How can I open up my own import and export company in China?





Photo by Captain Albert E Theberge

If you’re a foreigner in China, you might well want to take advantage of your resources in both your home country and your new home by getting into the international trading industr. And if so, we have some very good news for you: China does not, on the whole place limitations on the kind of foreign investments allowed in the import and export business. New enterprises can set themselves up as Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprises, Joint Ventures, or Partnership Enterprise. For more information on what these labels mean, see this article

Only if your new business deals with petrol, crude oil, steel, precious metals, iron ore, fuel oil, natural rubber, books, newspapers, pharmacies or cars are you likely to encounter any notable issues, as these are considered areas of special value by the Ministry of Commerce. If your business falls within these areas then you can follow the same guidelines as below, but be aware that the Ministry will put your business under additional scrutiny, meaning that the establishment process will take longer. It may also be denied by the Ministry (even if you apply via the Commission of Commerce, as it must escalate such businesses upwards.

For businesses dealing in other areas things are simpler and easier. Although – this being China – there will still be a lot of paperwork to deal with. 

 

Step-by-step guide

  1. First things first: your business needs a name. Obtain the Notice of Approval of New Enterprise’s Appellation which is provided by the local Administration Bureau for Industry and Commerce (for addresses for the four first-tier cities, see this page). Check that the name you want to use for your business is available by giving it to the office’s staff – they will make sure it hasn’t already been trademarked. The process is free and can be completed on the same day.
  2. Get the Approval for Setting Up a Foreign-funded Enterprise, whether you want to open up a Joint Venture, Partnership Enterprise or Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise. The Approval should be obtained from the local Foreign Investment Administration Office at your nearest Commission of Commerce (first-tier addresses can be found at the bottom of the article). Detailed regulation and materials needed can be found here (Chinese only). The time taken for the authority to grant the approval depends on the type and scale of the new enterprise, and can be between 45 and 90 working days. The staff member who accepts your documents can give you an approximate time frame for processing your case, and when it’s done the staff will call you on the number you left with the office. If your application is denied, the office will state the reason, the channel of appeal, and your rights in written form, and will return all documents that you handed in. 
  3. After getting the approval from the Foreign Investment Administration Authority, the next step is to follow the normal process of registering a business, as explained in this page
  4. Within 30 days of the new enterprise being successfully registered as above, you must enter the business into the local State Administration of Foreign Exchange (first-tier addresses can be found at the bottom of the page). Foreign-funded enterprises must register the full amount of their investment, and amount of foreign currency that has been transferred to China for use as investment capital. Further details can be found in chapter 2.6.2 on page 73 of the official guide issued by the Beijing office of the Administration (Chinese only). 
  5. Record your registration in the local Foreign Trade Administration Office of the Commission of Commerce (first-tier addresses can be found at the bottom of the article). The authority requires all enterprises dealing with international trade have a record in its office and subdivisions. Detailed requirements and the document list can be found here (Chinese only). This process can be done in five working days. Please note in some areas you may need to register online before you can go to the office to hand in the documents.
  6. All companies in the import and export business must register with their local office for the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China (see bottom of article for addresses of the first-tier cities). Please see here for detailed processes and required documents (Chinese only). This will take five working days. 
  7. Register with the Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau; All import-export businesses must abide by the inspection and quarantine laws of China (Chinese only), and submit imported and exported goods for quarantine and inspection. This can be done via a professional quarantine inspection agency or by the business itself, although if the latter route is taken the business must register with Inspection and Quarantine Bureau, as explained on this page (Chinese only). Note that all registrations with the Bureau must start with an online application on this page (Chinese only) before the owners go to the district offices to hand in the required materials.
  8. Register for E-Port, the Chinese government’s electronic system for sorting and organizing import and export activities, and sharing information with the relevant authorities. E-Port simplifies importing and exporting processes by allowing many of them to be performed online. Information on how to register with E-Port and what documents are required can be found here (Chinese only). Documents should be handed in to local E-port offices (see bottom of article for first-tier city addresses). The staff should be able to tell you how long it will take to process registration.
  9. If your business will be frequently transferring money in and out of China and requires a bank account in a foreign country then you must register the bank account with the Administration of Foreign Exchange (see bottom of article for addresses). This should be done after initially registering with the Administration, as explained in step 4, and within 30 working days of the bank account first being opened. Detailed regulations and requirements can be found in chapter 2.7 on page 96 of the official guide issued by the Beijing office of the Administration (Chinese only). The process will take 20 working days.

