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Representative Office FAQs: Registering and Beyond

This series of FAQs addresses the steps necessary for a foreign NGO to register a representative office in mainland China. Under the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Administration of Activities of Overseas Nongovernmental Organizations in the Mainland of China (the Foreign NGO Law), there are two ways a foreign NGO is permitted to operate in mainland China: by establishing a representative office, or by filing a temporary activity. (For the steps needed to file a temporary activity, please see details in “Temporary Activity FAQs: Filing and Beyond.”)


Before Registration: What Groups Are Eligible to Register a Representative Office?

Article 2 of the Foreign NGO Law, as translated into English by China Law Translate, defines Foreign NGOs as any “not-for-profit, non-governmental social organizations lawfully established outside mainland China, such as foundations, social groups, and think tank institutions.”

The law provides little clarity on the types of nonprofit, non-governmental organizations or activities that would be considered “foreign NGOs” in the Chinese context. For example, is a social enterprise considered a foreign NGO? What about a U.N.-affiliated agency?

At a more practical level—and more relevant for entities trying to register as foreign NGOs in China—the relevant requirements as laid out by Article 10 of the Foreign NGO Law are:

  1. Legally established outside of mainland China;
  2. Able to independently bear civil liability;
  3. Objectives and operational scope in its organizational charter are beneficial to the development of public welfare;
  4. Has continuously carried out substantive activities outside of mainland China for two or more years;
  5. Other requirements provided for in other laws or administrative regulations.

Several types of foreign NGOs are not subject to the Foreign NGO Law. Per Article 53 of the law, these certain types of organizations may carry out exchanges or cooperation in China with Chinese organizations of the same type without first registering for a representative office (or filing a temporary activity):

  • Foreign schools
  • Foreign hospitals
  • Foreign Natural science and engineering technology research institutions
  • Foreign Academic organizations

Thus, for example, the law suggests that a foreign school establishing an exchange with a school in China would not be subject to the Foreign NGO law. However, a foreign school cooperating with another type of entity in China, such as a Chinese NGO or a Chinese cultural institution, would be subject to the Foreign NGO law.

At a talk for foreign NGOs in Beijing in November 2018, a Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB) Foreign NGO Management Office official further discussed several points of note for groups seeking to register:

NGOs which haven’t registered representative offices need to pay attention to article ten [of the foreign NGO Law], especially the five rules within it. If any of these five rules is violated, that NGO can’t register a representative office in China.

The problems are mainly associated with the following two articles: “The NGO is independently able to assume civil liability” and “The NGO’s aims and scope of activities as stipulated in the organizational charter are beneficial to the development of the public benefit sector.”

“Able to independently assume civil liability” refers to who will be the legal subject if legal disputes happen in China. If the overseas NGOs does not have the ability to independently bear civil liability, they cannot establish a representative office in China. Thus, they need to issue a certificate to prove their legitimacy, and their ability to bear civil liability.

As for the “organizational charter,” we have had lots of NGOs bring their material to us, and everything else was in order, they had even found their PSU [Professional Supervisory Unit], and they were just waiting for our agreement so they could go to their PSU and get a stamp. But we found that in their charter there were no purposes and no descriptions of benefit to the development of the public benefit sector. So, it didn’t work.

Similar requirements are in place for foreign NGOs seeking to carry out temporary activities in China.


Before Registration: What Is the Scope of Work Permitted under the Foreign NGO Law?

Articles 3 and 5 of the Foreign NGO Law outline the scope of permitted foreign NGO engagement in China (translations by China Law Translate):

  • Foreign NGOs may conduct work in “fields such as economics, education, science, culture, health, sports, and environmental protection, and for areas such as poverty relief and disaster relief.”
  • Foreign NGOs’ work “must not endanger China’s national unity, security, or ethnic unity; and must not harm China’s national interests, societal public interest and the lawful rights and interests of citizens, legal persons and other organizations.” (A legal person generally refers to a “non-human entity that is treated as a person for limited legal purposes,” such as corporations.)
  • Foreign NGOs must not engage in or fund for-profit activities, political activities, or religious activities.

