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Registering with the Chinese police and getting a Registration Form of Temporary Residence

Unfortunately, all foreigners are required to register at their local PSB (Public Security Bureau – essentially the police station) within 24 hours of arriving. This applies whether you are here as a tourist, a student or even (in some areas) as a worker with a residency permit. It may seem invasive, imposing, bureaucratic or simply a bore to do, and arguably it is – but it’s also very important, and not doing it could cost you, so we recommend you register as soon as you can.

It’s also necessary in order to obtain a Registration Form of Temporary Residence, which police may ask to see during routine checks and is required for a number of official buerecratic functions. 

It will also be needed if you lose your passport - for this reason, it’s also a good idea to keep a photocopy of your Registration Form of Temporary Residence (and passport) in your home, in case of emergencies

Your school, organization, landlord or building manager may help with registration, and if you are staying at a hotel it should be done for you automatically. But many people are left to do it themselves. Thankfully, while it’s easier if you speak Chinese or have a native speaker to help you out, it shouldn’t be too complex. 


If you’re staying at a hotel

If you are staying at a hotel, the staff should register your details with the PSB automatically when you arrive, but ask them when you check in just in case.

Not all hotels in China are open to foreigners, though – some are for Chinese nationals only (非涉外旅馆). This varies enormously from area to area; all hotels in Beijing have been open to foreigners since 2006, for example, whereas Henan Province has a number of restricted hotels. 

Of course, if you book ahead of time, the staff should notify you as to whether or not you can stay there (if you have a Chinese name on your passport, you might want to make your nationality explicit when booking, just to be sure).


If you’re registering yourself

At the PSB, there may be a desk marked clearly for foreigners registering (though they may use the word “alien” to indicate your otherness). In areas where there foreigners are a rarity, you’ll likely just wait to be seen at a regular desk. All you should need to do is present your documents (see list below) and the police will complete a form for you to sign.

In some cases, the police may be more demanding. They may ask you to bring your landlord: If so, this may be because of a particular issue they wish to discuss with the landlord (which may be unrelated to you). You won’t really have any choice but to try to comply with them. 


Required documents for first registration

While regional requirements vary, you must always bring along the following paperwork:

  • Valid passport containing current visa.
  • Photocopy of passport picture and visa pages.
  • A signed copy of your rental agreement/proof of housing (if registering your own place) or your friend’s Registration Form of Temporary Residence (if you’re staying at theirs).
  • Alien Employment Permit book (if you have one).

You may need to download, print and fill in this registration form, then bring it with you to the station when you register, though it does not apply in all cities. If you’re unsure then you might as well do it anyway to avoid the hassle.

Your landlord/property manager/friend may also be required to come along to complete the process the first time around. 

If you’re staying at a friend’s place, the police may also ask for a “chopped” (stamped) letter from your friend’s management company.

Once that’s done, you’ll be issued a Registration Form of Temporary Residence – usually a flimsy bit of paper with your information printed on it - which is valid for the length of your current visa; alternatively they may give you a receipt while your application is processed – you should be able to use that to pass spot checks until they give you the read deal. And remember: once you have your  Registration Form of Temporary Residence, don’t lose it or you’ll have to go back and get it all over again! 


Online registration

Weihai offers online registration for foreigners.


Registering later than 24 hours

Under Article 76 of the relevant law, failure to register in time can lead to a fine of not more than 2,000 yuan and/or a stern telling off from the responsible officer. 

At least, that’s what the law says. In practice, it can go either way depending on how relaxed your specific PSB is, and whether the officers in charge feel like flexing their muscles that particular day. Anecdotal evidence suggests that instances of police bothering to pick up on late registrations are relatively rare – and more likely to occur outside major cities – but there have been instances of fines or verbal reprimands being applied. You may also find unscrupulous police attempting to apply ‘fines’ of more than 2,000 yuan, but such instances are rare.

Still, it’s always best to register as soon as possible, just in case.

If your phone number is registered with the PSB (if you have residency permit, for example) you may get reminder phone calls or text messages in Chinese if you are late to register.



