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 certificate, also known as a police clearance certificate or certificate of no criminal record. 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 for a China Police Certificate
China does not issue national police 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 police 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 certificate”, it is commonly issued by notary offices in major China cities, such as Shanghai, Nanjing 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 certificates to foreigners. However, authorities in some cities reject the 1990 rule as they consider it outdated and incompatible with the current situation.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.
Public Security Agency
In some cities, it is a public security agency that issues police 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 district bureau (公安分局) and municipal PSB exit-entry administration (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 district bureau
A public security district bureau administers the police stations within the same geographic district. As far as the administrative level is concerned, district bureaus are higher than police stations and lower than municipal PSB. District 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 district 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 district bureaus (分局刑侦大队).
Exit-entry administration of PSB
An exit-entry administration of municipal PSB handles administrative affairs concerning all foreigners in a city. Their responsibilities include the issuance of police certificates to foreigners in some cities such as Tianjin, Xi’an, Changchun and Kunming.
Required Documents for Applying for a China Police Certificate
The required documents for applying for a China police 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 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 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 more information about how to apply for China consular authentication, please see our article Guide to Applying for China Consular Authentication.
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 certificates are rather confusing. One important reason is that China does not have a central authority for 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.
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