The China NGO Project has identified temporary activities or representative offices working in the following fields, categorizing them based on the “scope of work” or activity name as provided on the Ministry of Public Security website:

  • Aging
  • Agriculture
  • Animal Protection
  • Arts and Culture
  • Civil Society Capacity-Building
  • Disabilities
  • Disaster Relief
  • Economic Development
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Environment
  • Ethnic Affairs
  • Gender Issues
  • Health
  • Human Rights
  • Infrastructure
  • International Relations/Exchange
  • Labor
  • Law and Governance
  • LGBTQ Issues
  • Media
  • Migrants
  • Poverty Alleviation
  • Religion
  • Rural Issues/Development
  • Sport
  • Technology
  • Tourism
  • Trade
  • Urban Issues/Development
  • Youth

A full list and map of representative offices, including the fields in which they work, can be found here. (A list of temporary activities can be found here.)


Before Registration: What is a Professional Supervisory Unit (PSU)?

Any Foreign NGO seeking to establish a representative office in China must first find a Professional Supervisory Unit (PSU) to sponsor them. Foreign NGOs are subject to a “dual management” system, in which they must receive approval and oversight from both a PSU and from the local Public Security Bureau (PSB). A PSU, as the “supervisory” authority, is the entity with which a foreign NGO draws up its initial agreement to work in China; the local PSB, as the “registration” authority, ultimately determines whether or not a foreign NGO can register a representative office. PSUs must be a government or quasi-government entity. They can only be selected from a list provided by the MPS, or with the express consent of the MPS.

A PSU’s precise role vis-a-vis its sponsored foreign NGO remains formally undefined, and varies from organization to organization and from PSU to PSU. In theory, however, PSUs bear some responsibility for the actions of the foreign NGOs they sponsor; they are supposed to review and approve foreign NGOs’ annual activity plans and reports. Many foreign NGOs report uncertainty about the nature of the relationship and have expressed a desire for greater clarity about the parameters of PSU management, but there is, as of May 2019, no official Ministry of Public Security guidance nor enough consistency across bureaucracies to describe how PSUs on the whole interact with their sponsored foreign NGOs.

Note that a PSU is different from a Chinese Partner Unit (CPU). CPUs are organizations that work with a foreign NGO to carry out a temporary activity. In a broad sense, CPUs perform the same oversight function for temporary activities that PSUs do for representative offices, but there are fewer restrictions on which organizations can serve as CPUs. More information about CPUs is available here.


Before Registration: Who Are Potential PSUs?

The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) released a list of approved Professional Supervisory Units (PSUs), arranged by field of specialization. The China NGO Project has also combined the Chinese-language list with the English translation from China Law Translate, together with a brief explanation of selecting an appropriate PSU, which can be found here. Contact information for some of these PSUs, as provided by the MPS, is listed here. In addition, most provincial-level MPS foreign NGO offices have posted more specific PSU lists for their provinces. Using these lists as a guide, organizations can reach out to relevant PSUs directly to request their sponsorship.

MPS officials have indicated that they plan to update the PSU list as necessary to include relevant entities; if a logical or appropriate entity is not on the approved PSU list, a foreign NGO might consider informing the MPS and requesting its inclusion. Though the MPS has not issued a new list since 2017, a number of PSUs not originally included on the MPS list have received approval to sponsor foreign NGOs. (A full list of PSUs that are sponsoring foreign NGOs can be found here.)

Despite this fact, some foreign NGOs continue to report that they are unable to find PSUs willing to sponsor them. Conversations with The China NGO Project indicate that this could be for a number of reasons, including limited institutional capacity to exercise oversight over foreign NGOs, certain sectors of work being deemed too sensitive for foreign NGO involvement, or concern related to the potential political liabilities involved in sponsoring a foreign NGO. In some cases, foreign NGOs have requested and received assistance from local Public Security Bureaus (PSBs) to help address the latter concern.

Some successfully registered foreign NGOs note that their registration process was helped because they already had a long-standing partnership with the government entity that eventually became their PSU. Yet, these tactics have not worked for other groups, either because they did not have such long-standing relationships, or because, as they see it, the PSB does not wish them to register.

There is also the issue of some MPS-approved PSUs choosing not to sponsor any foreign NGOs. Foreign NGOs report that a number of potential PSUs, including some entities with whom they had previously partnered, have remained unresponsive to their overtures. Further, there is no guidance as to how to approach a PSU about sponsoring a foreign NGO’s representative office (whether by phone, fax, letter, email, or in person). The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) has not offered clear guidance about this problem.