 

 

Addresses for offices in first-tier cities

Administration of Foreign Exchange

Beijing
Beijing Administration of Foreign Exchange, F/9, 10 Xijin Dasha, 39 Lianhuachi Dong Lu, Haidian district, Beijing 北京市海淀区莲花池东路39号西金大厦9、10层国家外汇管理局北京分局

Contact: 010-6855-9813, www.safe.gov.cn/wps/portal/beijingfj

Working hours: Mon-Fri, 9 am-11:30 am, 1:30 pm-5:30 pm

 

Shanghai
Shanghai Administration of Foreign Exchange, 181 Lujiazui Dong Lu, Pudong New Zone, Shanghai 上海市浦东新区陆家嘴东路181号国家外汇管理局上海分局

Contact: 021-5884-5470, www.safe.gov.cn/wps/portal/shfj

Working hours: 9 am-midday, 1 pm-6 pm

 

Guangzhou
Guangzhou Administration of Foreign Exchange, F/9, 137, Yanjiang Xi Lu, Guangzhou 广州市沿江西路137号9楼国家外汇管理局广东分局

Contact: 020-8188-3195, www.safe.gov.cn/wps/portal/guangdongfj

Working hours: Mon-Thu, 9 am-midday, 1 pm-5 pm, Fri, 9 am-midday, 1 pm-3 pm

 

Shenzhen
Shenzhen Administration of Foreign Exchange, F24, Block B, Taipingyang Shangmao Dasha, Jiabin Lu, Luohu district, Shenzhen 深圳市罗湖区嘉宾路太平洋商贸大厦B座24楼

Contact: 0755-2219-5537, www.safe.gov.cn/wps/portal/shenzhenfj

Working hours: 9 am-11:30 am, 1:30 pm-5:30 pm

 

Customs bureaus

Beijing
Please refer to address file on this page for addresses of district Customs offices. 

 

Shanghai
Please refer to address file on left column of this page for address of district Customs offices.

 

Guangzhou
Please refer to this page for addresses of district Customs offices. 

 

Shenzhen
Please refer to this page for addresses of district Customs offices.

 

Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureaus

Beijing
Please see bottom of this page for district bureau offices. 

 

Shanghai
Please see bottom of this page for district bureau offices. 

 

Guangzhou
Please see this page for district bureau offices.

 
Shenzhen
Please see the bottom right of this page for district bureau offices. 

 

E-Port registration office

Beijing
Beijing E-Port Registration Office, E-Port registration office, F/1, Beijing Customs, Jia 10 Guanghua Dong Lu, Beijing 北京市光华东路甲10号北京海关一楼中国电子口岸北京分中心

Contact: 010-8573-6151, www.bjeport.gov.cn

Working hours: Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri, 9 am-11:30 am, 1:30 pm-5:30 pm

 

Shanghai
Shanghai E-Port Registration Office

Address one: China E-Port Data Center Shanghai Office: Dongyilou, Pudong Custom, 153 Lujiazui Xi Lu, Shanghai 上海陆家嘴西路153号浦东海关东一楼

Address two: E-Port service window in Free Trade Area, Comprehensive Service Hall, 9 Jilong Lu, Waigaoqiao, Shanghai 上海外高桥基隆路9号综合业务大厅

Contact: 021-962116, http://service.customs.gov.cn/Default.aspx?tabid=5868

Working hours: Mon-Fri, 8:30 am-11:30 am, 1 pm-4:30 pm (address one); Mon-Fri, 9 am-11:30 pm, 1:30 pm-4:30 pm (address two)

 

Guangzhou
Guangzhou E-Port Registration Office, 83 Huacheng Dadao, Zhujiang Xincheng, Tianhe district, Guangzhou 广州市天河区珠江新城花城大道83号中国电子口岸数据中心广州分中心

