Immigration authorities of the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. have provided instructions about how to apply for a China police clearance certificate. However, these instructions may be too general to follow. In this article, I will explain how you can get the certificate with more details.
Where to Apply
China does not issue national police clearance certificates to foreigners. A single certificate only covers an applicant’s time in a particular city. In general, there are two government agencies in China that may issue the certificates to foreigners. Depending on the city where you apply, the issuing authority is either a notary office or a public security agency. Where the certificate is issued by a public security agency, it needs to be notarized by a notary office for immigration purposes.
Despite calling it a “police clearance certificate”, it is commonly issued by notary offices in major China cities, such as Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu.
In 1990, China Ministry of Justice issued the “Notice Regarding the Handling of Certificates of Whether Foreigners Have Criminal Sanctions During the Period of Their Residence in China.” 1. This rule authorizes notary offices to issue police clearance certificates to foreigners. However, authorities in some cities reject the 1991 rule as they consider it outdated and incompatible with the current situation.
In a city where there are multiple notary offices, only the major notary office(s) issue the certificates to foreigners. In Guangzhou, for example, foreigners must apply to Guangzhou Notary Public Office, not any other notary offices in the city.
Public Security Agency
In some cities, it is a public security agency that issues police clearance certificates to foreigners. However, knowing this is not enough for figuring out where to apply, because public security agencies refer to a complex police system. You need to know specifically which public security agency that issues the certificates in a particular city. Among those agencies, the most common ones are police station (派出所), public security sub-bureau (公安分局) and municipal PSB exit-entry administration bureau (市出入境管理局).
Police station is the smallest unit of the complex public security system. Hangzhou, Dongguan and Qingdao are examples of the cities where foreigners must apply at police stations.
Public security sub-bureau
A public security sub-bureau administers the police stations within the same geographic district. As far as the administrative level is concerned, sub-bureaus are higher than police stations and lower than municipal public security bureaus (PSB). Sub-bureaus perform a role similar to larger police stations, but have a more complex structure. In the city of Chongqing, foreigners must apply to the exit-entry administration brigade of the sub-bureau (分局出入境管理大队). Another example is the city of Changsha where foreigners must apply to the criminal investigation brigades of sub-bureaus (分局刑侦大队).
Exit-entry administration bureau of PSB
An exit-entry administration bureau of municipal PSB handles administrative affairs concerning all foreigners in a city. Their responsibilities include the issuance of police clearance certificates to foreigners in some cities such as Tianjin, Xi’an, Changchun and Kunming.
Required Documents for Applying for a China police clearance certificate
The required documents for applying for a China police clearance certificate are different from one city to another. It can be as simple as the requirements in Beijing where an applicant may only need to submit passport copies. In contract, the documents required in some other cities can be quite difficult to gather. For example, in Shanghai applicants are required to provide up to nine documents. In addition to varying by city, the required documents also vary by your China immigration status. For example, foreigners who reside in China with student status may be required to provide different documents than foreigners with work status. Below is a list of the commonly required documents (click links to see samples):
- Passports including pages with China entry and exit stamps and China residence permits
- Temporary residence registration form
- Employer/ school letter confirming no criminal conviction
- For workers: China work permit
- For students: School documents such as graduation certificate for a degree program or course completion certificate for a non-degree program
Apply a China police clearance certificate through a third party representative
If you are currently living outside of China, you may appoint a representative to file the application at a notary office on your behalf. This is provided by Article 26 of China Notary Law (2017) (“《中华人民共和国公证法》“).
Your representative must appear in person at the issuing agency with your written authorization, i.e. power of attorney (POA). Some local authorities require that powers of attorney be authenticated by a China consulate. For instructions about how to apply for China consular authentication, please visit the website of the China consulate that serves the area where you currently live. For example, if you live in Toronto, Canada, you can refer to the consular authentication instruction posted by the China Consulate in Toronto.
If your application is in a city where the issuing authority is a police station or other public security agencies, a third party may or may not be allowed to file the application on your half. Cases where they refuse to accept third-party applications happen rarely.
The procedures and required documents for applying for China police clearance certificates are rather confusing. One important reason is that China does not have a central authority in managing criminal records. In 2012, China national authorities issued the “Opinions on Establishing the system of Criminal Records of Criminal Personnel” (《关于建立犯罪人员犯罪记录制度的意见》), which envisions a national criminal records information database. This could be the future solution to the current confusion and help streamline the application process.
We are specialized in assisting foreigners in obtaining China police clearance certificates and preparing statements explaining why certificates are unobtainable. Our services cover almost every city of China. If you are interested in hiring us, the best way to get started is to fill in a quote request form. Click the below button to be directed to the form.