Before Registration: Other PSU-Related FAQs


During Registration: How Do We Apply to a PSU?

As discussed above, foreign NGOs must find a PSU willing to sponsor them. The process for seeking approval from individual PSUs is not outlined in the Foreign NGO Law and varies from PSU to PSU. The law also does not state what PSUs should use as a standard for acceptance or rejection, nor does it provide a time frame within which PSUs must respond to requests for sponsorship.

Most PSUs have not publicly provided a set of the standard application procedures, and foreign NGOs will need to communicate with their potential PSU directly to learn what application materials might be required. Three PSUs, however, have published their own application requirements: the Ministry of Civil Affairs (translated by China Development Brief), the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development (in Chinese), and the General Administration of Sport of China (in Chinese).


During Registration: What Documents Do We Need to Apply to the Public Security Bureau (PSB)?

After gaining a Professional Supervisory Unit’s agreement to work together, a foreign NGO must submit application materials to the appropriate Public Security Bureau (PSB), per Article 12 of the Foreign NGO Law. Foreign NGO registration occurs at the province-level, which includes five autonomous regions (Inner Mongolia, Guangxi, Tibet, Ningxia, and Xinjiang) and four municipalities (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Chongqing); materials should be submitted to the PSB in the desired province of registration.

The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) has created guides for the initial online submission of the proper documentation for registering a representative office. Links to all official forms provided by the Ministry of Public Security, including both representative office and temporary activity forms, can be found here.

As stated in China Law Translate’s translation of the “Handbook for Foreign Non-governmental Organizations’ Registration of Representative Offices and Filing of Temporary Activities,” the following documents must be submitted to the PSB:

  1. Application to Establish a Foreign NGO Representative Office (Form 1)
  2. Registration Form for Foreign NGO Representative Offices (Form 2)
  3. Registration Form for Chief Representative of a Foreign NGO Representative Office (Form 3)
  4. Written authorization for registration of the establishment of a foreign NGO representative office [this must be obtained from the foreign NGO’s headquarters office]
  5. Documents and materials showing the foreign NGO’s legal establishment [requires notarization—see below]
  6. The foreign NGO’s charter [requires notarization—see below]
  7. Proof of the foreign NGO’s continued existence outside of mainland China for two or more years, and that it is has actually carried out activities [requires notarization—see below]
  8. Proof of identity and resumé of the representative offices’ proposed Chief Representatives [requires notarization—see below]
  9. Declaration that Foreign NGO Chief Representative Has No Criminal Record (Form 4)
  10. Proof of domicile for the proposed representative offices
  11. Proof of sources of capital
  12. Documents of consent from the Professional Supervisory Unit [see below].

The “documents of consent from the PSU” (“业务主管单位的同意文件”), as listed in number 12 above, are sometimes also called a “written agreement” or a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the PSU. According to information from Beijing Normal University’s Center for Charity Law (published by China Development Brief), such an MOU must:

  • be printed on the PSU’s official letterhead (which usually includes a red-colored banner or lettering at the top);
  • include language to the effect that the PSU “agrees to serve as the Professional Supervisory Unit for [name of NGO]’s [representative office location] representative office.” It should not include language that states the PSU “agrees to the establishment of a representative office,” as it is the PSB, not a PSU, which has such authority;
  • include a PSU contact name and telephone number, so as to facilitate any necessary checks;
  • for ministry- and commission-level work units, include the unit’s official seal, or the seal of the department-level work unit authorized to approve foreign-related work (for example, the Ministry of Civil Affairs’ International Work Department); for municipality-level work units, include the work unit’s official seal—this cannot be the seal of an individual office or sub-unit.

Several of the representative office application materials require specific notarization or authentication:

  • Proof of legal registration (see number 5, above)
  • The NGO’s charter (6)
  • Proof of existence and substantive activity for at least two years (7)
  • Proof of identity for the representative office’s proposed Chief Representatives (8)

For foreign NGOs currently established in Hong Kong, these materials should be notarized by a notary public recognized in mainland China.

For foreign NGOs currently established in Macau, these materials should be notarized by a notary public recognized by mainland China OR by a notary public recognized by the Notary Department of the Government for the Macau Special Administrative Region.

For foreign NGOs currently established in Taiwan, these materials should be notarized by a local notary. Proof of identity for Taiwan residents will be verified through the submission of “The Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents.”

