Obtaining a work visa for China can be a notoriously difficult path to navigate, and your safest option would be to work through an immigration expert. Immigration procedures in large part, are carried out at a local level and each locality has a unique structure and procedure, although it is generally the same procedure throughout China. This means that expats who apply for a work permit in China will need to fulfil different requirements depending on where they'll be working.
After entering the country with a Z visa issued at the Embassy or Consulate in your home country, expats must apply for work and residence permits within 30 days after entering China. Keep in mind that you will have to complete a Temporary Residence Registration Form and produce your passport at a Public Security Bureau (PSB) within 24 hours of arriving in China.
Work permits for China
Each Chinese work permit case is unique and there’s no real ‘blueprint’ for procedures as there are differences between each city’s immigration and labour processes. There are, however, a few standard requirements that expat employees will have to fulfil:
- A Z visa is required prior to arrival in China and must be obtained from your country of origin
- The work permit application must be sponsored by a locally registered company in China, which will have to provide you with an employment contract and official invitation letter
- Expats will need to live and work in the same location as their sponsoring company
- A medical examination is required once in China
The employee will go for a medical examination at an authorised hospital in China, where they will take a blood sample, scan for TB, perform an ECG and even send you for a dental check up. A report must be signed by the doctor and stamped with the hospital’s seal and after about a week you will be issued with a little blue book of health. The hospitals are well aware of the procedure and will guide you through the process one step at a time. However, we would recommend having a translator of sorts with you when going for your check up.
Cities such as Beijing, also require foreign employees to have a non-criminal record check attested by Chinese authorities. In Shanghai, foreign nationals can have their medical examination after they get their Z visa and work permit, but in Shenzhen for example this has to happen before you can proceed with your Z visa application.
The medical report will be attached to an employment license application, which is often submitted by the Chinese employer to their local labor bureau, this is highly recommended as you wouldn’t know where to start and it can be very confusing and frustrating to figure out.
Once an employment license is approved and granted, the company requests a Z visa invitation from their local Foreign Economic and Trade Commission. These are forwarded to you, where you will then go to apply for a Z visa at the Chinese embassy or consulate in your home country. Once you arrive in China, you will need to apply for a work permit at the local labor bureau.
What is A Residence Permit and How Do I Get One?
Within 24 hours of arriving in China, expats have to complete a Temporary Residence Registration Form and produce their passport at Public Security Bureau (PSB). If you’re residing at a hotel you may be able to register there, but if you’re staying with a Chinese resident, even if they are foreign nationals, you will have to register at the local PSB. Some cities require expats to do this after every trip they make out of the country so best to check the rules at your local PSB before travelling.
In addition to applying to this you need to apply for a Working Foreigner’s Residence Permit at your local PSB within 30 days of arriving in China.
The Chinese residence permit is your proof that you're legally living in the country, and given the recent changes in regulations where ordinary police now have the right to target and question foreigners about their immigration and work status, it’s best to have this in place and your passport on you at all times, or at the very least a copy of your passport and visa. The residency permits are valid for up to a year and can be renewed for a year at a time, usually when a work permit extension is applied for.
If you want to move to a different region of China, you'll have to get permission from the local PSB and apply for a new residence permit at the PSB in your new area of residence.
If you need to change anything on the residence permit, such as a change of address, they have to be applied for in less than 10 days after the change takes place.
Foreigners who contribute to China’s economic and social growth or that meet a specified set of conditions with a clear tax record can apply for a permanent residence permit in China. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security have to recognize this application, and the applicant has to meet certain criteria regarding his/her annual income:
At least four years successive work in China and at least six months of residency in China per year;
Annual income (before tax) of at least 500,000 RMB in total for four successive years before or when the application is filed;
Recommendation from your current employer.
You would also be able to apply for a 3-year Permanent Residence Permit “talent permit”, if your current employer recommends you as a “high-quality talent” in China.
Visa and work permit regulations can change at short notice and expats should contact their nearest Chinese embassy or consulate for the latest information.