The process begins with the administrative hurdles. Do not put them off. In fact, this is the only part of the moving process you cannot put off, as China is strict about its bureaucratic procedures and you don’t want your transition to be interrupted by a preventable hiccup.
Ship any necessary items through a private company such as DHL or FedEx. But remember, pretty much everything (apart from good cheese) can be purchased in Shanghai. If you are shipping items to China, make a detailed inventory of all shipped and stored items. Here are some of the administrative matters to consider before you leave for China:
Visas & Documents
This is a key issue and should be your top priority, especially if you are travelling with children. All visitors, including tourists, require a visa. These are obtained through a Chinese embassy or consulate. Most tourists are issued with a single- or double-entry visa valid for 90 days with the possibility to extend. Processing times and costs vary by consulate so allow at least a week, although many consulates can expedite the process for an additional fee. Americans tend to have to pay a great deal more than citizens of other countries. Costs and waiting times are subject to change, so consult the Chinese consulate website as the time draws near. Business and student visas are usually multiple entry valid for three to six months, and allow the visitor to stay for the full specified period. They require a letter from the business or university. Long-term residency requires a ‘green card’ or residence permit. The formidable amount of paperwork needed for a green card includes at least ten passport photos – one for each of the ten application forms necessary. It is a five-step process that begins with a tourist visa. Employers will need to help you with the process, and they should be familiar with the procedures.
If you are moving to Shanghai as a family, you will need to bring medical records, as schools and universities will require these. You must also be prepared to provide your child’s previous school records and birth certificate. Contact your child’s current and previous schools as soon as possible to get the process moving. Even if you are not going to enroll in school, bringing at least a copy of your birth certificate is a good idea. This document is especially helpful at a consular office in the event that something happens to your passport.
Here is a list of documents to bring for a long-term stay in Shanghai:
- Passport and visa
- Extra passport-size photos
- Children’s birth certificates (copy for adults)
- Marriage certificate
- Children’s school records
- Diploma and CV (for applying for work permit)
- Driving licence (serves as back-up ID and allows you to obtain a Chinese licence)
- Inventory of everything shipped
- Medical records
Address & Phone
Send change of address notices to banks and credit card companies. Even if you don’t yet have a permanent address in Shanghai, you should let your bank know that you are in China. Many banks block use of debit or credit cards in foreign countries if they have not been officially notified of the user’s travel plans. Check to see if your phone will work in China. However, if it is a long-term move, it is a better idea to drop or suspend your phone plan and get a Chinese phone number. This process is easy and inexpensive once you arrive in Shanghai.
It is always more complicated to organise and maintain your home finances from abroad. For any monthly payments, such as to credit card companies, arrange for online payments and banking. It is easy to forget monthly tasks from a new home. Check the status of your taxes and pension plans, and make the necessary arrangements for these to be processed while you are away. Contact your bank to get details on procedures for transferring money back home.