Permanently leaving a country you once lived in can mean a lot of work. As an expatriate in China, you need to start asking questions about what you should be doing before leaving China for good. There are but a couple of things you must do even a few months before your plan of leaving. So, it is important to get reminders on how to get going ahead. Moreover, tax authorities also advise making self-declaration of your individual income tax if you are leaving China before the scheduled deadline.

Have a look at our previous article about Income Tax Self-declaration for Individual Taxpayers in China

In this article, you can have most of the information you will need to get you started. So, keep reading!

Things you should take home

1. Money

In terms of money, China requires a limited amount of money you can carry back home. If you have long-term savings, it might be a problem to take them out of China all at once on the same day you are leaving. Furthermore, you are only allowed to exchange currencies on specific days. So, better plan on transferring your money to your overseas account a few weeks in advance. It all depends on the amount of money you will take home. Luckily though, you can transfer your money from China without a limit following certain procedures.

Read our previous article on The Best Ways to Transfer Money from China

Getting your money back also means refunding whatever you have paid as an employee. Under China’s individual income tax (IIT) law, foreigners are entitled to social insurance claims. Your social insurance refund adds up to your takeaway cash before leaving China.

To find out more details about the refund, check out Social Insurance Refund: A Takeaway Before Leaving China

Finally, if you have a public bike account such as Mobike or Ofo which you topped up some money with, you might want to also get it back before leaving.

2. Documents

Obviously, you will need to prepare and process certain documents before leaving China. You might need these papers on hand in the future, whether for employment, immigration, or any legal purposes that may support your identity or qualification.

  • Tax resident certificate with an official Chinese stamp

Before leaving China, you must visit the local tax bureau and request a ‘tax certificate’ detailing your salary and taxes paid, whether monthly or annually. Think of it as a tax clearance, making sure that you are free from any debts or tax liabilities. This document will also serve as your evidence of taxes paid in China so that you can avoid double taxation.

Read on: Double Taxation Relief for Foreigners in China

  • Non-criminal record

It is impossible to retrieve your non-criminal record from China once you are already out of the country. Local police authorities will require your original passport and house rental agreement before they can issue a non-criminal record certificate. Thus, you must put this on your to-do list and make sure to get it notarized afterward.  

  • Reference letter from the bank

Getting a reference letter or a bank certificate from your bank could be helpful in some countries which require a bank reference before you can open a new bank account. Furthermore, you can also use this document as proof of your financial activities or China-sourced income.

  • Work permit cancellation certificate 

If you ever return to China, your “work permit cancellation certificate” is necessary to process a new work visa. Hence, it is also important to have this before leaving China. The cancellation certificate may also serve as an official proof of your work experience in China other than your work contract or an employment certificate from your company.

  • Other legal documents

You also might want to collect all your tax payment receipts for further proof of tax settlements before leaving China. You will also be needing an employment certificate as evidence of your work experience in China. Furthermore, if you have any Chinese documents such as your work contract, business license, degree certificates, or diplomas, it is recommended that you have them translated, notarized by the local foreign ministry, and authenticated by your embassy.

3. Pets

You might feel guilty about abandoning your pet when you leave China. Hence, if you want to bring your dog or cat back home, you must keep in mind that it takes a few months to complete the necessary procedures before you could get your pet on the plane. Although this depends on every country, the export process in China usually consists of vaccination and medical check.

On the other hand, your pet will be microchipped before it can depart from China. Remember that the vaccination must be administered 30 days prior to your travel flight.

In summary, here are the steps you must go through:

  1. Find an animal vaccination hospital and get the official “Animal Health and Immunity Certificate”.
  2. Get your pet microchipped with a 15 digit, ISO 11784/11785-compliant pet microchip.
  3. You must take your pet for a medical check 10 days before your departure and get a “certificate of good health” after two business days.

Read more on: How to Bring Pets In and Out of China

4. Clothes and everything you want to bring back home!

As for transporting your things from China, you can choose to send them by air or sea transport. While sea transport is less expensive, sending your belongings by air is more advisable if you want to receive them home more quickly. It is also best to hire a company to take care of your packages. Normally, the company will provide you with boxes having a weight limit of 20 kg to 30 kg and an estimated price of RMB 400 to RMB 800 per box.

Things you MUST DO before leaving China

Tax and bank closing

If you were a business owner yet have decided to close your business and leave China, you will be expected to follow proper liquidation procedures for your company. These include going through tax-related processes and bank closing. For tax closing, you may need to prepare the following materials to begin the processing:

  • Liquidation report
  • The shareholder resolutions
  • Annual financial reports of the company over the years
  • Business license
  • 金税盘 or “golden tax disk” for issuing invoices (related to China’s Golden Tax System)
  • Official seal
  • The legal representative digital certificate

For bank closing, you or a representative will need the following requirement:

  • Application form with your company and your legal representative stamp
  • Original copy of passport

As an individual employee or Chinese visa holder, you may choose not to cancel your bank accounts or bank cards and keep it open as long as you can have access to the bank’s internet banking.

Canceling and unlinking your phone number

Your phone number in China is simply the most important information you can have in terms of bank activation or using apps such as Alipay or WeChat. If you do not cancel your phone number before leaving China, you may face issues especially if it is tied with your passport number.

On the other hand, forgetting to cancel or unlink your phone number with your WeChat ID can be risky. If your phone bill is not paid for six months, it will be registered as a new number and another person will be able to log in to your WeChat. Canceling your phone number would also mean deleting your Alipay account. Since Alipay contains all your payment transactions or bank card information, it is also important to deal with it before leaving.

Settling payments with your landlord

Both expat workers and business owners are obliged to settle their rentals before leaving China to avoid future conflict. At the same time, you must not forget your deposits from your accommodation provider or get a reimbursement of the housing allowance from your company.


Moving out of any country takes a lot of time and planning to make sure things will go smoothly. Especially concerning your finances, it is critical that you must determine any tax refunds or accountabilities under China’s tax laws before leaving. Failure to do so may lead to unexpected consequences such as being blacklisted. Thus, you may not be able to return to China in the future.

(This article was published on June 24, 2020, and was updated on December 10, 2020.)

Contact us

S.J. Grand’s tax and accountancy services provide advisory on China’s tax and business regulatory environment as well as assist in tax settlements or social contribution claims for foreign individual workers or enterprises in China. Contact us to get you started.


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