There are occasional crackdowns on foreigners working and living illegally in China. During these periods, police may carry out spot-checks on foreigners, often paying particular attention to workplaces (English-language schools, in particular) or residential areas where there are high concentrations of foreigners. Police may even knock at your door asking to inspect your documents.

It’s a good idea to carry at least a copy of your passport photo page, visa, and Registration Form of Temporary Residence with you at all times when sensitivities are higher. If you’re registered and all your papers are in order (ie. your passport and visa haven’t expired, and you’re not working without a work visa), you’ll have absolutely no problem. If you haven’t registered, prepare to pay a fine.


Returning to China

If you leave China and return, you will most likely receive a slip in your passport reminding you to renew your registration, using the same method as above. If you have your previous  Registration Form of Temporary Residence and are a resident in China (eg. through a Work Visa), it may move quicker this time (you probably also won’t need to bring your contract or bother your landlord either – but of course, there are no guarantees).

Some areas, such as Fujian province and the city of Guangzhou, do not require foreigners with residence permits to check every time they return – however, such rules are always subject to change, so do check before you make a decision as to whether to register your return to the country.


Changing address as a foreign resident

Foreign residents must re-register every time they change address, following the guide further up, to get a new Registration Form of Temporary Residence.


When extending your visa

The law is unclear as to whether you need to re-register if you get an extension on your visa, but it’s always best to play it safe and go through the procedure again – especially as the exit date of your original visa will be on your first Registration Form of Temporary Residence.


Useful links

US & China Visa Law Blog (published September 2013)

Application form for foreigner registration


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6 Responses to Registering with the Chinese police and getting a Registration Form of Temporary Residence

  • i have a confusion. my wife is coming to china for studies in fujian on 28 th august. the school told that she must come before 5 th september so i booked the ticket on 28 th august, now they are saying she must come after september 1st to china. is it because of the temporary residence permit problem ? so she can stay with me till september 1 st and go to the university ? its written that foreigner must register within 24 hours but i think we dint do that. we got our temporary permit after 2 weeks from our teacher. please suggest soon

    • Hi Anup. If the school requires her to come to school after September 1, it is probably because the foreign students’ accommodation building will be closed until that day, so that your wife can’t get registered if she arrives earlier. 

      She can enter the country on any date within the validity period of the visa. After entering China, she can stay with you till September 1 but if she stays in your apartment she must register for a registration form of temporary residence (which merely notifies the local police that she is residing in their district) at the nearest PSB within 24 hours of arriving (information on how to do this here). If she stays in a hotel, she can register there. 

      When she registers at the campus accommodation reception, she will be registered for a registration form of temporary residence. She should apply for a residence permit (a different document confirming that she is permitted to stay in China for a long duration) within 30 days. The school may take care of this for you. When you say that you “got our temporary permit after two weeks from our teacher” you are referring to to the registration form of temporary residence, not the residence permit. As long as the school is taking care of it, you don’t have to worry about that, but do check with your teacher so that you will get it on time.

      Have a good time in China!

  • Hello.
    There is a general rule which says foreigners can extend their tourist visa once or twice. I’m from Iran, does my nationality make any difference?
    Thank you.

    • Hi Aslan. No, your nationality should not be taken into account when you apply to renew a tourist visa – however, visitors have no automatic “right” to renew their passports, and the end decision is made by the visa officer, so it’s not a guaranteed success either. Good luck! We hope you’re enjoying your stay in China. 

  • Sir i am dubai. I am information 6 people 1pak and 5 indan market business robbery

    Robrry in chaina market you city in 6 people indan pakistani man 4 million rmb plan for 10 day contact no i am give u

    • Hi Yasir. If we have understood you correctly, you seem to be saying that there will be a robbery committed in a Chinese city by six people – one Pakistani man and five Indian men? 

      We think you should contact the Chinese police by telephone.

      To do this you can dial 0086, then the area code of the city where the robbery will happen (you may need to put 0 on the front), then 110.

      So if you want to call the Beijing police you would dial 0086 010 110.

      If you are not sure about which city the crime will happen in, you can call 0086 110 for a general Chinese police number.

      We would advise you to find someone who can speak Chinese to translate your message.

      Good luck! If you have any other questions please ask us. 

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