For foreign NGOs currently established in all other countries, these materials should be notarized by a notary public of that country or, as allowed by local laws, a relevant government entity; authenticated by the “relevant authorities” in that country; and then authenticated by a Chinese embassy or consulate in that country.


During Registration: How Do We Contact the PSB?

Each province has established a location where foreign NGOs should submit paperwork related to setting up a representative office or carrying out a temporary activity. In most if not all cases, this is co-located with the province’s Public Security Bureau (PSB) Entry and Exit Administration. Contact information for these offices, including address, phone numbers, fax, and email (where available), is listed here.

In terms of when to contact the PSB and what to say after doing so, several successfully-registered foreign NGOs have recommended proactively reaching out to PSBs well before submitting application materials and keeping in regular contact, communicating openly about the NGO’s progress and problems. A number of foreign NGOs have reported that the PSB was willing to meet them and address their concerns. However, there are groups that report that they are in communication with the PSB but still find themselves unable to register.


During Registration: What if We Don’t Seem to Be Making Progress in Our Registration?

The China NGO Project is unaware of any representative office applications being publicly and officially rejected. Instead, applications are more likely to be hung up in the process of finding a willing and able Professional Supervisory Unit (PSU). For example, foreign NGOs that are unable to secure the sponsorship of a PSU will not be able to submit an application to be rejected. Or, NGOs may find a willing PSU and submit a complete application to the Public Security Bureau (PSB) and then not receive any news for a number of months, which can be taken as a tacit “no.”

According to one source, the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) has stated on multiple occasions that foreign NGOs have the right to appeal MPS regulatory decisions rejecting NGOs’ requests to establish a representative office or carry out a temporary activity. Appeals should be made according to domestic legal processes to challenge administrative decisions by regulators, as described in the Administrative Reconsideration Law and the Administrative Litigation Law. However, as there have been no explicit application rejections, The China NGO Project is unaware of any groups that have attempted such an appeal.

The same source told The China NGO Project that decisions made by Professional Supervisory Units (PSUs) are not subject to appeal.


During Registration: What Have Other Groups’ Registration Processes Been Like?

Case Studies for Registering Representative Offices:


During Registration: Other Registration-Related FAQs


After Registration: What Operational Changes Should We Expect after Registering?

For foreign NGOs that were operating informally or under a different status before the implementation of the Foreign NGO Law, formal registration under the Foreign NGO Law may come with additional administrative requirements that they hadn’t had to consider before. A number of these requirements—though not all of them—relate to Article 24 of the law, which states that Foreign NGOs must adopt the Chinese unified accounting system and must have a mainland accounting firm audit their financial accounts.

New administrative requirements include:

  • Contracting a financial service provider, audit firm, and human resources provider. The financial service provider will draft the NGO’s grants and contracts. The human resources provider must handle the NGO’s hiring of Chinese staff.
  • Training staff on the Chinese accounting rules; obtaining financial software that meets the requirements of Chinese government accounting rules and being trained on its use.
  • Ensuring compliance with accounting regulations such as obtaining official receipts (fapiao) for every financial transaction—from disbursing a grant to buying a grantee a coffee at Starbucks. For disbursement of funds to grantees or consultants, foreign NGOs must use these fapiao to deduct income taxes from the grant or payment. (It was previously the grant recipient’s responsibility to declare such income and many reportedly did not do so, meaning that either those recipients now net less money per disbursement, or the foreign NGO must increase the amount of their disbursements to keep the recipients’ net amount the same.)
  • Ensuring Chinese language is used on all official documentation, including financial accounts, grant templates, and contracts, meaning that such documents will either be exclusively in Chinese or bilingual.
  • Obtaining new official seals, leases, signage, and stationery with the foreign NGO’s official registered office name. This will be necessary because registered offices’ official names follow a set pattern as required under the Foreign NGO Law. For example, “Generic NGO,” a U.S.-based non-profit registered in Beijing, would be officially registered as “Generic NGO (United States) Beijing Representative Office.” Multiple different seals may be required for different administrative purposes. Existing leases may need to be re-signed to show the official registered name of the NGO’s office in China.

