Legality of Working from Remotely?

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  • #40444
    NWhit20NWhit20
    Participant

    Are there any American ex-pats who can answer this question for me? I was accepted to Sichuan University this fall. I have a part-time job here in America doing design work (flexible hours, at-home). Already talked to my boss about this situation and he’s perfectly fine with it. My question is, is this legal to do if I go to Chengdu? I would like to have income while I’m there. I’d still pay my taxes to America and everything, and it’s all on the books. I just want to do everything the correct and legal way. I haven’t got my Visa yet so I’m not sure what type I would need, and if I should tell the Chinese anything about this or not.

    I am thinking about opening a bank account with an international bank (Maybe like Citibank or something?) and just having my money being direct deposited into there. Is there any flaw to my plan? What haven’t I thought about yet? Please, any help is appreciated. It’s really the main thing I’m worried about. If I can’t work my job, I won’t have enough money to last an entire year there.

    #40445
    Rick in ChinaRick in China
    Participant

    Are you getting paid _in America_?

    If you’re getting paid in America and working in America (just remotely) that’s perfectly fine. Don’t mention it to the Chinese gov’t, if anything they wont know wtf to do and will just be like, “um no you can’t” as a default, even though it’s perfectly allowed.

    You can deposit your cash into your US account as normal and access it here. Most bank machines accept foreign cards, although the exchange isn’t great. Check your current bank’s card networks if you like and paste here, I can take a photo of a random bank machine downstairs’ accepted networks and verify the match.

    #40450
    NWhit20NWhit20
    Participant

    Well actually, do you have any suggestions as to which bank I should open up an account with? Getting a new bank account is probably not gonna be a big deal for me, I’d just like to choose one that is convenient and has a good enough exchange rate. Or will it not even matter?

    #40451
    Rick in ChinaRick in China
    Participant

    If you go with a bank that allows multi-currency accounts you will likely have the best exchange rate. For example, if you go with HSBC there are several branches here, and you can do your transfers between accounts online (altho int’l transfers cost money unless you get a Premier account), then convert to CNY at a good rate.. I don’t know any banks that will let you transfer from an account being deposited into on the US side to a China side account, then convert, without a fee.. only experience with HSBC on this.

    I guess it depends how much money you’ll be going thru and how much money you can send over per transfer – obviously if you need tons of smaller transfers then a fee-per-transfer approach is rough, but if you can do like, 1 transfer every couple months for larger amounts, then the fee typically becomes way way less and you want to focus on great exchange rate for the larger amount. If, however, you simply want to _extract funds_ directly from your US account via ATM, that’s what I’m saying is most convenient – and most ATMs will support that these days, just you may take a hit on a small fee or worse conversion rate.

    #40452
    NWhit20NWhit20
    Participant

    Alright, thanks for your response. I have money saved up for the trip, but my goal is not to burn through all of it by the end. So I want to work and at least replenish what I’ve lost basically. So maybe I should deduct what I need from my current savings account and open up a Chinese bank account and convert it all at once, and just keep working and having my work money get deposited into my regular bank account, to use when I come home? I’m not sure which would be the best course of action. Ideally I’d like to minimize loss due to exchange fees, so I guess a large amount all at once would be better.

    What’s the ballpark figure on exchange fees?

     

    #40455
    Rick in ChinaRick in China
    Participant

    “Ideally I’d like to minimize loss due to exchange fees, so I guess a large amount all at once would be better.”

    Yep – if you have enough up front, I’d highly recommend just bring it with you, physically, deposit and exchange here – can open up a bank of china account or whatever very quickly with a passport, and do the conversion to CNY after you’ve opened your account. This would be best if you are able to bring it over and just allow your work to replenish your savings over the course of your trip.

    Today’s rate is 6.24 (http://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/convert/?Amount=100&From=USD&To=CNY) At BOC, you can probably expect only a couple points less, for example. It’s pretty close. 😀

    #40457
    NWhit20NWhit20
    Participant

    One last question. Plane and tuition aside, how is the cost of living? I’ve been asking penpals about it, and I get a wide range of responses when it comes to “how much is enough”. I’m pretty frugal, at least here in the states, and I don’t need to live a life of luxury. I’d like to just get my own tiny apartment. Doesn’t need to be fancy, I just want it to be clean, lol. All things considered, like rent, food, transportation etc, how much per month do you think I should expect to spend?