Contact: 020-8393-9000, www.gzeport.com

Working hours: 8:30 am-midday, 2 pm-5:30 pm 

 

Shenzhen
Shenzhen E-Port Registration Office, Window 27-33, East Zone, Administration Service Hall, Civil Center, Fuzhong San Lu, Futian district, Shenzhen 深圳市福田区福中三路市民中心行政服务大厅东厅27-33号窗口

Contact: 0755-8210-7810, www.szcport.cn

Working hours: Mon-Fri, 9 am-midday, 2 pm-6 pm

 

Foreign Investment Administration Office

Beijing
Beijing Foreign Investment Administration Office of Beijing Municipal Commission of Commerce, Building 6, Erhao Yuan, Hengdaogou Xijie, Fengtai district, Beijing 北京市丰台区横道沟西街2号院6号楼

Contact: 010-8721-1740/8721-1742, www.bjmbc.gov.cn

Working hours: Mon-Fri, 9 am-11:30 am, 1:30 pm-5:30 pm 

 

Shanghai
Note: Enterprises planning to set up and register in Shanghai, should go to different offices to apply for the Approval depending on the amount of investment capital they have. 

If the investment is under $10 million, the owner should apply to the district or county People’s Government; district websites can be found by going to the website of the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce (Chinese only) and look for the drop-down menus at the bottom-right of the page. Click区县及开发区 and select your district to be taken to the relevant page. 

If the investment is less than $30 million and also registered in Pudong New Zone, Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone, Zhangjiang Hi-tech Zone, Jinqiao Export Processing Zone or Lingang New City, you should should apply to the relevant administration office of each zone or city. Those that are under $10 million and based in those areas should go to the district or county People’s Government, as above. Those that are under $30 million and based outside those areas should apply to Shanghai Foreign Investment Administration Office of Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce (address below). 

If the investment is less than $100 million, you should should apply to Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce (address below). 

If it’s over $100 million will you should also apply to the Municipal Commission of Commerce, but it will be automatically escalated to the Ministry of Commerce for approval. For more details, please check here (Chinese only). 

Address: Shanghai Foreign Investment Administration Office of Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce, F/5, Building 7, 300 Shibocun Lu, Shanghai 上海市世博村路300号7号楼5楼

Contact: 021-2311-1111, www.scofcom.gov.cn

Working hours: 9 am-midday, 1 pm-6 pm

 

Guangzhou
Guangzhou Foreign Investment Administration service window of Guangzhou Municipal Commission of Commerce, Guangzhou Administration Service Center, Window 416, F/4, 61 Huali lL, Zhujiang Xincheng, Guangzhou 广州市珠江新城华利路61号市政务服务中心4楼416席位

Contact: 020-3892-0417, www.gzboftec.gov.cn

Working hours: Mon-Thu, 9 am- midday, 1 pm-5 pm, Fri, 9 am-12 am, 1 pm-3 pm

 

Shenzhen
Economy, Trade and Information Commission of Shenzhen Municipality, No. 1-10, East Zone, Administration Service Hall, Civil Center, Fuzhong San Lu, Futian district, Shenzhen 深圳市福田区福中三路市民中心行政服务大厅东区1-10窗口

Contact: 0755-8200-1437, www.szjmxxw.gov.cn

Working hours: Mon-Fri, 9 am-midday, 2 pm-6 pm

 

Foreign Trade Administration Office of Commission of Commerce

Beijing
Beijing Foreign Trade Administration Office of Commission of Commerce; businesses should go to their district offices to register. Addresses and contacts can be found at the bottom of this page

Online registration address: http://iecms.ec.com.cn/iecms/index.jsp

 

Shanghai
Shanghai Foreign Trade Administration Office of Commission of Commerce, Windows 17, 19, 20, Comprehensive Service Hall, Building 5, 300 Shibocun Lu, Pudong Xinqu, Shanghai 上海市浦东新区世博村路300号5号楼综合受理大厅17、19、20号窗口

Contact: 021-2311-0461 / 2311-0462 / 2311-0463

Working hours: Mon, Wed, Fri, 9:30 am-midday, 1 pm-5 pm

Online registration address: http://www.maofa.sh.cn/sh/index3.asp

 

Guangzhou
Guangzhou Foreign Trade Administration Office of Commission of Commerce; businesses should go to their district offices to register. Addresses and contacts can be found on this page.