Most of the items outlined above come with costs above and beyond what previously unregistered groups may have been accustomed to paying. For example, an unregistered NGO may have previously hired local Chinese staff directly; under the new system, the NGO must go through a Chinese human resources provider to make the same hire, and must pay for the provider’s services to do so.

These administrative requirements raise several questions about how foreign NGOs may need to change their practices. Might groups need to hire additional staff to handle the extra tax and accounting work? Does an increase in the use of Chinese in foreign NGOs’ internal documentation alter its headquarters’ ability to monitor the office’s activities, if no one at headquarters is proficient in Chinese?


Bank Accounts

At a talk for foreign NGOs in Beijing in November 2018, a Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB) Foreign NGO Management Office official explained limitations on which bank accounts foreign NGOs may use for their activities in China, and how they may transfer funds:

In general, NGOs can only use the account which they submit to us to manage the funds, and can’t use any other accounts.

We have already found out some cases of illegal use of funds in succession, and I will show two examples to you.

Example 1: A foundation transferred funds from its headquarters to its partners directly, without going through the submitted account.

Transferring funds directly to the partner is strictly prohibited. The money must be transferred from the submitted account to the partner’s account, all funds must pass through the submitted account.

Example 2: A foundation already registered their representative office in China, and the consent sheet they signed involved specific usage regulations about fund management. But the funds of the foundation’s Beijing representative office is managed by their chief representative’s private account.

This violates the regulation, because all the organization’s funds in China need to go through the submitted account. If the use of the funds goes against the related regulations, we will find the problem during the annual review.

As for the annual review, the major content includes an annual work report and an audited financial accounting report. Both of them are filled in online, and generated automatically. The PSB, the finance ministry and related departments are still drawing up auditing regulations for the audited financial accounting report, but before the regulations come out, we need to follow the Accounting System of Civil Non-Profit Organizations.


Accounting Personnel

Foreign NGOs must adopt the Chinese unified accounting system and have Chinese accounting firms audit their financial reports, but the individuals doing this work do not need to have formal accounting qualifications. Changes to the law that affected this policy were implemented in 2017, which you can read more about here.



At a May 2018 Q&A session in Sichuan province, national-level and provincial-level tax authorities provided information about foreign non-profits’ tax-related concerns.

Regarding tax-exempt qualifications, authorities said that foreign NGOs should apply for tax-exempt status in accordance with the “Notice of the Ministry of Finance and the State Administration of Taxation on Issues Concerning the Determination of the Eligibility of Non-profit Organizations for Tax Exemption” (2018). To do so, the following documents are required:

  1. An application form;
  2. For public institutions, social organizations, foundations, or social service organizations, their bylaws; for religious institutions or venues, their management regulations;
  3. A photocopy of the registration certificate of the non-profit organization [the group’s representative office registration certificate as furnished by public security authorities under the Foreign NGO Law];
  4. Information on the organization’s sources and use of funds in the previous year, and detailed information on the organization’s public welfare activities and non-profit activities;
  5. A report specifically on wages and salaries in the previous year, including the salary system, the overall average wages and salaries of employees, the proportion of wages and fringe benefits to total expenditures, and the information on wages and salaries of important personnel (including at a minimum the top 10 personnel ranked by wages and salaries);
  6. Financial statements and audit reports from the previous year, as authenticated by an eligible intermediary;
  7. Materials furnished by registration authorities about the public institution’s, social organization’s, foundation’s, social service organization’s, religious activity venue’s, or religious institution’s project development or non-profit activities in the previous year as in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations and national policies;
  8. Other materials as required by public finance and tax authorities.

(According to the “Notice on the Determination of the Eligibility of Non-profit Organizations for Tax Exemption,” a non-profit that was established or registered in the current year does not need to provide materials described in items 6 and 7 above. For items 4 and 5, the materials should be for the year in which the NGO is making the application.)

Regarding income taxes, authorities said that foreign NGOs are subject to the Enterprise Income Tax Law, but that in accordance with the “Notice of the Ministry of Finance and the State Administration of Taxation on the Issues Concerning Tax-exempt Income in Enterprise Income Tax of Non-profit Organizations,” the following types of income are tax-exempt:

  1. Income from accepted donations of other units (其他单位) or individuals;
  2. Income from government subsidies other than fiscal appropriations as prescribed in Article 7 of Enterprise Income Tax Law of the People’s Republic of China, but excluding the income acquired through government procurement of services;
  3. Membership fees charged in accordance with provisions issued by departments of Civil Affairs or Finance at the provincial level or above;
  4. Interest earned from bank deposits of tax-free or tax-exempt income;
  5. Other income as prescribed by the Ministry of Finance and State Taxation Administration.

