When conducting business in Hong Kong, it’s typical to use the local tender, Renminbi (or RMB).
The official currency of China as a whole, the base unit is Yuan, as the dollar is for USD.
Because Hong Kong is a vast hub for international business, the question of how to pay in RMB outside of China is a common one.
There are many foreigners who want to pay for products or services in China using RMB.
But how can this be done?
The Rise of the Digital Yuan
The good news is that in an increasingly digital world, breaking these types of financial barriers has become easier.
While some countries (such as Thailand, the UK, and Malaysia) have been cleared to pay China in RMB for international settlements, until recently it’s been difficult for individuals to do so.
Online payments may currently be made with two payment platforms, Alipay and WeChat Pay.
You will need to go through Chinese websites that are compatible with these platforms, but the good news is that many are.
Because of the amount of international business completed in China, they are well equipped to allow foreign consumers to pay in RMB.
And now, even the Chinese government is jumping into the game.
China has recently created its own government-sponsored app to allow for payments in yuan.
This app is run entirely in Chinese, and is called “E-CNY”, or “Digital Renminbi”.
Setting Up Your Apps
In the early stages, there are some limitations to regulate the number of people that have access.
This app is only available in Chinese app stores, and will require a special code to download.
Not to worry, though, you can get the QR code from one of 6 participating banks: Bank of China, ICBC, China Construction Bank, Postal Savings Bank, Agricultural Bank of China, or Bank of Communications.
When you scan the code, you’ll be prompted to enter your name, passport number, and phone number.
You will receive an SMS with a code. Enter the code, download, and you’re set.
You may then add currency to your account and use it to purchase necessaries in RMB.
Remember, to have access and use this app, you will need to have an account with a Chinese bank.
If you are doing business in Hong Kong, likely, this will already be the case.
If not, you’ll need to set up an account first.
The Problem With RMB Accessibility
Another common issue that foreign businesses can run into when dealing with RMB is transferring company and personal earnings out of Hong Kong.
Many international business owners working in Hong Kong earn piles of RMB within the country, which is ideal.
The issue that arises is when they want to take those earnings outside China.
Naturally, the Chinese government isn’t thrilled about all that money leaving the country.
They will typically set up roadblocks to prevent that from happening.
Because of the complexity of the process, banks are quick to find reasons to refuse the transfers.
But not to worry, there are workarounds.
Remitting RMB Income Outside China
You’ll want to have documentation ready when transferring RMB out of China.
Because the process can be a bit of a pain, it’s best to be ready with all of your ducks in a row.
Here is what you’ll need to transfer RMB:
- The original, stamped copy of your employment contract
- Monthly tax receipts
- All bank account info for both receiving and sending parties
- SWIFT code of your home bank
Tip: If you are not a fluent or native Chinese speaker, have someone on-hand to help the process along.
You will need to be able to demonstrate to the bank that all of your RMB has been acquired legally and that all taxes have been paid.
There is a large movement of illicit money moving into and out of China called “hot money”.
If this movement isn’t regulated, it can wreak havoc on the Chinese economy.
Naturally, the Chinese government is eager to staunch the flow, so you will have to bear some scrutiny.
In some cases, in which an expatriate is not properly registered and not paying taxes (this can either be by default or design), they do not meet SAFE requirements and cannot wire money overseas.
Even in these cases, there are workarounds.
Other Options for Remitting RMB Earnings
If you feel that your employer has misled you over your status, you may choose to enlist a local lawyer to help.
Be aware that this will take time, and that there are some other options you can choose from.
As a foreign national, you may transfer money up to or equalling $500 USD once per day without having to prove how it’s been earned, or whether taxes have been paid.
If you have a Chinese friend or family member that you trust, you may have them transfer the money to their Chinese bank account and wire $2,000 per day to your overseas account.
Chinese nationals are allowed a larger daily transfer amount.
You can also convert your RMB into a saleable asset like fine art or jewelry.
While there are limits on exports, the Chinese government is less likely to question personal belongings than money.
Remember that these are not best practices but solutions to use if you have run into tax problems.
It is illegal to work without paying taxes or registering your business in China.
Be sure that when you’re getting started, you’ve examined contract terms and fully understand the registration process so that you don’t run into these problems.
While there are still some issues with paying with RMB internationally or remitting it to your country of origin, it is fast becoming an international currency.
With the Chinese government now on board with the digital yuan, the process will only get more accessible in the future.
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