Relocating to China: Getting an Import Permit
The first thing to know is that only long-term non-residents are allowed to import their personal belongings duty-free. Long-term visitors usually include foreigners, citizens from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and returning Chinese staying in China for at least 12 months. To bring household goods into China, such visitors need to formally apply for an Import Permit with the local Customs office.
Having said that, it is important to know that this application can only be filed once you have secured your work and residence permits. Obtaining the final residence permit generally takes 3 to 4 weeks after landing in China. Therefore, any item required for immediate use should be taken as accompanied baggage.
How to Apply for an Import Permit?
Once you have your residence permit in hand, you can file an application with Chinese Customs in person or through a designated relocation agent. According to the Notice on Approval of Entry/Exit Articles for Official and Personal Use by Resident Offices and Non-Resident Long-Term Visitors, the following supporting documents should be submitted:
- Passport (original)
- Resident Permit (original)
- Work Permit (original)
- Representative card (only required for RO employees)
- Application form with the shipper’s signature and company chop
- Ocean Bill of lading and/or Air Way Bill and detailed inventory packing list
Obtaining an Import Permit usually takes 3 working days and is free of charge.
- You must ensure that your work permit and residence permit are valid for at least 365 days. If the validity of any of these documents is less than 12 months, the Import Permit application will be rejected
- If you are a returning Chinese, you will have to provide evidence that you have been working outside China for at least one year. You can for example provide the overseas work permit when submitting the application
- The Import Permit should be applied for in the city where your work and residence permit are issued from. If you are based in Hangzhou but customs clearance is arranged in Shanghai, you still need to apply for the Import Permit in Hangzhou
- Long-term non-resident are only entitled to import one air and one sea shipment for their personal and household effects. In other words, if you previously imported household goods into China a few years ago, went back to your home country and got a new job in China, your next shipment would now be 100% dutiable
- The shipment should be arranged within 6 months of obtaining the permit