Foreign nationals living in China have likely experienced the challenges of purchasing and sending foreign currencies abroad. Purchasing and sending foreign currencies typically requires foreign nationals to present a tax payment certificate, labor contract, and income certificate to the bank to carry out the process which can involve a visit to the local tax bureau and the involvement of their employer. However, the process of sending money abroad has recently become significantly more convenient for foreign nationals working in Shanghai.
The announcement of a pilot program in Shanghai for a “Fast Pass” to facilitate the purchase and remittance of foreign currencies came as welcomed news to many foreign nationals. The Fast Pass effectively replaces all the previous documents, allowing foreign nationals to just bring their Fast Pass and their Passport to purchase and send foreign currencies abroad.
The Fast Pass has successfully completed its pilot stage and can now be applied freely by qualified foreign nationals residing in Shanghai.
Who can apply for a “Fast Pass”
Currently, the Fast Pass is only available for foreign nationals employed by companies registered in Shanghai. Furthermore, the company should have a physical business premise and has not previously been found to have engaged in any illegal or untrustworthy conduct.
While the Fast Pass can be applied for in Shanghai immediately after the foreign national has paid tax on their income, the amount for remittance will be directly linked to the taxable income in the prior 12 calendar months. Thus, it is generally a good idea to apply once the foreign national has accumulated at least several months of taxable income or according to their personal requirements to avoid needing to apply again shortly thereafter.
Although the Fast Pass is currently only available in Shanghai, we hope to see the adoption of the Fast Pass in other cities in the future.
How to apply for a Fast Pass for foreign remittance in Shanghai
Applying for the Fast Pass is a relatively simple process and can be completed within a couple of days.
To begin the application, the employer of the foreign national should navigate to the Fast Pass application portal of the Shanghai Online Government Services Platform（上海一网通办）and log in using their E-business license or their USB security token.
Then, enter the foreign national’s work permit number and begin the application. Once the application is opened, the system will auto-fill the personal information and tax information of the foreign national including the annual remuneration amount available to be remitted abroad. The company can report additional income received by the foreigner. However, it should be noted that this will require uploading additional supporting documents to demonstrate the additional income has been appropriately taxed.
Once all the information has been reviewed by the company, they can print the Fast Pass on Foreign Talents Remuneration Foreign Exchange form to be stamped using the company stamp and signed by the foreign national before being attached to the online application. Upon confirming all the information is correct, the application can be submitted.
There is no processing time for the online application and the foreign national or the company’s designated responsible person can proceed directly to the next step.
Visit the Foreign Talent Management office
The final step is for the company’s responsible person or the foreign national to make an appointment to visit the Foreign Talent Management Office in their respective area to have the form verified and stamped. To make an appointment, the foreign national or responsible person can book an appointment on the Shanghai Online Government Service Platform. Foreign nationals or the responsible person within the company need only bring the original Fast Pass on Foreign Talents Remuneration Foreign Exchange form affixed with the company stamp and the original work permit card of the foreign national.
With the Fast Pass form stamped by the Foreign Talent Management Office, the foreign national can now visit the bank to purchase and remit foreign currencies more freely.
Note: The office authorized to verify and stamp applications can vary based on where your company is registered. The Shanghai Online Government Services Platform will identify which Foreign Talent Management Office jurisdiction the company belongs to.
List of Shanghai Foreign Talent Management Offices:
- 1525, Zhongshan West Road, Xuhui District, Shanghai Science & Technology Administrative Service Center
- 33 Shenhong Road, Minhang District, Hongqiao Business District Enterprise Service Center
- 38 Rijing Road, Pudong New Area, Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone Bonded Area Human Resources Service Center
How Does the Fast Pass work?
The Fast Pass is intended to facilitate the purchase and payment of foreign currencies for qualified foreign nationals by reducing the required paperwork foreign nationals need to present to the bank to carry out the process. Once successfully applied, the Fast Pass is valid for 2 years from the date of application and foreign nationals need only bring the original copy of the Fast Pass and their Passport with them to the bank to buy and remit foreign currency.
The Fast Pass allows foreign nationals to remit up to 100% of the annual remuneration amount as recorded on the Fast Pass. This, by default, is the after-tax income automatically reported by the Shanghai Tax authorities during the online application stage plus any amount carried forward.
This means that if the foreign national has worked outside of Shanghai and paid income tax outside of Shanghai within the last 12 months, this will likely not be included in the remuneration amount recorded on the Fast Pass.
The bank will record the amount of foreign currency remitted on the back of the Fast Pass each time a remittance is made. If all 20 spaces (columns) are filled or the foreign national does not remit the full amount available to them, the unused remuneration amount can be carried forward to the next application.
Integra Group Remarks
Prior to the use of the Fast Pass, the State Administration for Foreign Exchange (SAFE) relied on banks to verify that individual funds being used for foreign exchange by foreign nationals in China had been appropriately taxed in China and national foreign currency controls were being complied with. With the Fast Pass in effect, authorities can now pre-approve the allowed amount for foreign remittance reducing the reliance on the bank to ensure compliance and allowing for a more streamlined process.
While the Fast Pass does not fundamentally change China’s foreign currency controls, it does provide foreign nationals in Shanghai a significantly faster and more convenient avenue for remitting their China-sourced income abroad.
Jessie Lin, Director for Accounting at Integra Group, adds “the introduction of the Fast Pass is a welcomed development for foreign talents in Shanghai. The unified tracking of foreign exchange records provided by the Fast Pass enables the process of sending individual’s funds overseas to be significantly streamlined. We hope that with the success of the Fast Pass in Shanghai, more cities begin to implement the policy to better serve foreign talents across China.”