Introduction of Representative Office (RO)

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According to State Administration of Industry and Commerce’s file: Gong Shang Wai Qi [2010] No.4,PARENT COMPANY must be established for more than 2 years.

Representative Office (RO) is established by foreign companies to engage in business liaisons, quality control, product promotion, market research, exchange of technology and other permitted activities in China.

ROs are not allowed to directly engage in operational activities, RO can’t issue official invoices, nor receiving payments from it’s clients. State Administration of Industry and Commerce (SAIC) usually specifies in scope of business, as it shown in the Registration Certificate of ROs, that ROs can not engage in direct operational activities. Therefore, it’s not a form of foreign direct investment (FDI) in China. However, some ROs are engaged in operations in a lawful or tacitly permitted way and constitute one of the direct foreign Investment forms in China, for instance: ROs of foreign law firms, ROs of foreign airlines etc.

A Representative Office in China may only engage in non-profit making activities, it can carry out the following functions:

  • Conduct research and survey for its parent enterprise in the local market;
  • Liaise with local and foreign contacts in China on behalf of the parent enterprise;
  • Conduct research and provide data and promotional materials to potential clients or trading partners;
  • Act as a coordinator for the parent enterprise’s activities in China;
  • Make travel arrangements for parent enterprise representatives and potential Chinese clients;

Under no circumstances may a Representative Office do the following in China:

  • Directly engaged in any business for profit;
  • Sign contracts or deals on behalf of the parent enterprise;
  • Represent any firm other than its parent enterprise;
  • Collect money or issue invoice within China for services or products;
  • Buy property or import production equipment.

Features of a Representative Office

1. Legal Status of a Representative Office
The Representative Office is a non-legal entity operating representing it’s parent company overseas. A representative office is not allowed to engage itself in business activities, issue invoices on its own, remitting outward, signing sales or purchase contracts, or receiving income from services performed but may act as a liaison and promotion office for its parent company.

2. Name
The name of the Representative office should be in the form of “Name of the Enterprise + Name of the City + Representative Office”.

3. Business Address
At the beginning of setting up the Representative Office, it is advised to decide the place and building where office is going to be located first, as the address of the proposed office will have to be mentioned in the application for approval.
Note: the business address must be located in commercial buildings approved by the government.

4. Social Security in China.
A new rule on foreign employees’ social security in effect starting October 15, 2011. It is said that if a company hires a foreign employee, the company shall register this employee with the local social security authority within 30 days of the employee receiving their work permit.


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