    #40458
    Rick in ChinaRick in China
    Participant

    It’s the worst question ever. As with anywhere, it ranges depending on lifestyle. However – in Chengdu – it can be very cheap. A relatively comfortable frugal life, you can get away with $1k USD/month, as a foreigner – keep in mind there are locals who live on far less, I think the average salary is around $400/mo for Chengdu city proper.

    #40460
    NWhit20NWhit20
    Participant

    Really? That’s more expensive than I thought it would be actually. I don’t even spend 1k a month here in the states. What makes it so much more expensive as a foreigner?

    #40462
    Rick in ChinaRick in China
    Participant

    “I don’t even spend 1k a month here in the states.” Um…do you live with mummy and daddy? 😛

    I’m making the presumption that you don’t want to live in a cement-box dirty old cochroach infested walk-up with a hole to shit in directly beneath the shower and eat on a dietary restriction of baozi/bean milk/rice/noodles/eggs/baijiu, while sticking to bus/subways to get around. If you want to go that route, you certainly can – a couple hundred US a month is plenty.

    Chengdu isn’t the cheap wonderland it used to be.. you can *make it* on little, just not enjoy it as much.

    #40463
    NWhit20NWhit20
    Participant

    No actually, I don’t have support from my parents (I wish I had that luxury LOL), but I do live with some family at the moment, which won’t last long anyway. I’ve seen apartments online for 1500 yuan/month and under that look pretty livable (as in I’ve lived in places that were the same or worse-looking). The idea of a squat toilet does kind of suck, but I think I could get used to it. Like I said, don’t need anything fancy, just want it to be clean. I’m just enrolling in the language learning course at Sichuan University, it’s not even a degree program, and besides the 4 hours a day of class, I’m not sure how much homework they will assign and how much time per day I can dedicate to my $12/hr job.

    I was planning on getting around by bus and subway. I know it’s not the most luxurious way to get around, and maybe I’m a bit naive, but I’d like to experience how a normal person would live. There’s no way in hell I’m going to drive around in a car, and I’d only take a taxi if I absolutely needed to. Going out and about and travelling I plan on doing in moderation. My biggest nightmare is arriving and spending way more money than I planned on, so I’d like to have all things considered. I appreciate your responses.

    I have about $11,500 saved up to my name. My goal is to spend as little of that as possible, especially since most of it is in a money market account, gaining  interest.

    #40464
    RayRay
    Participant

    6K RMB is living pretty well, but RickinChina is right, prices have shot up here in the last few years. I estimated I spend 600 – 700 per month just on fruit! May need to import some Soylent from the States… 🙂

    #40465
    Rick in ChinaRick in China
    Participant

    “My biggest nightmare is arriving and spending way more money than I planned on, so I’d like to have all things considered”

    You can find a place for 1500. I’d pick location over how nice the place is. You could also find a roommate. Why not come planning to be conservative, and if you need, can double check your bank card can be accessed over here so you can pull out more if you do end up needing it. Bring a minimum – maybe $400usd/mo, sometimes spending is like a fishbowl and the larger the bowl the larger the fish, keep your roll small and may subconsciously be extra cheap 😛

    You can do 10rmb beers at some bars. You can do fried rice for 8kuai. Just get an apartment in a relatively good location and you should be OK. For your situation, near the university is probably best, lots of lower cost services/food/apartments/etc available around there.

    #40467
    NWhit20NWhit20
    Participant

    Hey Ray, thanks for telling me. Before I posted here I was thinking about spending roughly 600 USD/month (average) while in Chengdu. Do you think that’s reasonable for someone like me, or is that borderline poverty?

    I’d love to hear anyone’s ideas on cheap, easy, nutritious things I can cook by myself when I’m feeling cheap, haha. I’m pretty much poor as hell anyway, I thought by going to China I’d have a chance at a slightly upgraded lifestyle and a chance at adventure before I get older and have real responsibilities.

     

    Rick: Thanks a lot man. As I said I’m really poor here in the states, I’m having a tough time imagining that living in China would be more expensive for me, although like I said, I’m probably completely naive to this entire thing and probably don’t understand the full scope of what I’m getting myself into. Which is why I value your guys’ advice. I figured places near the University would be more expensive (those areas here in the states are borderline rape) but I guess it’s the opposite in China? If I can get a decent place near the university, I’d be set.

