The Chinese Work Visa: What’s the deal?

Having seized the opportunity to travel and live in China  over the past few years, like my fellow China-enthusiasts, relocating to work in China in the future was (and still is) my own ‘China Dream’.

Now, whilst this common Xi Jinping rhetoric may appear somewhat clichéd, one cannot deny the rapidly growing influx of recent graduates and young entrepreneurs setting their eyes to the Far East in search of a bring career. The image of young backpackers will soon be replaced with budding expats wanting to experience a fresh, dynamic business climate against the backdrop of an ancient and rich culture.

But what about the rules and regulations for actually getting a Chinese work visa? Apart from constantly hearing that a graduate or anyone else needed ‘two year’s work experience’, it was only recently that I was fully up to scratch with the new requirements for foreigners hoping to obtain a visa to work in China.

Since September 1st 2013, a new set of rules governing the entry and exit of foreigners (titled “Administrative Regulations of the People’s Republic of China on the Entry and Exit of Foreigners”) has come into effect. So today we look into the changes made to this procedure and how it will affect you. Blog 16 Pic 2




A work visa is essentially a form of authorization which allows the holder to work in their desired country, thus the Z Work Visa was required for non-native persons wanting to work in China. However, in order to acquire this, it was only granted if you and the employer both met the requirements listed below:

–          First, the organisation had to be accredited to employ foreigners. The employer needed to obtain a certificate stating that the foreign employee (you) complied. (Employment license)

–          Secondly, you were required to meet three minimum qualifications – English as your native language, a bachelor’s degree, and the infamous “two years’ work experience”.

–          The age limit for male applicants was set between 24 – 65, and 24 – 55 for female applicants, although in some cases a younger applicant could be employed.

–          The employer had to send you a government issued Employment Permit and Visa Notification Letter which was to be submitted with photocopies attached to your application.
After entering China with the Z-Visa, applying for work and residence permits as soon as possible was obligatory for every expat.


Changes to work visa  

But since September 2013, it has become significantly harder to obtain a work visa as the Chinese government hopes to strictly regulate foreigners entering, living, and working in China.

Under the new visa system, the Z-Visa is no longer the only type of visa with which foreign individuals can be employed.

Foreigners may also be employed through a new type of visa – the R-Visa.

The reason why?

The R-Visa is aimed at attracting global talents and applies to senior-level foreign professionals whose skills are urgently needed in China. Applicants for the R-Visa need to satisfy the requirements stipulated by the relevant competent authorities and must provide relevant documentation.

Changes to residence permit (Processing time)

The time needed to process one’s residence permit has also changed dramatically. Instead of the normal 5 working days, the new regulations state that the processing period has been extended to 15 days, with the possibility of interviews. Companies who are employing foreign employees are therefore advised to apply for visas early on your behalf.

The amended regulations have also had effects on the local level. In Shanghai, for instance, foreigners applying for a residence card need to have a foreign expert permit, whereas in the past a work permit sufficed.


However, apart from the creation of a new work visa and the subsequent changes in time, the overall procedure remains the same:

1. Employment License

2. Invitation Letter

3. Z/R-Visa

–Enter China–

4. Medical Examination

5. Work Permit

6. Residence Permit

Recommended reading:

Tags: , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply