Things to do before you leave China for good

It’s finally here—you’re leaving China and ain’t coming back. Maybe it’s a new job opportunity. Maybe it’s an emergency or you’re getting married. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ve lived in the country that long and it’s just time to pack your bags and get the hell out before you’re stuck in a void that you feel you can’t escape.

But wait! There are a few things you might want to do, and need to do, before kicking the bucket and calling it quits. For example …

Tax info


American? Then you know the harsh truth: You can’t run from Uncle Sam. Nuh-uh. And that goes for anyone living in a country where you need to file taxes annually.

Before leaving China, head to a local tax-bureau office and pick up a document detailing your salary received and taxes paid monthly/annually since you started working–legally, mind you—in that city.

It’s free, and all you’ll only need to bring is your passport. State what month or year you’d like it to start from and they’ll print it. Plus, they’ll provide the official China government stamp, which as we all know is God.

You should get a stamped tax sheet from your company, too.

Extend visa if needed



Let’s say your visa ends in a week. But truthfully, you just aren’t ready to leave China yet. After all, you need more time gather documents, travel, party, or see you friends. So how can you stay longer?

How about switching over to a Humanitarian Visa? It’ll give you a month-long extension you can desperately use.

Here’s what you’ll need: 1. Passport, 2. Temporary Residence Form from a local police station, and 3. a Certificate of Employment showing your last day of work from your company. The government office will either extend your visa 1 month from that last date, or from your visa’s expiration date.

Letter of recommendation



This one’s a no brainer. Get a stamped recommendation letter from the powers above. Hey, I know friends that have moved back home and actually had their new employer contact their former boss in China, so don’t skip out on this one!

P.S. You know the drill—sometimes the boss is too busy so you may just have to write it yourself and have him/her sign it.

Get deposit back from bike rentals


If you’re in a big city like Shenzhen or Beijing, you’ve probably signed up for a Mobike or Ofo account and placed a 300RMB deposit that can be returned once you’ve cancelled your membership. Don’t forget. Do it … now.

Close or at least reduce bank account


I opened 3 bank accounts over 5 years in China. Before leaving, I  will close 2 and leave one open with a very small amount of cash. I’ll be back someday, and I do plan on conducting business in the region. It’s up to you to consider if you’d need, or simply want, to keep an account open.

Sell your stuff


Don’t settle by giving it away! Get the most money you can back from all your junk. Post ads in Wechat groups, Facebook Marketplace,  and on popular expat and Chinese Websites like Dianping and

My suggestion? Don’t start high as hell like I did and lower the price as you go. People just won’t buy it. Start at a reasonable price you think it may sell for, then lower it to the price you know people will actually buy it at.  Wechat has many buy/sell groups.

Take photos and videos for memories.



You’re in China—how about some last photos and videos with your ESL students? C’mon, that experience is never going to happen again. What about some professional profile shots in front of a temple or iconic Chinese landmark? How about some shots of the food or square dancing? I’m just saying …

Get a non criminal background check


This one’s up for debate. I’ve had friends argue that you don’t really need it once you move home. But me? I’d rather you get it just to go ahead and have it. You never truly know if some government or employer will ask for it in the future.

To get a local non-criminal record in China, you’ll need to head over to a notary bureau. Bring your 1. Passport, 2. Temporary Resident’s Form, 3. Employment Permit/Expert Certificate, 4. Work Contract, 5. Certificate of Employment, 6. Tax Summary Sheet from the government, and 7. a stamped Non-Criminal Record document from your employer, which is also provided by the bureau..

You’ll need to wait at least 10 days for your criminal record and pay a fee.

Set up online classes (if you are a teacher)


Let’s say you’re going home without a job—I know, it’s something everybody worries about, but it happens.

One thing you should do before leaving China is connect with online English tutoring jobs to earn extra income. There are plenty operating in China, and if you’ve worked as an ESL teacher there, you may want to sign up before you leave, because you can may have the opportunity to interview at their local offices, and plus consider once you arrive at home, you’ll probably lose interest. And that’s from experience!

Get your money out


Here’s the deal: In China, you can only transfer a maximum of $500 a day out the country. Inside the airport—that is, beyond the check-in gates—you can only exchange up to $1000.

Even at banks, you can only exchange your Renminbi to foreign currencies on specific days, and you may even have to make an appointment!

So, either send money home via bank transfer weeks in advance, exchange your money at a local bank in advance, and/or take your RMB cash home for exchange, of course, all things depending on how much money you have and the amount you can carry on the plane.

Don’t wait to the last minute to get this one done!

Pension money


Each money some of your salary will go into a social insurance or pension fund.  This can be taken out when you leave.  You will need the help of your employer to do this and you’ll need to take your social insurance bank card with you.



  1. Great list! Unfortunately, all money given to Ofo is forever lost ☹️. The criminal background check it a great idea, since it is excruciating trying to get that after you leave China.


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