    #40471
    CharlieCharlie
    Keymaster

    Hey Ray, thanks for telling me. Before I posted here I was thinking about spending roughly 600 USD/month (average) while in Chengdu. Do you think that’s reasonable for someone like me, or is that borderline poverty?

    Do you speak Chinese, and have you lived in China before? If not, have you lived frugally overseas before? Your ability to live cheaply will depend on your ability to source cheap things and your tolerance for a frugal lifestyle. If you’re coming from the States and haven’t lived in China and don’t speak Chinese, it won’t be an easy transition on a strict budget. To answer your question, $600 USD per month is borderline poverty for an American expat.

    As I said I’m really poor here in the states, I’m having a tough time imagining that living in China would be more expensive for me, although like I said, I’m probably completely naive to this entire thing and probably don’t understand the full scope of what I’m getting myself into.

    Some things in China are more expensive here than in the states, like coffee. Drinks at Starbucks go up to $7 and “local” coffee shops often have coffee that costs up to $30 (which is, of course, ridiculous). The point is, it’s possible and no longer difficult to spend a lot of money in Chengdu. I routinely spend 150+ rmb ($25 USD) on dinner with my girlfriend without even going somewhere fancy. That never used to happen. If you’re knowledgeable and vigilant, you can live cheaply. Cook your own meals – food is the most expensive part of my lifestyle probably.

    Regarding your original question about working remotely, Rick is right, you won’t have a problem as long as the money is going into an American bank. Just withdraw money as you need it. The most difficult part of this arrangement might be getting a visa. The easiest types for you to get might be a student visa (enrolling at a local school) or work visa, teaching minimal hours of English.

    #40472
    NWhit20NWhit20
    Participant

    To answer your question, I’ve taken 3 Chinese classes at a community college (101, 102, 201) I’d say I have a very very basic ability to speak and understand and read and write it, the entire point of going there is to study at the university and improve my Chinese ability. I think at the current moment I’d only be able to have very basic conversations with people.

    There are two reasons I chose Chengdu. Two of my best chinese penpals live in Chengdu. Awesome, I won’t be alone when I arrive. The other is that I’ve heard Western China is more cheap than places along the coast (generally). I know Chengdu isn’t the cheapest place to go, but I feel like it’s a good balance, being that it doesn’t seem like a shit hole, and doesn’t seem ridiculously expensive either.

    Looks like I’m gonna have to kick my coffee habit before I leave, haha.

    #40474
    CharlieCharlie
    Keymaster

    There are two reasons I chose Chengdu. Two of my best chinese penpals live in Chengdu. Awesome, I won’t be alone when I arrive. The other is that I’ve heard Western China is more cheap than places along the coast (generally). I know Chengdu isn’t the cheapest place to go, but I feel like it’s a good balance, being that it doesn’t seem like a shit hole, and doesn’t seem ridiculously expensive either.

    Why not go somewhere like Dali or Kunming in Yunnan Province? Those places are half the cost of Chengdu and are really nice places. The only downsides are that there’s a lot less happening there and job opportunities are far less lucrative there. If you’re looking for a cheap and comfortable place to live and you don’t need a job, I would suggest checking out Yunnan.

    #40477
    NWhit20NWhit20
    Participant

    I don’t know anything about those places really, and I’ve got my heart set on Chengdu. It feels like the right place to go. I’ve already been accepted to 四川大学 and have already got the ball rolling. So I’d like to make this situation work out.

    #40479
    Rick in ChinaRick in China
    Participant

    You’ll get by either way. Just don’t be surprised by prices of some things, as Charlie mentioned, sometimes you’ll be like “WTF” because some things cost far more than you’d typically pay in the US, and there is the misleading assumption that China is relatively poor so everything must be cheap… but if you get a place in a good location – like near the uni, and pay a bit more for it – you’ll probably be able to meet lots of other uni students and hanging with them may teach you some ways to get by on the cheap…

    #40480
    NWhit20NWhit20
    Participant

    By the way, how much is take out style food? Is the cost more/less/same as America? Not sit-down style restaurant, but you know, if I want to buy something good to eat and take back to my place.

    I think I’ll get by too. My friends will show me the way to live. I’d love to learn how to cook simple Sichuan style foods by myself,especially if it’ll cut down on my overall cost of living.

    I’ve actually seen some charts of the cost of items, I did see that electronics, coffee, milk, and luxury items are more expensive in China.

    So now, eating is my concern, haha.

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