Immigration. Travel. Living.

Getting an employment visa: Work Permit in China

How to apply for and receive Chinese work visas for international employees is one of the most pressing concerns for foreigners and companies recruiting foreigners in China. Work visa requirements in China are well-known, not so much for their complexity in terms of criteria as for their regular revisions. Since 2016, the Chinese government’s list of documents necessary has changed practically every year.

The Chinese government has streamlined the process of applying for a work permit in recent years by consolidating everything into one agency, SAFEA (The State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs). SAFEA is also the federal body in charge of work visas, including both Z and R visas. R visas are reserved for top-level executives and persons who the Chinese government deems extremely valuable to specific industries in which China is lacking. Z visas are the standard visas for foreign employees, while R visas are reserved for top-level executives and persons who the Chinese government deems extremely valuable to specific industries in which China is lacking.

Types of work visas in China

To denote different visa kinds in China, acronyms with letters and numbers are used. Consider the following scenario:

 Z visa 

This is a visa for workers who plan to stay in China for more than six months.


The X stands for xuéshng (student), and the numbers indicate how long someone will be staying. This visa is for students, and the X1 is for stays of more than 180 days, while the X2 is for stays of less than 180 days.


The J is derived from the Chinese word jzh, which means journalist. This visa is for international journalists who wish to stay in the country for a set amount of time.


This is a business visa that allows you to stay for 30 to 60 days.


A 30 to 90day visa for exchange students, guests, and study tours.


 This visa is for persons who are visiting non-resident family members.


 Individuals visiting family members who are from or live in China are granted this visa.


Other letters to watch for include “C” for chuányuán, or crew, “L” for lǎowài, or foreigner/tourist, and “G” for guòjìng, or transit.

Requirements to obtain china work visas

The requirements for obtaining a work visa differ depending on the visa category. Most Chinese visa applications, on the other hand, require a passport, a photograph, an official letter of invitation, a health certificate, and an official employment license from the Chinese government. All foreigners with a visa must register with the Public Security Bureau and follow the Chinese Exit-Entry Administration Law (PSB). Within 24 hours of landing in the nation, they must do so. Here’s how you can get each of your employees to follow the rules:

  • Go to the police station closest to you.
  • You must show your passport.
  • Show a deed or lease to a residence or the registration of the host’s household.
  • Fill out a form for temporary residence registration.

Your employee will receive an approved Registration Form of Temporary Residence after registering. This form will assist them in obtaining a permanent Chinese resident permit.

Application process

To apply for a work visa in China, you must visit the nearest Chinese Visa Application Service Center or embassy. Basic documentation will be required from your employee. China also evaluates work permit applications based on characteristics such as salary, qualifications, job experience, age, Mandarin fluency, and more to determine the value the candidate contributes to the country. Additional rewards may be available depending on an applicant’s score. We suggest applying for a visa around a month before your trip to China.

Many of your staff will need to apply for Z visas and receive a Chinese residence permit within 30 days after they arrive in China. They must apply for this permit by:

  • Visiting an ExitEntry Administration Service Center near you
  • Handing out a passport
  • Completing a registration form
  • Filling out an application for a Foreigner’s Visa and Resident Permit
  • Submitting a passport photograph
  • Presenting a valid health certificate
  • Providing any relevant supporting papers

Other important points to consider

Your employees can specify how many entries they want on their working visa application form: single, double, or multiple. This number will indicate how frequently and for how long they can enter China. Returning from a trip to Macao or Hong Kong, for example, counts as a new entrance, necessitating the use of a double-entry or multiple-entry visa. If your employees do not intend to go outside of China, a single-entry visa will suffice and be less expensive.

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