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Visas, Work Permits and Migration

China, the world’s second strongest economy and still developing is a major attraction for international expansion but, as with most countries, many people will have to organize the correct documentation when crossing borders.

Expanding into a country or hiring a workforce abroad can lead your business to great profits, but unfamiliar laws and regulations can counteract your company’s goals and plans. Few companies have these resources, or the time. At Bradford Jacobs, we want to eliminate this complicated part. By using our PEO service we can arrange all needed visas and permits including the entire application process without your physical presence. 

What types of Visas and Work Permits in China are there?

To visit, for business trips or to work in China most people require documentation unless their country of origin is part of a visa free area and has an agreement with China. Different categories of visa can be applied for. Existing visas must be acceptable and valid for purpose. 

For those looking to work and live in China, the first step is to have a job offer and after this there are four main documents required: 

  • Foreigner’s Work Permit Notice through the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs’ (SAFEA) website before they can obtain the appropriate visa. This is a notification that the person has permission to work in China
  • Appropriate Work Visa (Z or R category work visa – see below)
  • Foreigner’s Work Permit which will include an ID number
  • Residence Permit will allow employees to live and stay in China

There will be quite a few documents and procedures to go through with each of the above.

Work Visas

  • Z-Visa (Work Visa) is for foreign nationals (including their families) for paid work with local companies who intend to live and work in China for longer than six months.
  • R-Visa (Talent Visa) is given to highly-skilled / qualified people or ‘Tier A talents’ and is stringently controlled through a points system. However, for the most talented foreigners, visas can be accelerated and are for five or 10 years with multiple entries allowed for maximum stays of 180 days.

Other main categories:

  • M-Visa (Business): Allows regular work-associated trips for trade and business purposes, including foreign nationals who are not paid by a Chinese corporate body or are not employed in China; and who stay less than 6 months annually (duration of each stay is from 30 to 120 days).
  • L-Visa (Tourist): Allows tourists to visit for family purposes, short stay holidays and personal matters.
  • F-Visa (Non-Commerce): Enables foreign nationals who have an invitation to travel for purposes of research, lectures, to enhance their expertise or for interaction in technology, cultural and scientific fields. Typically, valid for between 30-90 days.
  • D-Visa (Chinese Green Card): For those foreign nationals who intend to live permanently in China. It is a permanent resident identification card (ID).

How to obtain a Chinese Work Visa

First, each foreign national requires a job with an employment contract, in order to acquire the following documents to work in China: 

  • Foreigner’s Work Permit Notice / Letter 
  • Z Work Visa (more typical work visa)
  • Foreigner’s Work Permit
  • Residence Permit

Foreigner’s Work Permit Notice / Letter 

The employer completes the application online for the employee, who sends the relevant documents electronically to the employer (notarized or authenticated as required). This takes about five days and if employee is qualified, then the original paper documentation is sent to the employer. 

Submitted by the Employee 

Notarized and authenticated by Chinese Embassy or Consulate, in home country, for original copies of:

  • Highest qualification/certificate
  • Police report on any criminal activity
  • Digital copy passport
  • Digital photograph on passport guidelines
  • Letter from previous company, which needs to be signed and dated and covering about two years’ experience which should include the dates and duties performed
  • Recent health certificate (six months)
  • Employment contract

Obligations of Employer 

  • When employing foreigners, accounts need to be registered with the Services System for Foreigners Working in China
  • Applying for the Foreigner’s Work Permit Notice / Letter on employee’s behalf
  • Have a Business License to show they are a legal entity and can therefore employ staff. Have a company stamp for documents submitted on behalf of employees
  • Certificate of approval if required by industrial management departments’ laws and regulations
  • When employing foreigners for highly skilled posts, checking that no local Chinese candidates are suitable
  • Not pay foreign workers less than the minimum wage in the region they will be employed

Once approved, a copy of the letter will be sent to both the employer and employee – who will also receive an English copy. The applicant can then apply for the Work Visa. 

The applicant will also receive a Tier allocation of A, B or C. 

The Tier system depends on a number of considerations such as qualifications, age, location, experience, and salary offered. Points are awarded for each category. 

  • Tier A – Top-level experts (85 points and over).
  • Tier B – Professional employees (60-85 points).
  • Tier C – Lower skilled workers (lower than 65 points). Qualification will then depend on which skills are required in China

There is also a limit on approved applications for Tier B and C.