(It remains unclear how a foreign NGO’s acceptance of donations interacts with the Foreign NGO Law’s prohibition on fundraising.)


After Registration: Can We Fundraise in China?

The Ministry of Public Security has not offered clear guidance on this point. An earlier draft of the Foreign NGO Law forbade “accept[ing] donations from within Mainland China.” The final version of the Law says only that foreign NGOs and their representative offices may not fundraise within mainland China. This leaves open many questions about what is permissible. For example, what if a Chinese entity invites a foreign NGO employee to give a speech and offers remuneration? What if a Chinese entity approaches a foreign NGO, unbidden, with a donation proposal? Is there a manner in which foreign NGOs can legally accept money or in-kind donations from Chinese entities? If and when relevant guidance is offered, how practicable will enforcement be for such an inherently grey area?

A 2017 webinar by Berrin Öngün of the Hong Kong-based Koehler Group highlights this ambiguity. Öngün explains,

One important point to note is that this law actually does not explicitly allow you to fundraise in China. In fact, it says that fundraising is strictly prohibited via your own foreign NGO. You can use funds that are legally raised abroad and brought into China, or you can use the interest accumulated from funds in Chinese bank accounts. It is also against the law for any Chinese individual or institution [sic] accept funds from you that they know were raised illegally in China . . . It may be okay to receive donations that you didn't solicit . . . Another option is achieving fundraising through local partners. So what you could do is cooperate with a local Chinese NGO and encourage any potential donors to donate to your Chinese partner instead of you, then your Chinese partner and your organization could use these funds to work on projects together. Again, this is something that you should check with the local authorities. There's always the situation in China that it depends on who you talk to, in which district you are, you may be allowed to do that, someone else may not allow you to do that, but it's definitely an option for some people.


After Registration: What Does an Annual Work Plan Consist of?

The Ministry of Public Security has not offered detailed guidance on the content of annual work plans; anecdotally, the requirements appear to vary by foreign NGO, PSU, and PSB.

At a talk for foreign NGOs in Beijing in November 2018, a Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB) Foreign NGO Management Office official offered the following points on annual plans:

The first question is about the annual work plan. When you carry out an activity there will be an overarching framework. For instance in the field of environmental protection, conducting research about the environment is needed, but the partner and funds also need to be determined. If this big activity can be disassembled into smaller ones it is obviously better, that way we can provide more convenience for the overseas NGO.

For every registered overseas NGOs, the management office will allocate a police officer to them, and consult with them about how to disassemble a big activity into a small one. In any case I suggest writing about the activities in as much detail as possible.

The second question is about the time to submit the annual work plan. We will contact the PSU and ask if the related organization has submitted it before December 31st. We will also dispatch a notice that the annual check will start. If we don’t receive the annual plan, we will ask the related department.


After Registration: What Does an Annual Work Report Consist of?

As detailed in a February 9 Ministry of Public Security WeChat post, the Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB) Foreign NGO Management Office held a special training session to explain to Beijing-based foreign NGOs how to correctly submit their 2017 annual reports. The Ministry of Environmental Protection and the State Forestry Administration took part in the training, as did 78 individuals from foreign NGOs with offices in Beijing. The training included specialists speaking about the rules for foreign NGO account auditing and the process for uploading annual reports online, a representative of the Forestry Administration giving requirements and suggestions for annual reports related to forestry work, and PSB officials and other experts answering foreign NGOs’ questions.

The following includes details from the “Operational Guide for Foreign NGOs Filling Out Annual Reports Online,” as presented in the February 9 WeChat post. While this text, including screenshots of the process, is available in Chinese both in the WeChat post and on the Ministry of Public Security’s Foreign NGO website, The China NGO Project has not yet seen a formal copy of the Operational Guide. However, this can still be interpreted as official information. The following is a translation of that text.

Foreign NGOs can download information related to annual reporting from the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) website. After obtaining its Professional Supervisory Unit’s stamp of approval on its annual report, a foreign NGO should upload the stamped report to the website, where it will undergo preliminary review. Following this review, the NGO should go online to make an appointment to turn in the paper copy of its annual report; this minimizes wait time when submitting the report in person.

