With the reopening of the Chinese market in the post-pandemic era, we saw a growing trend of expatriates seeking to obtain visas to work and reside in China. A thorough understanding of getting a work permit and work visa is essential for any expat planning to work in China. This guide provides an up-to-date overview of the application process, eligibility criteria, and necessary documentation for 2024.
An Introduction of China Work Permit
Basic Eligibility for Work Permits
To qualify for a Chinese work permit, both employer and employee (foreigner) must satisfy several criteria.
The employers must legally comply, offer roles of special necessity where domestic candidates are unavailable, ensure wages meet or exceed local standards, and secure any necessary industry-specific regulatory approvals for foreign employees.
The employees must be at least 18 years old and in good health, have no criminal record, and possess the required skills and a confirmed employer in China for their specific role.
Categories of Work Permits
The State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA) implemented a nationwide unified work permit system to assess foreign talents. This system uses market and international peer evaluations to emphasize abilities, achievements, and contributions. It integrates policy tools like points-based systems and guidance catalogs, dividing foreigners working in China into three groups: foreign high-end talents (Category A), foreign professionals (Category B), and ordinary foreign personnel (Category C).
- Category A: Foreign High-end Talents
Category A refers to individuals such as scientists, technology leaders, international entrepreneurs, and specialized talents. This category also includes those who qualify as foreign high-end talents based on a points system – with 85 or more points. There is no age, educational, or professional experience restrictions for these talents.
- Category B: Foreign Professionals
This category is for talents meeting specific educational, professional, or work criteria in China’s regulations. Typically, individuals with a bachelor’s degree and over two years of relevant work experience are eligible to apply for it. Foreign talents who have scored 60 or more in the scoring system also qualified.
- Category C: Ordinary Foreigners
Ordinary foreigners are classified as Category C when they align with the domestic labour market needs, are employed in temporary (no more than 90 days), seasonal, non-technical, or service positions that adhere to China’s policies and regulations.
Please visit the this link to view all the classification standards.
The Point-based Scoring System for China Work Permit
Following is the criterias for the point scoring system of the work permit:
Integral Element Scoring Assignment Table (Provisional Version)
Source: Integra Group
Basic Handling Process
Online Application: Employers must log in to the designated system, submit information electronically, and provide necessary digital documents.
Online Preliminary Review: Within 5 working days, the acceptance authority reviews the submitted materials online. Incomplete or non-compliant applications will receive a one-time online notification for correction; otherwise, an online confirmation or an appointment for on-site material submission will be made.
Acceptance: The authority decides on the acceptance of the application. If the application is complete and falls under the agency’s jurisdiction, an acceptance receipt is issued immediately.
Review: The decision-making authority reviews the verified materials and makes a decision within 10 working days. Verification includes checking the original employment contract, work qualification certificate, no criminal record certificate, physical examination certificate, and highest degree certificate.
Decision: Where the requirements and criteria are met, the decision-making authority will decide to grant administrative permission, generate a Work Permit Notification online, and issue the Foreigner Work Permit within 10 days of the decision.
Below is a flowchart outlining the application process for a Work Permit:
Source: Ministry of Science and Technology
In practical, for a new application, if all required documents are in order, it generally takes 15-20 working days from the submission of the application to receiving the work permit notice. Additionally, the actual situation can vary from city to city, so it is advisable to consult professional firms or the relevant authorities to obtain the most up-to-date information.
Obtaining a Work Visa （Z-Visa）for China
The Work Visa (Z-Visa) is granted to individuals who are employed, assume a professional post, or participate in commercial performances in China. After obtaining the Foreigner Work Permit Notification letter, applicants can proceed to apply for the China Work Visa at their local visa center or the nearest Chinese embassy.
The general process for obtaining a Chinese work permit and work visa involves:
Job Offer: Secure a job offer from an employer in China.
Work Permit Notification: The employer applies for a Work Permit Notification at the local labor bureau in China.
Visa Application: Apply for a Z Visa at the nearest Chinese embassy or consulate with the Work Permit Notification.
Entry into China: Enter China with the Z Visa.
Work Permit: Applicants must apply for the Work Permit within 15 days of entering China.
Residence Permit: If the duration of the work visa is more than 30 days, the holders of Z-Visa must apply for a residence permit from the immigration department of the local public security authority.
The standard documents required include:
Passport with at least six months of validity.
Completed visa application form with a passport-sized photo.
Official job offer from a Chinese employer.
Work Permit Notification.
Health certificate (if applicable).
No criminal record certificate.
For the most up-to-date information and specific guidelines, it’s advisable to consult the official websites.
Integra Group is a fully licensed asia-focused accounting, taxation, and business advisory firm – with dedicated offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore and Taipei. We’ve helped companies ranging from Fortune 500 companies to small to medium sized businesses establish and grow their presence in Asia.