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Relations between China and the UK are currently cooperative, friendly, and close. The two countries have a long history of bilateral agreements. The UK was the first country to recognize the new Republic of China, in 1954. Foreign currency controls make it relatively challenging to transfer money from UK to China, especially for business purposes. Individuals can exchange up to a maximum of US$50,000 of Chinese currency each year.
Citizens of the UK need a visa to travel to mainland China, but do not need a visa to travel to Hong Kong and Macao. For the remaining areas, a visa must be obtained from the Chinese Consulate General closest to you. You should ensure that you do not overstay your time or work illegally while in China. There is heavy monitoring and increased fines for visa violations.
Although a visa for China can be processed within one week it can take longer with the requirement of extra documentation or an interview. It is therefore recommended that UK expats allow at least a month for a Chinese visa application.
Chinese visas are divided into a several categories; courtesy visas, public service visas, diplomatic visas, and ordinary visas. There are multiple types of ordinary visas.
It is important to note that there are several restrictions that apply to capital account transfers and foreign direct investments. These vary based on the types of investors and investments. New rules have been implemented since April 2014 that should loosen some of the controls placed on local and foreign firms who want to conduct overseas money transfers across China’s borders. Firms which hold a minimum of US$100 million will be able to transfer large amounts of currency more freely.
The majority of trade with China is settled in US dollars as well as euros, although more recent swap deals allow UK firms to negotiate using the local RMB. This move has been favorable for some merchants who are able to negotiate discounts. It also makes the process relatively faster. Anyone wanting to import to China must apply to the SAFE for foreign currency at the time of an export transaction.
Banking in China is fairly straightforward and expats generally have some international options to choose from. The language barrier may prove an issue in some instances but there are many institutions that offer service options in English. It may be to your benefit to employ the services of a translator or seek the help of a Chinese friend.
Whether you opt for a local or foreign based bank will depend on your individual preferences. Consider that there are pros and cons with each option. Although an international bank such as HSBC or Citibank may be preferable especially if you already have an account with them; they usually require a large minimum balance and access to ATMs may be limited. Local options such as the Construction Bank of China, the Bank of China and the Agricultural Bank of China are usually much more accessible, with ATMs in numerous locations and a lower minimum deposit amount.
To open a bank account in China you will usually only need to present your UK passport and some amount of money as an opening deposit. Particular banks may also demand proof of residence or a copy of your visa.
UK nationals living in China for up to five years will have to pay taxes on any income earned within the country as well as any money transferred into China. After five years UK expats will be required to pay taxes on worldwide income. However, you may be eligible for deductions for taxes paid in the UK. The amount of taxes you pay will be dependent on how long you have been living in China. Taxes range between three percent to a maximum of 45 percent and tax laws change frequently. UK expats should consider engaging the services of a tax specialist to assist in dealing with tax issues in China.
Trade between the UK and China reached record levels in 2013, seeing an increase of 8%. According to UK Trade and Investment, exports from the UK went up by 15%. The UK is the most popular region in Europe for Chinese investment. Between 2013 and 2014 inflows of capital from China amounted to more than £8 billion, which safeguarded over 6,000 jobs for UK residents. On the flip side, the UK is the second largest European investor in China. Within the same period, UK investments exceeded $18 billion. The financial services of the UK also happens to be the global leader in offshore RMB trading.
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