An foreigner, visiting or living in Shanghai, has to register with the local police, to tell them where you are. If you are staying at a hotel, the hotel in theory register you for you behind the scenes, so you never have to worry about it. But if you, like me, are here for work, once moved into your apartment, you need to register with the police.
If you do not do it, no one cares perhaps, except you need your registration paper to do anything, including applying for any sort of permit. This is actually true for locals as well as foreigner. All Chinese nationals of course are used to this, and think that it is no big deal.
You should register with the police within 24 hours moving into your apartment. This is the law. Who would realized this and get this done immediately? Not me. in fact, I completely forgot about this. 28 days later, when I needed to work on my work permit I realized I needed that piece of paper.
To complete the registration, I needed to bring a list of documents:
- my passport with a valid visa (work visa in my case)
- my lease
- and a proof of residence issued by the management company of the apartment complex.
Even with the documents, I am 27 days late on this process. I knew there will be trouble...
After finding the right police station to do this (there is a central office that handles resident registration for PuDong in the Plum Park area) I took my paperwork there. They told me that I should have done it within 24 hours, instead of 28 days. They made phone calls with a serious look on their faces. I was bracing for the worst, then they ask me if I understand enough Chinese (reading and listening) to work with them. I said yes.
They called a younger officer over and he lead me down to the normal police station counter. I sat at the window and the officer started typing into a computer on the other side of the glass. He started asking a series of questions:
"Do you understand Chinese without an interpreter?", "Yes."
"Did you arrived in Shanghai on this date (28 days ago)?", "Yes"
Then the officer did some mental calculation and said, "Hmmm. How about I put down yesterday at 8?"
I have no idea why he said that. More typing followed. He printed out two pages of document and anded it to me. "Can you please read this and check the information?" My Chinese is good enough to know this is some sort of interview report stating various facts, including " Mr. Shiu moved into his apartment yesterday at 8am.... 28 hours ago".
Now I realized what is going on. He wrote up an incident report that I am 4 hours late on registration, not 28 days. I signed the form, thumb printed the statement, and more. When all is done and proper, the officer handed me my registration certificate. He even gave me a paper towel to clean my thumb from the red ink.
Be polite. I was wearing a suit. I knew enough Chinese. I kept my cool. And they were helpful to the extend of bending the rules. Maybe they are trying to save additional paperwork on their side. Either way I am happy that I got this done.