Moving to China

Relocate to the East with ease

Moving halfway around the world is not without its complications. Relocating to China is particularly time-consuming, with strict customs regulations and a lot of administrative legwork.

There is a lot to think about, so why not let a professional international removals company handle the packing and shipping of your household items and personal belongings? Cadogan Tate has decades of experience in moving professionals and families all over the world.

We have the knowledge and expertise to navigate the procedures and paperwork required for making large personal shipments to China, no matter which region or city you’re moving to.



Cadogan Tate has a lot of experience with moving people and their belongings to the East, including the various regions and cities of China. We’ve gone through the complex customs procedure many times and are best placed to advise you on what you can and can’t take with you.

After you request a no-obligation quote from us, we will make an initial assessment of your possessions, and can produce a thorough and detailed moving plan. There are some items you may not be able to take with you to China, so we can help you arrange storage in one of our high-tech, secure facilities.

Planning is key when it comes to any international relocation, and this is especially true when moving to China. You need to apply for an import permit before you can arrange a shipment to the country, so you may already be living in China before your goods arrive. In many cases, you will need to be present in the country to file the application. We can store your shipment at our storage depot ready to ship as soon as the permit is granted.

You will be assigned your own Move Coordinator who will talk you through everything you need to know about moving to China. Why shoulder the burden yourself, when you can use a professional removals company to do the hard work for you?

Enquire now or call us on +44 (0) 20 8963 4000

General Advice

Moving to China is quite unlike relocating to other popular expatriate destinations. It is a very different way of life and there can be an initial culture shock. One of the biggest problems that expats face is the language barrier. The official language is Mandarin, however there are hundreds of local dialects you may come across. Life can be very busy and fast-paced, and the main cities can feel overcrowded, even when moving to China from London.


Traditional Chinese culture still presides; however, the Western world has started to make its mark and the country now welcomes more expatriates than ever before. This has led to a rich living experience, with a medley of cultures quite unlike anywhere else in the world.


The thriving economy has created many opportunities for expats and it is beginning to grow in popularity. The opportunity to develop a strong career in the East, coupled with high earning potential, has seen a surge in foreign nationals living in the main cities of Beijing and Shanghai.


Regional Information

Around 1.4 billion people live in China, with big populations in the largest city of Shanghai and the capital city of Beijing. It is under single-party socialist rule – very different to the democracy of the West. There is no one dominant religion, though there are many religions practised including Buddhism, Protestant Christianity and Taoism. There are many spiritual buildings and retreats, which are ornately designed with bright colours and elaborate detailing, contrasting elegantly with the sky-high modern buildings.


The weather in China varies a lot across the country, with very distinct patterns in different regions. The south is more temperate: in summer, it is hot and humid, with plenty of rain; winters are mild. In the north, including Beijing, winters can be much harsher. Temperatures can drop as low as -10°C – the lowest temperatures across the whole country. Summer is equally as extreme, with highs of 37°C. These hot conditions are not helped by the country’s high levels of air pollution, which trap the heat in and make it unbearable at times. It is thought that the north plain of China, one of the most densely populated regions in the world, could become “the deadliest heatwave zone” by the end of this century – see more in this CNN article.


Chinese Lifestyle

Expats are likely to experience a very good standard of living in China. High wages and luxury apartments make for a very comfortable lifestyle. However, it can take a little while to acclimatise to living in a socialist country.


Societal conventions can be quite different, and there are certain historical and geographical statements that are indoctrinated into Chinese residents. It is best to avoid soci-political discussions. It’s also worth being aware of censorship, which is prevalent in the media. Your television, for example, might intermittently cut out if you’re watching international programming that features content prohibited by the state. Embrace the culture and the way of life, however, it can be an eye-opening and enriching experience.


If you’re moving to China with children, take care when picking an international school for them to attend. The best schools will take a very proactive approach to teaching Mandarin as a second language, which will enable your children to communicate with locals. Without any knowledge of Mandarin, children may feel limited to friendships with other young expats. While there is a sizeable expat community, children can benefit from a richer cultural experience by understanding more about the country they are living in.


Real Estate

The standard of accommodation varies a lot across China, but for high-worth expatriates there is no shortage of luxury living options. Most Western expatriates live in modern, comfortable apartments or villas.

In the main cities, large apartment complexes offer plenty of living space, top-of-the-range fittings and modern amenities. The most desirable properties will have access to gym and pool facilities.

Another popular option, particularly for families, is to live in a villa as part of a secure, gated community. The advantage of these communities is that you are instantly in the middle of other expat families, helping children to settle in and make friendships. These complexes come equipped with everything from communal clubhouses and swimming pools, to gym facilities and playgrounds. They often have transport to the city centre and schools, making commuting straightforward.

Most expatriates opt to rent, and will need to pay a reservation fee after choosing a property. Contracts usually last a year and the first month’s rent is payable upfront, often in cash. Your employment contract may include housing provision.



