Each year Horizons receives numerous inquiries related to China work visas. Whether employing a foreign national, applying for a work visa or simply visiting China, under the Law of the People's Republic of China on Administration of Exit and Entry, foreigners seeking to enter China should obtain the correct visa type from the proper visa-issuing authority. Generally, visa applications are processed at the Chinese Embassy or Consulate within one's home country, although visas are can be obtained at a port visa-issuing authority for emergencies or group tourist visa. Port visas are restricted to one entry and 30 days duration of stay.

The Administrative Regulations of People's Republic of China on Entry and Exit of Aliens stipulates three categories of visa types:

  • Diplomatic and service visas – issued for diplomatic or official visits
  • Courtesy visas – foreigners with special identity
  • Regular visas – entrance related to work, study, visiting family, tourism, business activities and talent

Regular visas are divided into the corresponding entrance purpose and applications require the relevant supporting documentation. Upon entrance, foreign visitors must register for temporary residency at the local police station within 24 hours or a hotel may register a foreign guest at check-in. Visitors who fail to register may be subject to fines.

Visa regulations and application can be simple. However, there are a number of provisions that are at times overlooked by foreigners entering China, which may cause them mishap or violation after entry into the country. Below, we offer a scenario of a common case.

Working in China

A family is looking to move to China; one spouse is offered a job in China whilst the other would like to search for a job in China. What's more, the family's two accompanying children, both over the age of 18, would like to work part-time during the school holidays and partake in an internship.

In accordance with regulations promulgated by the State Administration of Foreign Expats Affairs, effective from 1 April 2017, a Foreign Work License Notice (replacing the old Alien Work License) shall be obtained before a work visa application. A sponsoring company must register an account on the administration website's Management and Service System for Foreigners Working application portal, then submit an online application for the foreign employee. The application is subject to a scored assessment; the total assessment score is dependent on the level of education, age, university, working experience, previous employer, salary from sponsoring company, mandarin, as well as employment location in China. From the total score, the application will be placed into one of the following categories:

Type A: above 85 points

Foreign specialists (highly talented individuals) particularly in the field of science and technology, innovative entrepreneurs and outstanding expertise, as well as those selected for Government Social and Economic development programmes.

Type B: 60-85 points

Foreign professionals who meet the scoring system and between the 18 – 60 years

Type C: Under 40 points

Seasonal workers

Point system

Points Assignment Elements Standard Points
Annual salary of domestic company (RMB) 450,000 and above 20
350,000 and below 450,000 17
250,000 and below 350,000 14
150,000 and below 250,000 11
70,000 and below 150,000 8
50,000 and below 70,000 5
Less than 50,000 0
Education Level Doctors or equivalent 20
Masters or equivalent 15
Bachelor or equivalent 10
Related work experience Above 2 years one additional point per year – max 15
2 years 10
Less than 2 years 5
Annual work period 9 months and above 15
6 -9 months 10
below 3 months 0
Chinese proficiency level Bachelor, equivalent or above in Chinese 10
Han Shui Kao (HSK) 5 and above 10
HSK 4 8
HSK 3 6
HSK 2 4
HSK 1 2
Location of employment Western China 10
North-east Industrial Areas in China 10
Designated Poverty Regions in Central China 10
Age 18-15 years 10
26 to 45 years 15
46 – 55 years 10
56 – 60 years 5
Above 60 years 0
Top university or work experience Graduate of a top 100 university 5
Experience of a global 500 companies 5
Special provision of provincial foreigner management Specialist talent shortage in local social and economic development 0-10

Dependent children over the age of 18 years wishing to study and work part-time or intern should obtain a student visa. Students may only work or intern upon qualifying for a residence permit (residence permits are authorised to stays beyond 180 days) and receiving the school's consent. An application for annotation of place and period of work/internship is then to be submitted to the relevant exit and entry administration. It is important to note that part-time work or internship is required to support the study.

No employment may commence without a Work Permit Card, which shall be applied within 15 days of arrival with a signed labour contract. Foreign employees must also acquire a residence permit within 30 days upon gaining the Work Permit. An original criminal record, health certificate, academic qualifications, employment reference letters and legalisation of the academic qualification shall also be provided. Once the Foreign Work License Notice is obtained, the foreigner may apply for a work visa providing an invitation letter from the employing company, the dependent spouse and children are required to submit evidence of marital and parental relations, as well supporting evidence from the employing company. Dependent visas cannot be employed in China; if the dependent obtains a job offer, they should abide by the employment permit system and work visa procedure.

Key takeaways from the above

  1. If a resident permit stipulated in the visa, the foreigner shall apply within 30 days upon entry.
  2. Companies wishing to employ foreigners must obtain the Certificate of the People's Republic of China Permitting the Employment of Foreigners.
  3. Working illegally is subject to a fine of minimum RMB 5,000 and maximum RMB 20,000, under serious circumstances the individual can be detained for a min 5 day and max 15 days.
  4. An employer employing illegal workers shall be fined RMB 10,000 for each illegal person.
  5. Deportation is a provisioned punishment for any foreign in serious violation of Law of the People's Republic of China on Administration of Exit and Entry. The deported foreigner may not enter China within 10 years upon the date of deportation. This is at the discretion of the officer in charge of the investigation.

Navigating the visa procedures and applications may become a mind field of trouble should if the correct process and provisions are not followed. If in doubt, it is important to check the regulations found under Law of the People's Republic of China on Administration of Exit and Entry, The Administrative Regulations of People's Republic of China on Entry and Exit of Aliens and Circular on the Issuance of the Regulations on Management of the Employment of Foreigners in China. More specifically, employers should be familiar with the recent Work Permit procedures and qualifications concerning both new and existing foreign employees and, if necessary, contact a professional expert.

Originally published 22 May 2018

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.