Applying for a Chinese Green Card through a spousal route

After 12 years in China and being married to a local for 8 years, I have finally applied for and received my Chinese Green Card. The application process took around a year from preparing documents to applying and then waiting for the card for over half a year. Requirements can change and vary from city to city, but this is how I applied for a Chinese Green Card through the spousal route in Guangzhou in 2021/2022.

To be eligible to apply you have to

  • Been married for 5 years to a local
  • Been living in China for 5 years, each year less than 3 months away
  • Proof of income from you or/and your spouse
  • Proof of residence, either house you own, permission to stay in family house or long term rental contract
  • 100 000CNY frozen in a bank account for 6-12 months, the amount depends on the city you apply (In 2022 another applicant was told better to freeze over 100k so theey froze 110k.)

Our application process started with getting a non-criminal record from Finland as that took the longest time. In early 2021 Finland has covid restrictions and we wanted to wait for them to be lifted before asking my family for help. I wasn’t able to go to Finland to apply for this document, so my brother helped me with this. After applying for the document online, it had to be notarized at the Finnish Foreign Ministry and then at the Chinese Embassy in Helsinki. Always check the requirements from your local Chinese immigration office and from your own authorities.

Click to see the green card brochure from Guangzhou 2021

During the time we gathered all documents, we visited the Guangzhou immigration office multiple times to check what documents we needed. Each time we got a slightly different answer, each time they found something new we should include. End of 2022 in Guangzhou there were two officers dealing with green card applications, the younger woman was very knowledgeable about the requirements, whereas the older man wasn’t and got us running back and forth multiple times.

The list below is what we submitted in the end.

Our pile of documents, not all of these was needed, but I wanted to make sure I had everything I could imagine with three copies as they kept making us run back and forth with always new things to add to our list.

List of documents needed

  • The application form that you will get from the Public Security Bureau Immigration Office (出入境), needs to be filled in by hand three times, three separate copies. If you want your Chinese name on the card as well, there is a space for it on this form. Example pdf here.
  • 4 photos, the Guangzhou immigration used to have their own photo booth, but in 2020 they have closed it. There is a print shop and photo booth across the street you can use. The photos will need an official barcode slip.
  • Your passport and 3 copies of the information page and current residence permit page. Possibly need copies of your old passports as well, especially those that you had when you got married or had a child (those passport numbers that appear on your marriage certificate or child’s birth certificate.)
  • Health declaration is done at the official health center for visas/residence permits, the letter that was sealed in the envelope. 3 copies.
  • Non-criminal record from your home country, most likely other countries you have lived in as well. No need for your time in China. This needs to be notarized and translated and can be done at the notary office in Guangzhou. 3 copies of everything. (As I couldn’t travel to Finland for this, my brother helped me with this step. You can also hire an agent.)
    • In Finland non-criminal record could be applied online, cost 12eur
    • During my application time, the foreign ministry only accepted notarizations via the mail, cost 20eur
    • For notarization at the Chinese embassy they needed an application form, a copy of your passport, a letter of consent for a family member or agent to act on your behalf, copy of the agent’s passport. Cost 20eur
    • Sent from Finland to China via DHL
  • Your own personal CV since you were 18 years old, no gaps between the dates, detailed information on month and year, where you were, and what you were doing. Needs to include when you got married and possible kids, even write down the school your child goes to. Make sure the CV matches your residence permit or visa status. Also 3 copies. Example pdf here.
  • Your spouse’s personal CV and 3 copies. Signed by your spouse.
  • Your own marriage certificate original. 3 copies of inside pages. (If you were married outside of China, check the requirements.)
  • Kid’s birth certificate original, if from abroad need to translate at the notary office. 3 copies.
  • Kid’s passports old and new originals. 3 copies of the info page.
  • Hukou household registration, needs to read that your spouse is already married. 3 Copies of the hukou including general pages and your spouse’s space. If you officially live in your in-law’s house and use it for housing agreement, need to show the in-law’s page as well.
  • Spouse ID original. 3 copies of the above, both sides. Signed by your spouse.
  • Proof of freezing the money, in Guangzhou at least 100k RMB. The proof needs to read 定期 in Chinese. This also needs to be notarized. 3 Copies of the proof and the notarization book. (Don’t trust the bank knows what they are doing, make sure the document says 定期 or 冻结 or both.)
  • Household ownership papers. If you use in-law’s house for this, you need to go with them to the notary office to notarize an agreement that allows you to live with them, needs to include the words 无偿无限期 (example pdf here). 3 Copies of all the above. If you use in law’s house, need their ID as well. 3 copies on both sides.
    • If you live with in-laws, the person whose name is on the houshold ownership papers has to come with you in person to the notary office and bring his/her ID card.
    • Another Guangzhou applicant mentioned they were required to own an apartment in Guangzhou when they asked for details 5 years prior, only to find out that in 2022 you don’t need to own an apartment anymore (check the current requirements before you apply). As they own their apartment, they had to notarize the household ownership papers.
  • Foreigner’s accommodation registration paper from the local police station original. 3 copies.
  • A letter that your spouse allows you to apply for the green card. In Guangzhou, some officials requested this, but not all. Also 3 copies of it. Signed by your spouse. (In Guangzhou one officer required this, another officer didn’t.)
  • Bank records from personal accounts (if you work, and for the application to be successful I believe at least one of you has to work). We also submitted our company bank records. These were only asked of us at a later stage of applying, during our interview.
    • Applicant in 2022 was also asked for proof of employment and income.
  • Non-criminal record from China wasn’t needed (not sure because I have lived in Guangzhou the whole time).
    • In 2022 another applicant in Guangzhou was asked to provide China non-criminal record as well, this is also applied at the immigration office. This applicant lived in Beijing before moving to Guangzhou.
  • Get this checklist as a pdf here.