The quality of China’s healthcare services varies vastly across the country. For expatriates, there are dedicated facilities that offer higher Western standards and have English-speaking staff. Some of these are in the form of international wings in public hospitals, which are exclusively for the use of foreign nationals. These are a new idea and only available in the main cities.


Most expatriates will use the private healthcare system. While more expensive than the fees charged in public hospitals (up to twice as much), the standards are higher and waiting times are reduced. It’s common to have health insurance included with an employment package. Be sure to check the coverage and who is included if you are moving with a partner or family. There are plenty of pharmacies to pick up off-the-shelf medicines, but bear in mind that the labels will be in Chinese.

There are some specific health concerns to be aware of when moving to China from the UK. The air pollution levels are much higher, which can take a lot of getting used to. This can be a problem for anyone with an existing respiratory condition. Many expatriates will invest in air purifiers in their homes to help with breathing, especially when asleep. It’s also advised to drink bottled water, rather than tap water, and fit a good-quality water filter on taps.


Money and Utilities

Huge growth in the Chinese economy has opened opportunities for expatriates to relocate to China. There is a professional skills shortage in some industries, which benefits international workers with high salaries and good employment packages. Ideally, your new employment contract should include comprehensive healthcare, a housing supplement and a contribution towards school fees if you are moving to China with children.

If you are residing in China long-term, you will be subject to Individual Income Tax (IIT). This is payable on all income that derives from within China. Your salary is subject to a maximum 45% deduction, with progressive rates based on earnings. Taxes are filed and paid monthly, but in most cases your employer will withhold the correct amount of tax, and file and pay this on your behalf. Any employment benefits, such as housing or expenses, can be added to pre-tax deductions. Many employers give generous annual bonuses, which are also subject to tax.

Even though the monthly taxes are arranged by your employer, every individual must submit an annual declaration, within three months of the end of the previous calendar year. China conducts stringent tax investigations, particularly against foreign nationals, so it is worth using a professional to ensure your affairs are in order.

How long should you allow for shipping to China?

The customs clearance process in China is extensive and time-consuming. You must have an import permit before the shipment can be sent. This includes providing a range of documentation, which our specialists can advise on. We recommend that your belongings are packed by our international removals team and stored in our depot until approval to ship is received.

Because of this process, it is difficult to advise on precise shipping times until your import permit has been arranged. There are also three one-week long holidays across China when all government offices, including Customs are closed. These are in May and October, as well as the Lunar New Year.

The import permit for both air and sea shipments must be applied for at the same time to avoid the requirement for two permits, especially as customs reserve the right to levy 100% duties/taxes on the second shipment.

What can you take?

China has quite strict customs clearance guidelines, which you need to be aware of when deciding what you can and can’t take with you when you move. As we already mentioned above, you or your international removals agent needs to apply for an import permit before you can ship your belongings to the country. This can only be done after your work permits and residence visas have been issued. Items for your personal use are generally duty free the first time you apply, although a tax may be levied on some items.

There is also a list of prohibited items that cannot be imported into China. Many of these are common sense, such as explosives, poisons and counterfeit currencies. Other prohibited items include toy currency and coins, such as Monopoly money. Certain old maps are also not allowed if they depict anything other than the official borders of China.

There are also other restrictions, such as electronics, video games, digital recorders, digital cameras and similar items. Many of these items need to be listed on the inventory with the model and serial number and could be subject to inspection and taxation. You can usually only take one of any electronic item.

Taking a car or motor vehicle

We don’t recommend importing a car into China, however it is possible if you meet certain criteria. Only legal residents can import cars, so you would need to hold a Z visa and have ‘foreign expert status’. Cars of a common brands need to be less than a year old and in good working condition. Rarer cars and old models are unlikely to be approved for import, so you may need to put collectibles into storage in the UK instead – speak to your Cadogan Tate representative about our storage options. As a personal car is considered a luxury in China, the import taxes are incredibly high too – up to twice the value of your car.

Moving to the China with pets

You can usually import common household pets into China if you meet the requirements determined by the region or city you are moving to. Your pet must have an up-to-date rabies vaccination and health certificate filled out within 10 days of travelling. It is worth speaking to your Surveyor or Move Coordinator if you plan on taking a pet with you to China, so they can advise your further on specific conditions.


China Regional Information

Moving from the UK to China can mean quite a lifestyle adjustment. We have been helping professionals and their families relocate to China for years and have built up a detailed knowledge of the process.


Cadogan Tate is one of only 500 members of FIDI (Fédération Internationale des Déménageurs Internationaux) and holds the FIDI Accredited International Moving Standard (FAIM). In order to maintain our high standards, we only work with moving companies in China that are also members of FIDI.


We will help you with the application of your import permit into all the major cities and regions. In some cases, you may have to be present at the customs office during the application.


We have also used our experience in all areas of Chinese relocation to put together a series of useful guides that will help make your international move that little bit easier.


Enquire now or call us on +44 (0) 20 8963 4000

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