To submit annual reports, Foreign NGOs should log into the “Foreign NGO Affairs Service Platform” to register. NGOs can set up their login in any of the following ways:

  1. Through a provincial-level Foreign NGO Management Office website.
  2. Through the MPS Foreign NGO Affairs Service Platform.
  3. By going to the MPS website and clicking on “Foreign NGO Affairs Service Platform” (“境外非政府组织办事服务平台”) in the “Service” (“办事服务”) section. [Note: The China NGO Project could not locate this link on the MPS website.]

As a prerequisite to filling in their annual report information, foreign NGOs must have already established a representative office in accordance with the Foreign NGO Law and other requirements, and must also have already completed their online filing work.


Step 1: Filling in Information Online
  1. Select the appropriate year for the report. After entering the organizational account, click the button for “Annual Inspection” (“年度检查”), read the related laws and regulations, and click “Next Step” (“下一步”). Select the appropriate year for the report and click “Next Step.”

    Tips: If your organization’s name does not display in the box after making the appropriate selection, the organization’s representative office registration process is not yet complete. Check to see if the organization has completed the “filing” (“备案”) segment.

  2. Fill in the organization’s basic information. Fill in information according to the prompts; spaces marked with an asterisk are required.

    Tips: To add foreign currency account information, first click “Add” (“添加”), select currency type and verify bank account information, then click “Confirm” (“添加”). This information can also be added to, deleted, or changed.

  3. Register any changes in NGO status. Ensure that any changes the organization has made this year, such as an alteration in name address, PSU, scope of work, permitted area of activity, or chief representative, are displayed. The system will show the reason for the change, the date completed, as well as information from before and after the change. If the organization has no such changes, then the system will display “The organization has made no changes to its information this year, please click Next Step” (“机构本年度无变更信息,请点击下一步”).

  4. Representative office personnel information. The system will automatically display information about the organization’s chief representative, representatives, and other staff. Some of the chief representative’s and representatives’ information can be updated, and the staff members’ information can be added to, deleted, or changed. Information about accounting personnel should be entered according to the prompts; this is required.

    Tips: The information about the chief representative and other representatives that can be changed include telephone number, email, address, and whether or not they participate in China’s social insurance scheme.

  5. Charitable activities information. For major programs: click on “Add Program” (“添加项目”) and fill in the appropriate information; each program can have multiple separate activity fields.

    Tips: To facilitate filling out this section, the system will display information related to the organization’s annual plan that has already undergone review. This information can be added to, deleted, or changed.

    Add income information as prompted; the system will automatically calculate and display the program and funding amounts.

    Charitable expenses information. Fill in the appropriate information related to salary, benefits, and administrative expenses; the system will automatically calculate and display the organization’s overall income and expenses.


Step 2: Preparing and Submitting Materials
  1. Prepare materials. After all information has been filled in, the system will automatically generate a completed version of Form 9, “Foreign NGO Representative Office Annual Work Report.” After printing, foreign NGOs should stamp and sign the form, and, along with its audited accounting report, upload it in PDF format to the system.

  2. Online preliminary review. On the material preparation webpage, select “Preliminary Review” (“线上初审”). After uploading the materials and submitting them for preliminary review, wait for the result of this review. Please scan and upload all materials in advance; this will prevent extra trips to the PSB office to make changes to the materials.


    1. Uploaded materials should be stamped and signed.
    2. Uploaded materials should be in PDF format and their file size cannot exceed 10 MB.
    3. If materials for one program include numerous sheets of paper, they should be scanned as one PDF file and uploaded.
    4. If the uploaded materials contain errors, a new version can be uploaded; this will replace the original version.
    5. Uploaded documents can be downloaded to be checked again.
  3. Submitting offline, paper copies of materials. After preliminary review is completed, an organization can make an appointment to submit hard copies of its materials in person; if the preliminary review has not yet been completed, the system will indicate that materials must be amended and re-submitted.


