Once you've arrived, you'll have to register with both the university and the local authorities. If you live on campus, the university will register you with the local police. If you choose to rent an apartment off-campus, you may have to go to the police station with your landlord. If you hold an X visa (i.e. you are staying in China for longer than 6 months), you must then apply for a Residence Permit within 30 days of entering China. Registration procedures are outlined below. Bear in mind, this is a rough guide only. Actual procedures will vary.
Registering at the University
Registration procedures differ from university to university, but you will probably need to bring the following:
Money to pay for tuition and insurance (or a receipt if you've already paid): How to make tuition payment?
Registration Form of Temporary Residence (see below for details)
Photocopies of your passport photo page, visa and Registration Form of Temporary Residence
Registering with Local Authorities
Please note that there are two separate residence-related documents which are often mixed up. Many people mistakenly refer to both documents as a “temporary residence permit”. Their official names are Registration Form of Temporary Residence (临时住宿登记表) and Residence Permit (居留许可).
Registration Form of Temporary Residence
A Registration Form of Temporary Residence is a small slip of paper confirming that you have registered your address with the local police station (派出所 pàichūsuǒ). If you check-in to university accommodation or a hotel, you should get the Registration Form of Temporary Residence from the university or hotel. If you rent an apartment or stay with friends/family off campus, you will need to personally register at the local police station with the landlord, rental contract and your passport. You need to submit the Registration Form of Temporary Residence in order to apply for a Residence Permit.
A Residence Permit is pasted in your passport by the Public Secuity Bureau (公安局 gōng'ānjú) and replaces an X visa. (Holders of F and L visas do not need a residence permit). It looks and functions like a multiple-entry visa, and is valid for one year or the duration of your study. If you are staying in China for longer than 6 months, you must apply for a residence permit within 30 days of your arrival in China. Therefore, if you are on an X visa, do not be alarmed if the visa in your passport is single-entry and valid for 0 days. The purpose of your visa is only to allow you to enter China. The Residence Permit will allow you to stay in China and re-enter if you leave the country for the duration of its validity.
Your university will help you apply for a residence permit and make sure you submit the necessary documents. If you did not have to get a medical certificate in order to obtain your visa, you will have to go for a physical check-up in China. Again, the university should help you with necessary arrangements.
The procedure for obtaining a residence permit may take 1-6 weeks, during which time your passport will be with the Public Security Bureau. Therefore, do not make plans to travel during this time (you cannot check-in to a hotel without your passport, and you most certainly cannot leave and re-enter the country!)