and being sufficiently registered for tax payments is essential for ensuring no issues occur when sending international money transfers from China. This is especially important if you are planning to work while you are in China. Due to new regulations implemented by the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), proof of income tax payments are often required in order for international money transfers to be approved. China implements these SAFE regulations over foreign transactions in order to make sure that only legitimate after-tax funds are crossing its borders.

Costs and Fees for International Transfers
As is common with the majority of international bank transfers or international cheques, it is highly likely that your bank will have certain charges or restrictions when paying money into a Chinese account. It would therefore be useful to check any applicable information with your bank so you are aware of any fees which you may be required to pay.

If you are still waiting for your Chinese bank account to be set up, there are a wide range of money transfer companies who are able to offer their services, along with various price comparison sites who can help you find the best possible rates (it is often the case that the more money you send, the better deal you will receive). The charges which you will incur are largely matched with the applicable foreign exchange rate.

Companies who specialize in money transfers will offer a fee for their service which is not directly compared to the fees which your bank would charge you, and thereby base their rate on the amount you will be transferring rather than directly competing against however much it would cost you with your specific bank.

Cross-border Capital Controls in China
Making sure that you have all the correct documentation prior to transferring money from a Chinese bank account to a foreign account is very helpful. Visiting the local branch of your Chinese bank can be a lengthy process and takes up to three hours, so having the necessary information will ensure that you don't have abort your efforts halfway through. The following information will be required in order to successfully make a transfer: the full mailing address of the foreign bank along with the foreign bank account number and the associated SWIFT number.

Without appropriate tax documents, which should be provided by your employer, all foreign nationals are limited to converting $500 of Chinese Yuan per day. If your employer has not sufficiently complied with tax obligations, these limitations will remain in place. However, if the documents are accepted, then this limit as a foreign national of $500 per day can be waived.

There are much stricter capital controls for Chinese citizens, with no more than $50,000 per year being permitted to be converted from Chinese Yuan. While there are methods to evade these restrictions, and many stories of Chinese citizens successfully doing so, they will often involve illegal non-compliance of the rules which can result in prosecution.

Traveling with cash
At present, there are certain limitations relating to the amount of cash which can be physically carried when leaving or entering China. Travelers are allowed to have up to 20,000 Yuan of the local currency (equivalent of $5,000 USD) without needing to declare the amount to customs, and individuals in possession of more than this risk their money being confiscated by the authorities. Any foreign currencies between the equivalent of $5,000-10,000 USD being carried must be declared with customs during the individual's arrival/departure.