The world’s most populous country, China has attracted foreign expatriates for a great number of years. Due to its recent economic liberalization and huge surge in global strength, more expatriates and would-be retirees than ever are viewing China as a legitimate option for retirement and long-term international living.
With an affordable cost of living, an interesting culture, and an increasing role in world affairs, life in China seems like a great deal. Given the immense amount of choice in lifestyle that’s available – from big city living to rural relaxation – China can seem like heaven on earth for expatriates and retirees in the Western world.
Despite its rapid modernization, however, China’s visa and immigration system isn’t quite as developed as those found in nearby countries. Options for retirees wishing to retire to China are somewhat limited, although retirement in China is possible for those willing to be flexible on the conditions and length of their visa.
Does China Offer A Retirement Visa To Foreign Nationals?
Unfortunately, China does not offer a retirement visa similar to that offered in the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia. Retirees wishing to stay in China long term are typically forced to make use of either back-to-back tourism visas, or a longer-term visa designed for businesspeople or investors looking to work in China.
The types of visas available to visitors to China, as well as the requirements for each type of visa, are explained in more detail in the next section of the guide.
How Can Foreign Retirees Stay In China Legally?
There are a variety of visas available to foreigners looking to retire in China, but not all are created equal. While some visitors to China depend on repeat tourism visas to stay in the country, more resourceful and forward thinking retirees typically make use of the F-class business visa, which is available to foreign nationals in China.
The F visa is available for nationals that have established a company in China or are working on behalf of an existing Chinese company. Company establishment in China is a relatively complicated process, but a variety of contractors – many of which are based in Hong Kong – specialize in helping foreigners establish PRC companies.
F visas are issued for three months, six months, or twelve months at once, with the longer visas requiring a re-entry into China in order to remain valid. The application process is relatively simple and requires only a few key documents, which are listed in the following section.
What Eligibility Requirements Are There For A Chinese F Visa?
To qualify for a Chinese F visa, or business visa, you must present several forms of identification, as well as several documents, to the embassy. The first is a passport with at least six months validity. Longer visas will require a passport that extends beyond six months of validity, so be sure to acquire this before applying.
You will also need one of several documents proving that you have legitimate ties with the economy of the People’s Republic of China. The most common document for applicants is a letter of partnership or contract with a Chinese company. Other options include a letter of appointment or invitation from a Chinese company.
If you have invested in China directly, you must provide proof of your investments, as well as a letter outlining your purpose for residing in China for business. This is a relatively simple process for those with large investments in China or businesses in the country.
Are There Alternative Visas Available For Foreign Retirees In China?
China offers a spousal visa for foreign nationals married to a Chinese citizen. The process of applying for the visa is relatively simple and requires only basic forms and documentation. Before applying for the visa, you must enter China using a F class business visa, or a L tourism visa.
From inside China, you will be required to submit a health verification, which can be acquired from most major Chinese cities. The location of health testing departments seems to change frequently, and visitors are recommended to contact the Chinese Department of Immigration to locate the medical center nearest to them.
Along with your certificate of health, you will need to provide a copy of your Chinese marriage certificate, your spouse’s Chinese Identity Card, and a completed residency permit form. If your application is successful, a spousal residency permit valid for one year is typically issued within a single business week.
What Options Are Available For Non-Investors Without A Chinese Spouse?
Options for a non-working retirement in China for those without familial or business ties to the People’s Republic are somewhat limited. Tourism visas allow for a short-term stay, which is not suitable for most retirees. These visas also place a variety of frustrating restrictions on those that hold them and wish to adapt to Chinese life.
One of the most popular options amongst retirees in China is to work part-time as a teacher or English tutor using a business visa. This allows for a long-term stay in the country on a business visa, typically sponsored by a language school. While this may not be ideal for all retirees, it’s a proven option amongst expatriates in China.
Despite its somewhat complicated visa system and lack of long-term visa options for retirees, China is a rewarding country to retire to. With a small investment in China or a long-term relationship with a Chinese national, retirement in China remains a very real option for many Western expatriates.