The process for applying

  • Visiting the PSB immigration office in the city where your spouse’s hukou is, asking for the details of what documents to submit and how much money you have to freeze. Also, check if you need to own a house in that city or not. Some smaller cities might refuse to handle your application just because they don’t know how to do this. You can then go to the province’s capital immigration to check or call the national immigration agency for assistance: 12367
  • Apply for non-criminal record in your own country, after that start preparing for the other documents. Notice that most of the documents expire in 6 months, so make sure they are all valid at the time of your application. Expect not to be accepted the first or second time you try to apply.
  • In Guangzhou you need to make an appointment to apply for the green card here:
  • Once you finally have all of your documents ready and the immigration is ready to accept them, they will receive your documents and tell you to wait for a call for the interview. In late 2021 in Guangzhou, it took a month to get the time for the interview which was a very casual chat with me and my spouse. Mostly my husband spoke to the officer in Cantonese. They asked some detailed questions about our CVs and our family’s annual income. Later they called and asked us to send bank statements.
    • Another applicant in 2022 waited months to get a call to come to an interview. She and her local husband were interviewed separately, but her husband was allowed to translate for her when needed. Questions asked: when and how you met, what job you had and have, when did you get married, what is like to live with his mother, have both met the parents, how much do you earn, questions bout children. The officers also took a photo of the couple.
    • The above applicant was told at the immigration office that no house visit is needed, but still the local police station called that they would visit. The local police checked a few documents and asked about their car. The house visit only lasted for 10 minutes.
  • Right after the interview, we paid the application fee and they told us the waiting time for at least 6 months. After this, you just wait. If you haven’t heard back in 6 months you can go and ask, but it’s very common for the waiting time to be 8-12 months.


  • Preparing documents, Summer 2021 around 3 months
  • Application handed in October 21st 2021
  • Interview and application fee paid November 10th 2021
  • Card issued in Beijing on June 10th 2022
  • Guangzhou immigration called July 15th 2022 informing me the card was ready
  • Picked up the card July 19th 2022, pick up was only available twice a week

Locations and addresses in Guangzhou

  • Main immigration office: 出入境大厦 Address: 解放南路155号 (Haizhu Square metro station exit B3 10 minutes walk) appointment booking:
    • Inquiry (no appointment needed) and application windows are on the 5th floor. Green card final application, interview, payment, and collection room is on the 4th-floor special area. Things sometimes change, so ask the officers or guards which floor to go.
  • Notary office in Zhujiang New Town (there are several around the city) 南方公证处珠江新城办证点 Address: 华利路59号保利大厦16楼 (16th floor, both notary and translation). Opening times: Working days 8:30-12:00 and 14:00-17:30 (recommend to go early in the morning, can go without appointment but need to wait, translations often quick in half an hour)
  • Health check center 广东国际旅行卫生保健中心 Address: 龙口西路207号 (Gangding metro station exit A 10 minutes walk) Appointment booking: click here

Costs involved

  • Non-criminal record from Finland with double notarization, 52eur (370rmb) + DHL fee
  • Notarization in China around 200rmb per document (they do translations as well), due to having to do a couple of documents twice I used around 1530rmb for translations and notarizations.
  • Application fee 1500rmb
  • Card fee 300rmb (when picking up)

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