Monday, 20 February 2012

How to become a legal Alien in China

When you travel by air to China, the flight attendent will hand out immigrartion forms that you need to fill in and hand over at immigration. If you turn the form, you will find the small print on the back of the departure card. Authorities ask you to register with the police shortly after arrival:

 "Aliens wishing to lodge at the home of a Chinese resident, at a foreign institution in China or at the home of an Alien in China shall register temporary accommodation."

Beijing Police Station

You won't believe, it took us three attempts.

The first day, we went to the police, the police station was closed for lunch break. At least I managed to take a picture from the building with a striking blue winter sky.

Since Facebook is blocked in China, I was curious to see whether I could upload the photo with my Thai smart phone (I bought a five day data roaming package back in Bangkok via AIS). And, surprise, it worked - I added  this caption "one day in China and already at the place station ...". - With the result I got instant messages by friends asking "what happened??" - Silly me ;-)

The second day, we went to the police at the right time, but not with the right document. They asked for a  paper confirming that we are staying at a certain private address with details as passport number, birth date, flight details - in Chinese language.

My friend said that the management at the reception of her compound can issue this document.

So, when we went the third time, we had my passport and this document on hand. It was the day before my departure. They put the form aside on a pile with others. They handed me a receipt that confirmed that I have registered, that I am now a legal Alien.

That was it.

When I left China via the airport, they did not ask me for this receipt. It is already in their big computer.


  • If you stay in a hotel, the reception is doing the Alien registration for you.
  • If you stay in a private home, ask your friends for help, or the management of their housing estate, or their Chinese secretary at work to prepare the Chinese form.
  • So far, the police - at least in my case - has no standard form to provide that would be easier to fill out.
  • My police station opened at 10am and closed at 5.30pm, but closed for lunch. Not sure about weekends.
  • If you missed to register, because you had not time - or missed to read the back of the departure card - do not worry, you will be able to leave the country without problems. I have not heard of a case the fine of 500 yuan applied. (If someone knows other, please comment).


Raymond said...


I am a german national now studying in Beijing. I currently live in the uni's foreign student building and am registered. The thing is, I am having a friend coming over in July and by then my room will have an empty bed since my roommate will be gone, so to save money I am thinking my friend could just stay in my room. That, however, creates a rather tricky problem as he thus cannot register at the foreign student building. And I guess if we go straight to the police station to register we are unable to produce the document from any private landlord.

My question for you is, when you get registered do they also take note of the duration of your stay at that location of the registration? Because if not I think it is possible that my friend can just spend a hotel room for one night only and get registered conveniently and spend the rest of his days staying in my room.

Thanks a million if you can provide any info.

- Suzie - said...

Dear Raymond,

The duration of the stay is starting with your arrival date in China, stated in your passport and as long as your visa lasts.

In case a hotel does the registration, I am not sure if they would note that your friend only stays one night. This does not worth to do, since it is also not 100% correct.

Since your friend has to write where he will stay in China on the arrival card, the information is there, if Chinese authorities really need to verify.

But you can ask someone at the university too - or is it not legal to host non-student visitor?

Worse case is 500 RMB fine. Still cheaper then staying in a hotel for registration...


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