    1. Ensure that an appointment has been booked before any trip to submit materials.
    2. The portal for booking appointments is on the “Account Center—Handling Inquiries” (“账号中心 - 办理查询”) webpage, where appointment buttons will display based on where your organization is in the process.
    3. Choose an appointment time: Not including that day’s operating hours, appointments can be made for any time at least two working days after the time of booking.
    4. Re-booking: If you need to re-book an appointment, you must make the change at least two days before the original appointment time.
    5. Missed appointments: If for some reason you do not make your appointment, you must go back into the service portal and re-book another appointment time.
    6. Filling in information about the person making the appointment: The person who will be submitting the forms in person is considered to be the person making the appointment. Accurately fill in identification information for this person; s/he will need to bring identification to the appointment.
    7. After booking the appointment, take note of the appointment number; when lining up for the appointment, the ticket dispensers will assign a line number based on this appointment number.


After Registration: How Do We Apply for Visas/Work Permits?

According to one source, a Ministry of Public Security (MPS) representative said that foreign staff of foreign NGOs seeking to register a representative office may enter China on tourist or short-term business visas. Once the representative office is registered, foreign staff should apply for work permits.

In August 2017, the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security jointly issued the “Notice on Handling Work Permits for Foreign Employees of Foreign NGOs and Related Issues.” As translated by China Development Brief, the Notice explains that chief representatives of foreign NGO representative offices who meet the standards to be considered a “foreign top talent” (defined as “Nobel Prize winners; professors or associate professors from renowned overseas universities; high-level officials of foreign governments, international organizations, or NGOs; successful artists; sports coaches and players; senior managers at Fortune 500 companies; and postdoctoral students under 40 years of age”) enjoy a streamlined work permit application process:

The Notice requires that the work permits for foreign employees in ONGOs’ [foreign NGOs’] representative office should be applied for in accordance with the following:

  1. Regarding chief representatives who meet “foreign top talent” standards, they can apply for a visa online by presenting the application documents, including the chief representative office certificate of the ONGO, a physical examination certificate and the application form. The approval shall be valid for no longer than five years. The chief representatives who hold recommendations from provincial-level (or above) public security organs can be identified as “foreign top talent”, and apply for a visa in accordance with the above regulations.
  2. With the chief representative certificate of the ONGO, a physical examination certificate and an application form, applicants can apply online. Those who meet “foreign top talent” standards can enjoy a streamlined application process after providing the corresponding documents. Limitations of age, education and work experience can be relaxed in the case of organizations who are identified by provincial-level (or above) public security organs as having a need, and have obtained the ONGO representative office certificate.
  3. Other foreign employees for ONGOs should apply for visas in accordance with the Classification Standard for Foreigners Working in China and the Guide of Work Permit Applications for Foreigners.


After Registration: What if We Want to Do Activities in a Different Province?

If a foreign NGO with a (or multiple) registered representative office(s) would like to organize activities in places outside its authorized area of operations, it will need to either change the areas of operation designated in its registration or open an additional representative office that includes the desired area of operation. At a talk for foreign NGOs in Beijing in November 2018, a Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB) Foreign NGO Management Office official explained that foreign NGOs that have already registered a representative office should not attempt to file for a temporary activity:

Lots of people have misunderstandings concerning article nine in chapter two.

For example, if the activity area is limited to Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, how to set up activities in Shanghai?

Some NGOs think that the way to deal with the problem is to submit documents for a temporary activity in Shanghai.

However, this is impossible. NGOs without representative offices need to submit documents, while NGOs which have already registered need to find their professional supervisory unit (PSU) to change their area of activity, which means adding Shanghai to their area of activity.

So, we returned lots of documents from NGOs who wanted to file for temporary activities in Beijing, but who had registered their representative offices in other provinces.

There are two ways to solve this problem. The first is changing the area of activity where they originally registered, and the second one is establishing a new representative office and including the place where they want to carry out activities.


After Registration: What Are Common Registration Documentation Mistakes that We Can Avoid?

At a talk for foreign NGOs in Beijing in November 2018, a Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB) Foreign NGO Management Office official described several common mistakes that foreign NGOs have made when filing their representative office documentation, such as:

  • Not writing the correct, full English name and abbreviation of the NGO
  • Providing information about a branch office of a foreign NGO and not the headquarters
  • Not using the date on the NGO’s certificate of registration as the “time of registration”
  • Not having the same signature on all the NGO’s documents (such as the application form and the proof of funding form)

The official also identified several additional issues, as described at the link above.


After Registration: Other Operation-Related FAQs

Last Updated: June 17, 2019