Work Permits for China
The bureaucracy surrounding work permits for China is stifling, but luckily, employers bear the brunt of the burden for the application process - and most expats coming to China have a job lined up beforehand.
Visas and permits for working in China
There are a number of steps involved in getting a work visa, employment permit and residence permit in China, but many of them must be completed solely by the employer.
Before an expat can even apply for their work visa at the Chinese consulate in their home country, they'll need to find a job, negotiate their contract, and then have their employer obtain an employment license and a letter of invitation for them.
Step 1 - Employer obtains employment license
All employers, whether they are foreign-owned businesses or local enterprises, must apply for an employment licence for hired expats from the labour bureau. The application process requires that the employer prove that the expat is qualified to be hired, and that the employer is qualified to hire the expat. To enable this, it's necessary to provide employers with certain documents; companies will inform expats of the documents they need, but in the very least the following is required:
- Copy of passport
- Copy of resume or CV
- Evidence of the state of good health as confirmed by a medical examination (request the official "Physical Exam Record for Foreigner" document from your employer, to be signed by your doctor)
Those planning on teaching English in China will need their employers, i.e. schools, to obtain a Foreign Expert Work Certificate. This document requires that expats hold a BA degree.
Step 2 - Employer obtains letter of invitation
Next, the employer must apply for a "Letter of Invitation" from the appropriate body in their area, this entity is different in each region. No documents are required from expats for this step.
Step 3 - Apply for work visa (Z)
Once your employer obtains both the "Letter of Invitation" and the employment licence they will send this paperwork to you in your home country. In turn, these must be sent to the nearest Chinese consulate along with the completed visa application, passport, photos and the medical examination certificate.
It's possible to use a visa service to submit the application for you.
If family members are accompanying you to China then the visa notification letter will be needed for the visa application of each individual family member, along with marriage certificates and birth certificates (depending on the family member).
Z-visas are single entry visas that are valid for up to 90 days. You must enter China within this period or the visa will expire. Most people schedule their flight one month after this visa is issued to allow adequate time to arrange all other documents once in China.
Step 4 - Apply for employment permit
Once you arrive in China, your employer has 15 days to apply for an employment permit for you. Again, your company will notify you of the documents they need, but generally your passport, passport photos and your medical examination certificate are required.
In some cases, it may be necessary to re-take your medical examination in China at a government-accredited health facility, though the original certificate may be accepted.
Find out what documents you'll need to bring with you before you leave; employing courier services to send you documents you left behind can be expensive.
Step 5 - Apply for residence permit
Within 30 days of your arrival into China, your employer must register you with the Public Security Bureau and apply for the corresponding residency permit. Once more, your passport, passport photos and your medical examination certificate are necessary.