There’s always “one more thing” that wasn’t mentioned the first time around.

I’m in the middle of the registration process for a client’s company.

Because I know the process, and because the sole reason for hiring my personal assistant Jimmy was to have someone who stands in lines, things are going much much faster for him than when I did the registration on my own — but things aren’t exactly going smoothly.

Facepalm by Brandon Grasley

They wouldn’t take the Application for Proposed Name for Foreign Invested Enterprises the first time we tried to submit it back in December. Even though the Proof of Identity isn’t a required piece of paper for that application they wanted to see it and they wanted to see it now!

The Proof of Identity is a pain in the ass to get. If you’re American you can do it by mail but a British citizen, like my client, has to go home to get it. British notaries won’t notarize a photocopy of a passport unless they have both the passport and the owner of the passport in front of them and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office won’t accept papers that have been notarized by people other than British notaries.

This makes a fairly ridiculous document that is normally a pain in the ass to get a royal pain in the ass.

(My Proof of Identity was a sticker from the Chinese Embassy in DC, on top of a cover letter from the State Department Office of Authentication, on top of a cover letter from the DC Courthouse, on top of a notary stamp notarizing my handwritten statement to the effect of “this is my passport”, on a photocopy of my passport. At no point did anyone check if it was in fact my passport.)

I don’t know who to blame for the first real mistake. I choose to assume that it was someone in the government rather than Jimmy. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t Jimmy’s fault, just that I choose not to blame him for the mistake.

Instead of a minimum investment of CNY 100,000 the Application for Proposed Name for Foreign Invested Enterprises was approved with a minimum investment of GBP 100,000 and the only way to undo this was to come up with a *new* name and apply to register a company with that name.

But it was only the first form…

My client’s apartment complex’s management office said that the complex my client lives in isn’t zoned to allow offices. Even though there are obviously apartments in this complex being used as businesses, it wasn’t allowed. I suspect this may have been a case of ‘asking the wrong question’ but we are naive and trusting and all parties involved decided to find another location to use as an office.

Another foreigner had a place available to use for an office. He’d talked to everyone involved (landlord, management office) and they all said “no problem” with regards to using that place as an office so the two foreigners rented it together and bought furniture and set it up as a joint office.

A week or two later, one of the bureaus that checks paper and issues certificates said that there was already a Wholly Foreign Owned Entity using an office in that building (the person he was sharing an office with) and two offices for two different foreign companies couldn’t be in the same building.

Now maybe we should’ve gone and found a whole new location to be an office but the client had already found a location to be an office, been assured that it was an okay place to have an office, paid rent, bought furniture… instead, the solution was to borrow a downtown address from a Chinese friend with a bunch of property.

Everything was fine.
Everything was good.
Everything was great.

Approvals were happening, paperwork was getting done, schedules were being met, until someone helpfully changed CNY 100,000 to GBP 11,000 in the documents their office was approving. It so happens that CNY 100,000 is GBP 11,000 but that document no longer matched the other documents and when we attempted to use that document in the next step, they were like, “it doesn’t match, you have to get it re-issued.”

There was some name calling and finger pointing between government departments the end result of which was needing to get the helpfully corrected document re-corrected to say what it had originally said before it had been incorrectly corrected.

Along the way the people we were going to be submitting the re-corrected document to kindly let us know that once we fixed this problem they were also going to want the originals of some documents we no longer had originals of because we gave them to another bureau which refused to give them back.

Most of them were documents issued in China so it was possible to get new originals.

As for the one issued outside of China, it turns out that a photocopy along with a certified translation from a translation agency (like the one I own) would be acceptable. WHY exactly they need a second certified translation of a document that has already had all the important details translated by the Chinese Embassy in London is beyond me but, hey, more money for me…

The re-corrected version of the helpfully incorrect document was achieved and Jimmy went to get the temporary duration permanent Business License. Please take note, this is not a Temporary Business License. That’s something else entirely different. My client’s company is not eligible to have a Temporary Business License.

Everything was fine.
Everything was good.
Everything was great.

We just need one more thing…(there’s always one more thing)

The management office for the address my client’s company was registering as an address had stamped a letter saying that it was okay for the foreigner to register an office in their complex. But the stamp they’d used was one which wasn’t recognized by the people at the Government Service Center and they wanted a lower governmental office to certify that it was a real and true and correct stamp.

