How to legally transfer assets out of China?

Learn how to transfer money back to your country

Everyone may have heard of such a story which is quite popular online:

A German named Marcus brought the money equivalent to 3 million to Shanghai in 2005, spending 1 million to buy a house and the remaining 2 million to do wine business. Ten years later, the wine business suffered a huge loss, so he had to sell his house for 17.25 million and went back to Germany. When leaving, he left a sentence: “China is a magical country.”

Then the question is, is there any difference between Marcus as a foreigner and the Chinese owner in the process of selling a house, what problems will be involved in the process of selling a house, and most importantly, how can he legally repatriate the sales money to Germany? 

As we know, according to the relevant regulations of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, each Chinese citizen has a foreign exchange limit equivalent to 50,000 US dollars a year for daily needs (travel, study abroad, etc.), and corresponding proof materials are required. Whether it is an individual or a company, the currency exchange business was previously punished economically but now it is totally illegal. There is no limit on the amount of foreign currency exchange for foreign companies or foreign individuals. As long as it is legal income within China (including property transfer), it is allowed to make foreign exchange purchases and transfers to overseas accounts through domestic banks only if all the application process are completed legally.

First of all, with regard to the property transfer for foreigner or residents of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, there are three cases applicable:

Property transfer of foreigners or residents of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan

(Applicants should be foreigners or residents of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan when buying and selling the property)

The main documents to be submitted includes:

  1. Foreign passport or resident ID card & permit to and from Mainland for residents of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan

  2. Notarized passport translation

  3. Association certificate of old and latest foreign passport or resident ID card (In case it is updated to make the numbers inconsistent between buying and selling, this document is required to be issued to prove that it is the same person)

  4. Official online registered sales contract and its password (not the intermediary sales contract)

  5. Documents involved when buying the premise

  6. Documents involved when selling the premise

  7. The applicant’s overseas bank account information such as account No., account name, bank address, SWIFT/IBAN code (Note: The two accounts name must belong to the same person-the applicant)

  8.  Application for foreign currency exchange and transfer

  9. If the applicant entrusts others to handle the process on behalf, a power of attorney is required (Original copy with signature, no need for notarization)

Key takeaways:

a. The maximum transferable amount = online registered transaction price – taxes amount payable as the seller (Personal Income Tax and VAT) Therefore, online registered transaction price must be taken into account carefully.


b. The approval letter can only be once. In case of any error, the relevant government department won’t reissue it.


c. It must be transferred to overseas accounts at one time, not in batches. Moreover, although in theory it is generally allowed to transfer money to overseas within 6 months after foreign currency exchange, in practice banks usually require that it must be transferred on the same day or on the second day.


d. After obtaining the approval letter, according to the operating procedures of each bank and whether they have practical experience, the transfer can differ from 1 day or within 7 days.


e. There are no restrictions on the number of property sales for each person

Immigration property transfer

(The applicant is the domestic resident of the applying city when the house was purchased, and now is a permanent resident of foreign countries, or foreign citizen or a permanent resident of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan after the property was sold)

A. 1 color photo at two cun (unlimited on background color)

B.  Applicant’s identification materials

C.  The ID card and resident registration book (Hukou) of the city where the property is located (providing the cancellation certificate in case of cancellation)

D.  Overseas identification document

E.  Documents when selling the premise

F.  The applicant’s overseas bank account information such as account No., account name, bank address, SWIFT/IBAN code (Note: The two accounts name must belong to the same person-the applicant)

G.  Letter of Commitment

H.   If the applicant entrusts others to handle the process on behalf, a power of attorney is required (Original copy with signature, no need for notarization)

Key takeaways:

1. Submit the application with complete information, the approval letter shall be issued within 20 working days. And it shall take effect on the issuing date and the validity period is 15 natural days within which the foreign currency exchange and transfer must be completed, after the expiration is invalid)


2.The maximum transferable amount is equal to the online registered transaction price minus the tax amount payable as the seller (Personal Income Tax and VAT). Therefore, the online registered transaction price must be taken into account carefully.


3.Before the immigration, the applicant must be the resident of the application city (for example, if applying in Beijing for the property in Beijing, then the applicant must be Beijing resident).

Transfer of inherited property

(the applicant must be foreigner and the decedent a resident of the application city)

 A. 1 color photo at two cun (unlimited on background color)

B.   Applicant’s identification materials

C.  The proof for obtaining inherited property

D.  The documents when selling the premise

E.  The applicant’s overseas bank account information such as account No., account name, bank address, SWIFT/IBAN code (Note: The two accounts name must belong to the same person-the applicant)

F.   Letter of Commitment

G. If the applicant entrust others to handle the process on behalf, a power of attorney is required (Original copy with signature, no need for notarization)

Key takeaways:

1. Submit the application with complete information, the approval letter shall be issued within 20 working days. And it shall take effect on the issuing date and the validity period is 15 natural days within which the foreign currency exchange and transfer must be completed, after the expiration is invalid)


2.The maximum transferable amount equals the online registered transaction price (inherited share) minus the taxes amount payable as the seller (Personal Income Tax and VAT). Therefore, the online registered transaction price must be taken into account carefully.


3.The decedent must be the resident of the application city (for example, if the inheritor is applying in Beijing, then the decedent must have been a Beijing resident).

The transfer of assets for foreign companies

The decedent must be the resident of the application city (for example, if the inheritor is applying in Beijing, then the decedent must have been a Beijing resident).

1.The materials prepared during the transaction are different. In addition to a lot of basic documents, you may need shareholders’ resolutions that give approval (green light) to sell the property, power of attorney, etc.…


2.Tax payment in holding property and tax payment during transaction process are different. During the period of property holding, property tax and land use tax must be paid annually. In case the payment is deferred, the Tax Bureau will impose delay charges and penalty fines. The taxes in the transaction involve land value tax and stamp duty.


3.Foreign-funded companies are further divided into those with domestic branches and domestic bank accounts and those without domestic branch and company accounts. Those without domestic company accounts also involve issues such as how to collect payment, pay taxes and make the foreign currency exchange.

In a word, property and fund transfer have the characteristics of long transaction cycles and complicated processes, involving the Title Registration Bureau, various tax authorities, notary offices, banks, etc. All processes are interconnected, and no link can be faulty. Once a process is not handled properly, it will delay the schedule, not to mention the risk of contract breach and failure to repatriate money out of China. It is recommended to make a plan in advance and entrust professional assistance.

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About Marketing

I am living in China since 2007. I am sharing my experiences for other expatriates to make their stay in Beijing more enjoyable. As I am writing this blog for SCOUT Real Estate agency, I am also computing updates about the Real Estate market in Beijing, not only on residential properties, but as well on commercial locals and offices. Hope you enjoy your reading!