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Physical (Medical) Examination for Chinese Residence Permit is Nothing to be Afraid of

TAIZHOU, China- It is with trepidation that many Westerners approach hospitals in China. Rumors, tales, and news reports of nurses reusing hypodermic needles, hospital related Hepatitis C outbreaks, unsanitary conditions, a lackadaisical approach to infectious disease, and the lack of privacy in Chinese hospitals abound. But going to the public hospital is exactly what a foreigner must do stay in China. For those seeking to work or study in this country a certificate of health must be submitted before a residence permit can be issued, and in order to get this certificate a physical examination is needed.

Generally, these medical exams need to be performed in China. It is said that this physical done abroad, and some foreign residents in China have done this successfully, but there is an entire slew of bureaucratic particulars that must be followed to the letter — and many who have tried to take this route just found that they needed to get the exam done a second time upon arrival in China. One of my wife’s coworkers paid over 200 pounds to get her physical done in Hong Kong just to find that she would need to get the exact same exam done for a second time in Taizhou, and the same thing happened to a pair of her English coworkers who got their health exam done in the UK.

On top of this, getting an ultrasound, a chest X-ray, blood tests, and an EKG done for travel purposes (read: not covered by health insurance) would prove very, very expensive in the USA — my country of origin. A big risk to say the least, as there would be a good chance that China wouldn’t accept the foreign physical anyway.

Chaya getting an ultrasound for medical check

But I stand here to say that there is really nothing to worry about when getting this physical exam done in China. The standards of medical care vary greatly depending on what part of the country you’re in, what hospital you go to, etc . . . but, generally speaking, Westerners are treated as VIP patients when in the care of the Chinese medical system — or at least this has always been my experience. What I just experienced getting my residence permit physical examination in Taizhou keeps in line with this: there was truly nothing for me to worry about.

Film of the Physical Examination for a Residence Permit in China

The above video shows my family’s experience of the dreaded Chinese medical exam. The only problem was that there was truly nothing to dread — though there were still a few humorous incidents caught on film. If you are an email subscriber you need to click over to read this article on the webpage in order to watch the video.

The examination procedure

If you are in China for work purposes your employer should provide you with a representative to walk you through the process. If they don’t and your worried about this check up, request that they send someone with you or at least a translator if you don’t speak Mandarin.

The procedure:

1. Register at the front desk of the hospital or clinic.
2. Pay. The cost can be anywhere from 500 to 700 RMB (80-120 USD). If you’re employed in China your employer should cover this expense.
3. Fill out paperwork and get the examination forms.
4. Do the exam circuit. You generally need to get your blood pressure taken, an ultrasound, height and weight checked, complete a vision screening, get an EKG (heart check), a chest X-ray, and a blood test. Make sure the doctors and nurses fill out the forms for each test in full and signs off on them. The travel clinic that we were at was set up in a rather obvious way — we just had to go from door to door and get our checks done. But if you’re at a general hospital and need help finding your way around ask for assistance — or just stumble around looking lost and someone will be bound to help you out.
5. Submit forms. If there was something wrong with you that came up in the exams a doctor will proscribe treatment.
6. Collect receipt and wait three or so days for your bloodwork results to come back.
7. If all is clear you will be given a certificate of health that you can submit for your residence permit. If something is wrong you will either be given treatment or quarantined and expelled from the country.

Chaya getting her heart tested

The China medical check up conclusion

Basically, the only medical problems that they will really eject a foreigner from China for is a major heart condition or an infectious disease like HIV. I do not know exactly what the quarantine and expulsion process consists of.

As you can see from the above video, this examination procedure was not so bad. Everything was clean (enough) and the nurse who took my blood even put on new latex gloves at my request. There was no issue over whether or not the hypodermic needles were new: there was a pile of factory sealed packages full of single use needles in plain sight that the nurse drew from. On top of that, children under 12 years old generally do not need to submit to the medical exam — which is a big breath of relief for parents who brought their kids to China with them. To be honest, I was seriously impressed by my experience of getting my certificate of health checkup and the Tiazhou branch of the Jiangsu travel clinic — it was nothing like a visit to the general ward of a standard Chinese hospital — and the whole deal was truly nothing to worry about.

Be sure to watch the above video for a couple good laughs.

Procedure for certificate of health

Filed under: China, Health

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Vagabond Journey has been featured on MSNBC.com, The Daily Mail Online, Business Insider, Gizmodo, the Des Moines Register, CBS Phoenix, NBC LA, and numerous other international and local publications. has written 2687 posts on Vagabond Journey.

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  • Pierre

    Maybe i’m gonna ask stupids questions, but what is the purpose of this test ? It’s like to “select” only people in good health in order to avoid them to use the chinese medical system ?
    Is this usual in others countries ?
    Thanks for the answer !

    • Wade Shepard

      That’s not a stupid question at all — I was wondering the same thing haha. I think they just want do be sure nobody is bringing in any diseases or won’t become a drain on their health resources. Well . . . sort of. They probably just really like bureaucracy in China. These medical checks are actually required in many countries for foreigners wishing to reside long term — but I think the requirements in China are a little more extreme than in most other countries that demand medical checks.

  • Debrah Goss

    That certainly was atypical!! Although maybe not for westerners. In Shanghai there was a whole hospital floor just for westerners. My friend was the only person on it. To sterilize a syringe, they lit a candle and held the needle in the flame – then blew on it to cool it off. Oxygen was provided in a blow-up canvas raft with a face mask attached to the stub used to blow it up.
    A good story might be to contrast your experience with a Chinese clinic.

    • Wade Shepard

      Right on, Deb! I heard about your experience of a Chinese hospital. Pretty nuts — especially since you were on the foreigner’s floor. Good think that we went to a travel clinic — which is specifically for foreign residents and Chinese people applying for passports (I think). Will surely try to go and get a video of a general Chinese hospital soon.

  • http://www.betterlivingquest.com Jack

    We were one of the lucky ones who got their US medical exam accepted here in China, I guess. So it does happen. We were actually prepared to redo them here and we were pleasantly surprised that they were ok with our US ones.

    • Wade Shepard

      That’s great. Did you have to do all the exams like the x-ray, ultrasound, and all that? Or did just a regular physical suffice?

  • JON

    HELLO . MR….I HAVE Hepatitis C virus, I ANY PRPLEM FROM RESIDANCE IN CHINA

    • Wade Shepard

      More than likely you will be denied a residence permit. If you get the medical checkup while in China there is a risk that you will be quarantined and deported.

  • Casey Smith

    Thank you for this! We’ll have to undergo these exams in Changchun, China when we move there in a couple of weeks and were quite curious as to the process. Very informative and great tip about asking for new gloves…will do that for sure! Can you tell me how long the entire process took? I see your daughter was with you–we’ll have our 4 year old daughter as well and are curious what to do with her while we get checked out.

    • Wade Shepard

      Everything is very “human” in China, and many rules are pretty lax. You can take your kid into the exams with you, and she doesn’t need to be checked out. The entire process took us maybe an hour.

  • mattb

    Hi Wade,
    Good info. I had the exam in Guilin a few years ago. However I need another to return to China. Since then i’ve acquired an irregular heartbeat (sometimes). The UK doctors say its nothing to worry about and was likely brought on by stress and too much smoking (quit now).
    Would they fail me for this now?
    Or is it still “no HIV & can stand up”

    • VagabondJourney

      I wouldn’t worry about it too much. They just want to make sure you’re not going to croak on their watch.