Getting set up in Shanghai

Before you arrive: Getting set up in Shanghai

This page describes the basic procedure to relocate yourself from your home country to living and carrying out your internship or employment in Shanghai.


The first thing that you will need to sort out is getting a visa to China.  The first visa option will depend mainly on whether you are currently enrolled as a student or not.  If you are a currently enrolled student, you may obtain a Student visa according to the procedure below.  If you are a postdoc and are not currently enrolled in any university, then you will need to come on a Business visa.  We will guide you through the process, but here is some basic information.  

Students (masters/PhD/batchelors) – X visa

If you are currently enrolled as a student, then we will be able to provide you with a student (X) visa.  The two documents that we provide you with is the admissions notice and the JW202 form.  To obtain this we will need your enrollment letter and academic transcript from your current institute.  Once we give you the admissions notice and JW202, you may apply for a student visa using the visa form, passport photograph, and your passport.  Some embassies require both documents while some only require the admissions notice.  The X2 visa (180 days) is most appropriate in almost all cases, as it is simpler to apply for and it can be easily extended in Shanghai.  When asked the “purpose of your visit” (possibly at the consulate in person), the most accurate response to this is “to enroll in an external course on quantum information science at Shanghai New York University”.

Non-students (postdocs/recent graduates/etc.) – F visa

If you are not a currently enrolled student, the appropriate visa is a F-visa (non-commercial business visa).  This will allow you to stay for a period of up to 90 days.  To get an F-visa, you will need an invitation letter from NYU Shanghai, which we will arrange for you.  Once you obtain the invitation letter you will need to take the visa form, the invitation letter, a passport photograph, and your passport with you to apply for the visa at your locally designated Chinese consulate.  In the travel information section of the visa, please select “non-business visit” (see below).   The number of entries depends on your intended duration, as mentioned before typically the length of a F-visa is 90 days.  Thus if you require a longer stay than 90 days you should select one of the multiple entry options.  When asked the “purpose of your visit” (possibly at the consulate in person), the most accurate response to this is “research visit for scientific purposes to collaborate with faculty at Shanghai New York University”.

chinese visa form

For F visa you will need to go overseas to renew your visa. For example, if you have a double entry 90 day F-visa, this means you can only stay in China for 90 days at a time.  However, the double entry allows you two entries, and after the second entry you will be allotted another 90 days.  So to renew your visa for this case, all you need to do exit China, and then literally return; the closest eligible point of exit to do this is Hong Kong, which counts as being overseas for visa purposes.  The most economical way to do this is to go to Shenzhen (train or fly), which is a border town across from Hong Kong.  You would then catch Line 1 to Luo Hu station and cross immigration into Hong Kong.  From here you can go into Hong Kong via train, or simply turn around and come back into China.


There are two airports in Shanghai, Pudong  (the international airport) and Hongqiao (mainly domestic, but also some international).  Either airport is fine to reach NYU Shanghai, so when looking for flights you can choose either one.  Information on how to reach NYU Shanghai from either airport is here.

When choosing a flight, please get a reasonably priced economy fare.  In the case that we are covering the costs of your flight, this will be reimbursed to you at a later date.

If you are staying for less than your visa duration, then go ahead and get a return flight.  But if your desired duration is longer than your visa duration then either (i) get a one-way flight, if the cost of the return is not too different to two one-way flights; (ii) get a return flight with your desired return date, but make sure that you can change the date with a small change fee.

Please keep the boarding pass for the flight, you will need this for the reimbursement.

Travel and Health Insurance

For currently enrolled students, it is our policy that you purchase the following insurance at this page.  Getting this specific insurance is part of NYU policy now and will grant you access to the NYU infrastructure as well.  The costs for this will be reimbursed later.

If you are not an enrolled student, then you can purchase any travel insurance for the period of your stay.  Please purchase some reasonably priced package, but please make sure you are fully covered:  again it is our policy that all our group members are covered.  Travel insurance is the best and simplest way to ensure your medical coverage in emergency and we will reimburse you for the costs of this.

Generally, the healthcare system in China is most probably quite different to what is available in your home country.  The standards are highly variable — excellent services are available in the right places, in other places the standards are significantly lower.  My advice is to always go to a English speaking hospital, and know where these are so that you can go directly there in an emergency situation.  Here is a list of hospitals with an international section that are near NYU.  These are more expensive, but needless to say this is worth it in a life-or-death, emergency, situation.  With adequate insurance, the costs will be covered and hence there is little point in cutting costs.

Internet and VPN

You may be aware that in China some pages, in particular all Google pages (gmail, google maps, etc.), are blocked.  Within the NYU Shanghai building, you will be able to access any page, including Google.  However, if you are outside of the building you will need a VPN to access these pages.   NYU will provide you with a VPN, that can be used with a netID (your NYU ID) and password all over China.  If you want to purchase your own VPN, then you can do this as well of course, but the NYU VPN will probably be cheaper and faster.  Its best that you set up at least one of these before you arrive here, so you have full access from the beginning:

Instructions on setting up Cisco Anyconnect (requires NYU NetID)

What is true about the internet on your computer is also true for your phone.  You will not be able to access many of the pages that you are used to on your phone without installing an app to do so on your phone.  We can provide an account to do this.  For iPhones, simply download the Cisco Anyconnect app, and then login with your NYU NetID and password.  For Android, you can either use Cisco Anyconnect, or an alternative app is OpenConnect.  OpenConnect is more convenient and works just as well in our experience.  You can install it using this install file.  You will again need your NetID and password.


