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China Visa

People's Republic of China

Which industries employ expats in China?

China is unique in that English is spoken in many top-level management and highly skilled jobs. China is quite open to hiring expats in a myriad of industries. It’s important to note that industries are usually segregated by regions (ie the South and the coasts boasts more import/export, while high-tech companies can be found North and East, etc). Many expats find it easier to find work in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. A few industries represented by these 3 large cities include: education, steel, oil, manufacturing, business and financial services, hospitality, comparative law, engineering, sales, marketing, IT, HR/talent management, project management, etc.

What kind of employment visas are offered in China?

There is only one employment or work visa (Z visa) offered by the Chinese government. If you are looking to do an internship, network for a company or conduct business meetings, then a Business Visa (F visa) may suit your needs.

How can I get an employment visa in China?

The first step is to secure employment by finding a job and negotiating salary. Once that is completed, it is the employer’s responsibility to start the employment visa process.

Can I apply for an employment visa on my own?

Getting an employment visa is a 2-part system. Once you secure employment, it is your employer’s responsibility to apply for an employment license. Once you have an Invitation Letter, you may apply for an employment visa. Although there are loopholes to every rule, it is best to follow the guidelines outlined by the consulate.

Who can I hire to assist me in processing my papers?

There are a number of companies that assist in visa processing. We at Tianfen Consulting can assist with the final steps of processing (once you have a letter of invitation).

What are the documents I need to submit?

Step 1 - Employer obtains employment license

All employers, whether they are foreign-owned businesses or local enterprises, must apply for an employment license 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:

Those planning on teaching English in China will need their employers, 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 license 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. Enquire about 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.

How long do I have to wait for my papers to be processed?

Processing times vary depending on if you apply for the visa yourself or use a third party to assist. Here is the published schedule on the Consulates webpage:

Where can I check the status of my application?

To date, there is no website that allows you to check the status.

What will my proof of employment visa be?

The proof of employment visa will be an insert of the Z visa in your passport.

What are the government fees I have to pay for while I’m on my employment visa?

Expats living in China for between one and five years must pay taxes on income derived from China and on income brought into the country. After five years expats must pay tax in China on their worldwide income, though deductions are applicable if tax is also paid to the home country.

For expats who live in both China and a separate country the total number of days spent inside China is used to determine tax status.

How long is the validity of the employment visa before it expires?

That is determined by the consulate and the sponsoring employer and should be discussed when you negotiate salary. Typically, visas are valid for 12 months - 24 months as determined by the employer and as outlined in the invitation letter.

If my passport expires before my employment visa expires, what should I do?

Get it renewed as soon as you can at the local embassy.

When my employment visa expires, how can I re-enter China and accept a new job?

Re-enter as a visitor while you await the new visa, but don’t work.

Is there a grace period to renew employment visa?

No. It behooves you to get the employment visa renewed as soon as you can.

Can I come to China on a tourist visa to search and apply for jobs?

Yes, but when asked the purpose of your stay at embarkment immigration, state what’s on your visa-tourism.

What happens when an employer asks me to work immediately without an employment visa?

Technically, it’s illegal to work without an employment visa. The punishment, if caught, ranges from fees to jail time to deportment.

How can I transfer my employment visa from one employer to the next?

A new visa is required for each sponsoring employer.

Aside from obtaining an employment visa, how can I have residency in China?

Permanent Residence for Spouse Reunion
Aliens can apply for Permanent Residence for Spouse Reunion if they meet the following conditions:

  1. Spouses of Chinese citizens or of aliens having obtained permanent residence in China;
  2. Marriage has lasted for five years;
  3. Have lived in China for five years in a row, the annual stay in China being no shorter than nine months;
  4. Have stable and secured living status and place to live;

Permanent Residence for Those Seeking Reunion with Parents
Unmarried children aged under 18 years old who come to China to live with their parents can apply for Permanent Residence in China if they meet the following conditions:

  1. One or both of their parents is or are Chinese citizen(s) and have household registration in China, or one or both of their parents is or are alien(s) with permanent residence status in China;
  2. Under the age of 18 and unmarried;
  3. Confirmed to have foreign nationality after examination according to Law of Nationality of P.R.C.

