Chinese visa processes are notoriously difficult to navigate, and the safest option would be to work through an immigration expert or relocation company. Immigration procedures are largely carried out at a local level, and each locality has a unique structure. 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 their Z visa, expats should apply for work and residence permits for China as soon as possible.
Work permits for China
Each case is unique and there are differences between each city’s immigration and labour processes. There are, however, a few standard requirements that expat employees will likely have to fulfil:
The Z visa is required prior to arrival
The work permit application must be sponsored by a locally registered company in China
Expats will need to live and work in the same location as their sponsoring company
A medical examination is required
The employee will go for a medical examination at an authorised hospital either inside or outside of China. A report must be signed by their doctor and stamped with the hospital’s seal. The medical report will be attached to an employment licence application, which is usually submitted by the Chinese employer to their local labour bureau.
Some cities, such as Beijing, also require foreign employees to have proof of no criminal record attested by Chinese authorities.
Once an employment licence is approved and granted, the company requests a Z visa invitation from their local Foreign Economic and Trade Commission. These are forwarded to the expat employee, who applies for a Z visa at the Chinese embassy or consulate in their home country. After the employee arrives in China, they need to apply for a work permit at their local labour bureau.
Residence permits for China
Within 24 hours of arriving in China, expats have to complete a Temporary Residence Registration Form and produce their passport at the nearest Public Security Bureau (PSB). Expats staying in a hotel may be able to register there, but those staying with a Chinese resident or private accommodation will have to register at the local PSB. Some cities require expats to do this after every trip they make out of the country.
In addition to applying for a work permit and registering their temporary residence, expats need to apply for a Working Foreigner’s Residence Permit at their local PSB within 30 days of arriving in the country.
The Chinese residence permit is an expat’s proof that they're legally living in the country. If someone wants to move to a different region of China, they'll have to get permission from their local PSB and apply for a new residence permit at the PSB in their new destination.
If any changes need to be made to the residence permit, such as a change of address, they have to be applied for within a certain time frame after the change takes place.
The following may be required when applying for a residence permit for China:
Passport, photos and other supporting personal documentation
Fingerprints and other biometric information
A health certificate
Work permit and other relevant supporting materials issued by Chinese authorities
*Visa and work permit regulations can change at short notice and expats should contact their nearest Chinese embassy or consulate for the latest information.
►Visas for China gives an overview of Chinese visa applications
►To learn more about the country's unique business culture, see Working in China
"There were no problems getting a working visa because my employers sorted it all out." Read more in our interview with Paul.
Are you an expat living in China?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to China. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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