Online registration address: http://iecms.ec.com.cn/iecms/index.jsp

 

Shenzhen
Shenzhen Foreign Trade Administration Office of Economy, Trade and Information Commission of Shenzhen Municipality, Windows 1-2, East Zone, Administration Service Hall, Civil Center, Fuzhong San Lu, Futian district, Shenzhen 深圳福田区福中三路市民行政服务大厅东区1、2号窗口深圳市经济贸易和信息化委员会

Contact: 0755-8200-1497 / 8210-8530 / 8210-7466

Working hours: Mon-Fri, 9 am-midday, 2 pm-6 pm

Online registration address: http://www.szjmxxw.gov.cn/cjff/cjff_4/cjff_4.htm

 

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3 Responses to How can I open up my own import and export company in China?

  • Dear Sir,
    Its really helpful this site , nevertheless I still have some questions due to my special company status would like to establish in china.
    I have Import/ Export Company in Tunisia , mainly in furniture and small constructions items.
    My problem is: In Tunisia All payment to providers have to be true Central bank and Must be L/C and. Chinese providers avoid L/C and most of the time I loose good business because of this restriction. In other hand to conclude Business I need to make payment in advance from my private account based in France in order to release the goods( while my Company account is in Tunisia). Then when goods are Shipped I have to present the shipment documents to our Central bank which in Turn Transfer the Same amount to my provider( double payment ). Then problem to get back this money from the providers.
    My Idea is to open a Trading company( In china or HKG ) with main Role is Sourcing , Buying and billing for my company in Tunis.
    Open a business account for this trading company, use this account to pay my providers and Once the central bank Process the L/C ,, the transfer from Tunisia will be to this Business account.
    This will save me allot of money because for Now I pay 10-15% of the double payment (Commission to the provider to get me back the double payment ).
    Beside this Solution will enlarge my Business field and allow me to pay on time my providers .
    I hope the Idea is clear , Please I need your advise and in case there is any company you suggest which can process the steps to establish this Trading Company
    Thank you
    Bets Regards
    tsouheil@gmailcom

  • Dear Sir/Madam,

    I would like to set up a office in china to export general items,construction,electrical and furniture.I would like to setup a fully owned by a foreigner.
    1)Can i register a office on apartment address??
    2)How much minimum amount do i need to show for the bank for minimum investment?
    3)How much it will cost for consultancy services to setup a business office including the account?
    4)How many visa can i get for my office?

    Best Regards
    Manish Gupta
    +9607413124 whats app and viber number

    • Hi Manish. We are glad to hear your plan to invest in China. You can read our guide on how to open up your own import and export company in China to learn the application process.

       

      To answer your specific questions:

      1. In many Chinese cities, if you want to register a company you can use an apartment address to register. You can check with the local industrial and commercial bureau to confirm whether this city allows to register business with apartment address. However, here is a potential pitfall you should pay attention to. Although some cities allow to do so, the bureau still requires a stamped approval letter from the sub-district office or the property managing office of your apartment, and these offices are generally reluctant to do so for fear that your business will affect other residents’ living conditions. So before you buy or rent the apartment, go to the offices to confirm whether they are prepared to give you the approval letter.
      2. Minimum registration capital has not been required for a foreign fully-owned company since February 2014. Previously it was 100,000 yuan.
      3. The prices for consultancy services vary from several hundred yuan to thousands of yuan depending on the workload and how complicated the case is. Call around a few consultancy companies to get a better idea of their pricing. A good consultancy company will save you lots of trouble.
      4. There is no specific rule on how many visas you can get for your company, as long as you can get the work permit and invitation letter to your foreign employees. You can check our guide on how to get work visas for foreign employees and how to hire foreign staff

       

      Good luck!

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