Generally students tend to bring their own computers, as everyone these days has a laptop and people have various preferences on what they use.  So definitely bring your laptop if you have access to one.  If you don’t, we can arrange this for you in advance, so we can provide you with a laptop.  But give us a bit of warning so this can be arranged for you.


Before you come its a good idea that you make sure your phone is SIM unlocked so that you can buy a Chinese SIM and use it here.  China mobile and China unicom are the two main carriers in China, with unicom tending to give better deals for data plans so that would be the one most people go for. At the airport you will find people selling SIM cards, China Unicom sells SIM cards for 100 RMB.  You will have a talk time worth 100 RMB and data worth 1 GB.  Call charges are about 0.2 Yuan per minute.

If you choose to buy a phone here, then a word of warning about Android phones.  Since Android is Google based, the operating system is also not available officially in China.  Some phones notably the Xiaomi MI series are quite usable however, and in practice are not problematic (you can ask the group about them), and are very cheap and reliable.  The other option is to reinstall Andriod on the phones which is quite a painful process and only recommended if you like to mess around with this sort of thing.


For the first few nights, we will arrange your accommodation, so you should not need to worry about this.  The reason why we arrange it is that officially foreigners are only allowed to stay at licensed hotels in China, and without a license, the hotels are not actually allowed to let you stay.  In practice, this is actually an outdated law and many hotels now turn a blind eye.  But which hotels will turn a blind eye and which don’t is a bit unpredictable.  So we will arrange somewhere for you where you shouldn’t run into trouble.  See here for a little more information on this.

When you pay for the bill, please do not forget to get a “fapiao”, this is the official receipt that you need get reimbursed.  This should be made out to “上海纽约大学” which says Shanghai New York University (yes it needs to be in Chinese).   The VAT Fapiao information is as below:

NYU Fapiao Information

名称: 上海纽约大学



电话号码: 021-20595526

邮政编码: 200122



ECNU Fapiao information






银行账户:1001 2472 0902 6260 113


When it is decided that you will come and work with us, one of the things that needs to be done is to sort out accommodation.  Since usually interns stay for a few months, it is best to get medium term accommodation, which is cheaper than a hotel.  There are two basic ways to go about this: through local Chinese sites or foreigner oriented sites.  As you would expect, the local Chinese sites are much cheaper, but you will need to negotiate the Chinese sites and people that don’t speak much English.  There are people around to help you with this, please ask for help and we will find someone to assist.

Chinese sites: (Chinese airbnb)

Foreigner oriented sites:

For the foreigner based sites, you will find mostly agents contact details and you can mail them and make an appointment to meet them once you are here.  They are very prompt in replying to emails and you will definitely hear from them.

A few tips: do not reveal them the exact details of your budget for the house, then they will not show you the cheaper houses which are some times good.   Inform them that you will need a Fapiao (an official rent receipt) for reimbursement.

Registering at Police Station

When you first arrive, you will need to register at the police station to let them know of your current address within 24 hours.  Here is some information taken from this page:

“If you stay overnight anywhere, you are supposed to go through the time-consuming procedure of registering your presence. The registration will serve you until you leave again, but you will be required to repeat the procedure if some detail or another changes — for example, your address, or a visa-renewal. If you’re traveling around and staying at hotels, the procedure is taken care of by the hotel itself when you register with them. However, stay with a friend and things become more complicated. You will require proof of your host’s own residence, his or her identity card, your passport, perhaps a photograph, perhaps further documentation beyond even these.  In this case try to locate the PSB (Public Security Bureau) office where you must register in advance. Bring a Chinese-speaking companion with you.

Again, please remember that this is not necessary if you are staying in a hotel. The problem only arises should you spend time in a private residency.”


The local ATMs take foreign cards with Cirrus, Plus, etc. , so you should have no problem withdrawing cash.  Make sure you have a bank card that is compatible with this before you leave.  They charge a 0.5% commission on the prevailing exchange rate.  One thing to beware of is that there is a daily withdrawal limit of 3000 RMB (=$500) so if you require larger amounts than this you will need to go to the ATM several times over a few days.


Many of the costs of the trip will be paid by NYU Shanghai, but initially you will need to pay for it.  You will be reimbursed at a later date.  For any kind of payment made in China that you wish to get reimbursed for, make sure you get a “fapiao”, which is an official receipt that is required for the reimbursement.  More information on this here.

If you ask for a fapiao, everyone should know what you are talking about, so it helps to say this word.  It should be made out to “上海纽约大学” which says Shanghai New York University.  This needs to be written in Chinese, so make sure you take a print out so you can show the person.

Cost of living

Generally speaking Shanghai is still quite cheap compared to most developed countries.  This is particularly true if you stick to what the locals do.  Prices start to escalate quite quickly to about the same level as any expensive international city  as soon as you do international things.  Rent is however an exception and is an example of something local that is still quite expensive.  As an example of the divide here are some examples (US$1 = 6.9 RMB)

Local stuff

Lunch at a local Chinese eatery = 15-20 RMB
Bottled water = 2RMB
Metro ticket one way = 3-5 RMB
Bus ticket one ride = 2 RMB
10 minute taxi ride = 40 RMB
1 month rent 1 bedroom = 4000 RMB/month
Bottle of beer at local restaurant = 12 RMB

International stuff

Coffee at Starbucks or similar = 30 RMB
Drink at expat oriented bar = 60 RMB
Burger at western style place = 60 RMB