It’s sort of like the Proof of Identity where a notary witnesses you signing your name on a photocopy of your passport, followed by a certification of the notary, followed by a certification of the certification, followed by a Chinese language sticker from the embassy in your home country stating “this is a real and true certification (of a certification certifying a certification)”.

There are two potential low level government offices we can go to: the Resident’s Committee or the Neighborhood Committee.

The apartment complex is a small one, they’ve decided not to have a Resident’s Committee.

The person who answers the phone at the Neighborhood Committee won’t give a stamp unless every owner of every apartment in the building signs and thumbprints a letter saying “it’s okay to have an office here”.

“The official in charge of the Neighborhood Committee isn’t here this afternoon, he’ll be in tomorrow.”

“The official in charge of the Neighborhood Committee isn’t here this morning, is it important? Can you wait?”

“Oh, we don’t give that stamp at all. We stopped giving that stamp in 2010.”

“No, I won’t give you a letter that says we don’t give that stamp.”

A few frantic phone calls later it is determined that the third option, the District Committee, somehow went unmentioned in the list of potential options.

The District Committee offices are found on the fifth floor of a building without elevators. We arrive there together, three foreigners and a Jimmy. One of the foreigners really doesn’t need to be there but he’s somehow along for the ride. One of them is my client. One of them is me.

The official in charge of the District Committee is ecstatic. Not because she has three foreigners (and a Jimmy) in her office but because one of the foreigners she has in her office is someone she saw on TV. She has someone who was interviewed on the evening news in her office. Her office. On a Thursday morning. Nothing special ever happens on a Thursday morning. Ever. Except for this Thursday morning.

“How can I help you?”

She’s never heard of giving a stamp for what we need but we are three foreigners (and a Jimmy) in her office and the four of us include a person who she saw on TV, and it’s Thursday morning. Bend over backwards nice doesn’t even begin to describe her attitude.

After calling the apartment complex management office and confirming that the stamped letter we have came from them she agrees to put her office’s stamp on it and it’s time to go over to the Government Service Center.

Papers were signed.
Lines were waited in.
Applications were received.

Uh-oh… the lady behind the desk doesn’t like a word in the company’s Scope of Operations. This particular word has been in the Scope of Operations for the umpty-many last offices and no one else disliked it. Would we mind terribly starting over from scratch without that word?

YES, we would mind! Can we just ignore that word? Can we just have this license without the offending word on it? Would that be okay?

She has to ask her boss. We have to wait for her to ask her boss. Yes, it would be okay, but you have to go print out a new copy of the page(s) in the Articles of Incorporation that have the offending word.

Having learned from my own company registration that “ready in 5-7 days” and “we’ll call you” actually means “come back the day after tomorrow and nag us,” I sent Jimmy to the Government Service Center Monday morning. Of course they had another change they wanted to make to the Articles of Incorporation but Monday afternoon he picked up the Business License and applied for the Registration Number Certificate.

Cross your fingers, knock on wood, and wear your lucky red underwear for us but it looks like we’ll actually have everything done in time to get my client his visa before the one he’s using runs out.

Photo: Facepalm by Brandon Grasley.


  1. Same thing, but with buying a house as a foreigner with a Chinese husband. had to resign all the papers not only using my actual signature and printed English name but after a special ‘this-is-new-so-this-is-the-first-time-we-have-done-it’ interview had to redo all the papers with a translated version of my extremely long English name. sigh. I have taken an oath not to sign any more papers unless i realllly have to e.g.Future childs birth certificate.

    • This time two years ago I’d vowed that I was never going to do anything involving company registration ever again. But my client kept asking me to please do it for him. Then, when merely asking nicely failed, he offered me a lot of money.

      By that point, I’d already hired Jimmy. I’m not willing to do isn’t quite the same as I’m not willing to tell my staff to do… especially when you are offering me a lot of money.

      I suspect by the time this is over, Jimmy will have vowed to never do anything involving company registration ever again.

  2. The “one more thing” phenomena is one of THE most frustrating things about life in China. I love this place, but when I take time out of my schedule to go in person to some out-of-the-way place only to discover I need one more thing… A friend had similar problems renewing a car registration and ended up making three trips – her driver was almost as frustrated as she was!

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