How do rich Chinese elude foreign exchange laws to move their money abroad? Take your pick of ways

A number of methods exist to circumvent Chinese restrictions on individual foreign exchange, from the complex to the very simple

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 July, 2014, 11:55pm
UPDATED : Friday, 11 July, 2014, 1:43pm

Chinese law limits individual citizens to the equivalent of US$50,000 per year in foreign exchange, meaning that anyone who wants to spend more than that overseas must look for alternative ways to move money out.

For example, that amount would be far from enough to successfully acquire a US immigration green card through investment.

The United States, the top destination for Chinese emigrants, requires they invest US$1 million, or at least US$500,000 in a targeted employment area, according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

In 2013, three-quarters of US investment immigration visas were issued to Chinese nationals, with 6,124 Chinese receiving US green cards through the scheme - almost eight times more than in 2010, according to the annual Report on Chinese International Migration 2014, published by the Centre for China and Globalisation. The report says the number of Chinese immigrants reached 9.34 million last year, and China is now the world's fourth-largest source country for migrants.

Besides the Bank of China's Youhuitong service, which has come under scrutiny after state media alleged it may be breaking foreign exchange laws, the following seven methods are used to transfer money overseas.

Family and friends

Split the transfer among as many identities as possible. With 20 people, it's easy to transfer US$1 million out of the country. This has been a popular way to avoid the restrictions. It is also low in cost. Many think it's the best method for transfers of less than US$1 million.

Underground money changers

A client transfers funds to the money changer's mainland account first. Then the money changer will remit the equivalent in foreign currency to the customer's overseas account. However, these underground money changers usually only do business with people they know. Immigration agencies may help introduce them.

Private banking

Banks on the mainland help their wealthy clients open overseas accounts within the same bank. After that, they can apply for loans overseas and get foreign currency. Usually this method requires deposits of between 6 million and 10 million yuan (HK$7.5 million to HK$12.6 million).


After setting up offshore companies, owners on the mainland can either use fake trade contracts to transfer money or they can report high import prices and low export prices to help money flow overseas.

Direct business investment

Company owners or board members can choose to invest in foreign companies. It's easy for them to transfer money out. State authorities have been encouraging private companies to expand overseas and have cut out many complicated procedures on foreign exchange.


People who have married a foreign citizen can more easily transfer money out.

Travel with cash

For those who choose to take a large risk.