In theory, every time a foreign employee leaves a work unit and receive a notification of cancellation of work permit letter (外国人来华工作许可注销证明) he could apply for withdrawal of his retirement personal contributions.
In practice, it is less hassle to transfer the social security account to the next employer and withdraw all funds when leaving China definitively.
Important to note: when withdrawing funds the subscription years count is reset to zero, 15 years of contribution are needed to enjoy a monthly pension when reaching retirement age.
Withdrawing the Social Security retirement fund in Tianjin is a personal business, while the employer shall provide relevant paperwork to the employee, it does not have the obligation to process it on employees' behalf.
Work permit cancellation: 外国人来华工作许可注销证明.
Work permit copy.
Social security card (need to be activated for more than 6 months).
Valid resident permit.
Visit your work unit social security bureau and ask for:
-Confirmation Letter for Whole Withdrawal of Basic Pension Insurance Deposit 一次性提取基本养老金确认书
-Application Letter of Withdrawal of the Personal Pension for Foreign Insured Persons 外国(港澳台)参保人员基本养老保险个人账户储存额一次性支取申领表 ( to be stamped by your employer ).
In Tianjin, the funds will arrive between 3 and 9 months to your bank account.
In some cities the funds are sent to the employer directly, who will have to send them to you.
The foreigner had to leave China before application => write a power of attorney to an HR to handle the matters.
In the process, the money gets stuck due to inconsistency between bank card name and social security account name => make sure you have a social security card and have been able to receive payment in the past from the social security bureau. Write a power of attorney to HR to receive the money for you.
The bank card, social security card have less than 6-month => write a power of attorney to HR to receive the money for you.
What if you don't apply
You can choose to come back to work in China and cumulate your years.
If you have contributed for more than 15 years and reach the age of pension, you will receive monthly retirement funds.
However, you will have to submit every year a certificate of life issued by a Chinese embassy if you reside abroad or a valid residence permit if you reside in China.
If you do not come back to China our funds are kept with interest, contact your HR to process the withdrawal.