Permanent Residence for Investment
Foreign investors can apply for Permanent Residence if they have direct investment in China for three years in a row and have a sound taxation record and meet any of the following terms and conditions:

  1. Having made investment of over USD 500,000 in industries of encouraged type as specified in the Catalogue of Industries of Foreign Investment released by the State;
  2. Having made total investment of over USD 500,000 in counties in the western part of the country or in counties which are major targets of poverty relief work undertaken by the State;
  3. Having total investment of over USD 1 million in the central part of the country;
  4. Having total investment of over USD 2 million in China.

Permanent Residence for Employment
Foreigners can apply for Permanent Residence for Employment if they satisfy the following conditions:

  1. Having assumed the posts of deputy general manager or deputy director of plants or higher level posts or posts of associate professors or associate research fellows and similar posts for more than four years in a row, and the period of stay in accumulation being no shorter than three years and having sound taxation record;
  2. The units where they work should meet any of the following terms and conditions:

    • A: institutions subordinate to the various ministries under the State Council or to the provincial level people's governments;
    • B: major higher learning schools;
    • C: enterprises or institutions executing major engineering projects or major scientific projects of the State;
    • D: high-tech enterprises, foreign invested enterprises in encouraged type, foreign invested advanced technology enterprises or foreign invested export-oriented enterprises.

Permanent Residence for Outstanding Aliens
This type of Permanent Residence is issued to aliens who have major and outstanding contributions to China or needed urgently by China.

Permanent Residence for Dependents
Aliens can apply for Permanent Residence for Dependents if you meet the following conditions:

  1. Persons having no direct relatives abroad entering China to live with direct relatives in China;
  2. Over 60 years old, have lived in China for five years in a row, whose annual stay in China being no shorter than nine months;
  3. Have stable and secured living status and places to live;

Requirements: If you have questions regarding the requirements for each, please contact us at

Does China have single and multiple visa entries?

Visas are either single or multiple entry. This is dependent on what you select, what your employer notes in the invitation letter or by the consulate.

How can I get a job soon after my family sponsors my residency?

Immediately once residency is secured.

Will an expat’s child born in China acquire citizenship?

That is up to the parents. A baby born to a Chinese mother in China will be considered Chinese. A baby born outside of the US to a US parent is considered American. If one parent is an expat, then the parents can decide the citizenship. China and the US don’t recognize dual citizenship with each other, so the parents will need to determine what citizenship the baby will have.

Where can I find more information on work visa, residency and citizenship in China?

You can find more information HERE.

What should I do to have a successful relocation?

Research, research, research and plan. Seek the help of competent cultural consultants. Prepare much of what you can before you go.

How important is it to learn the Chinese language? Which among the Chinese language (i.e. Mandarin, Cantonese, etc) is best to learn?

At Tianfen Consulting, we believe that Mandarin is the *most* valuable as it is the national language. Mandarin is the language for business, government and general getting around.




About Tianfen 天分 Consulting

We are a cultural consulting firm with a myriad of integration points from Educational Services to Business Planning to Strategic Design. While we offer a host of general management consulting solutions in a myriad of areas, our niche lies in analytics and strategy design for HR, Sales, and Marketing. We pride ourselves on staying abreast of the global and economic climates and strive to translate personal experience, academic research and business knowledge into tailored solutions for our clients and partners.


Why Tianfen 天分 Consulting?

We pride ourselves on delighting our customer with quantifiable results. Our goal is to see you succeed.


Excellence is the cornerstone of our principles. Our desire is to create a solution that not only gives you what you want, but what you need.


With academic and real-life experience overseas, we strive to put you ahead of the competition with practical cultural nuance understanding.

Our core offerings are:

* Business Planning
* Cultural Consulting
* China Visa Prep/Consulting
* Educational Services
* Strategic Design
* EB-5 Visa/Immigration Consulting
* Foreign Direct Investment Specialists

The Immigration Expert : MONICA MOFFITT

Monica Moffitt, founder and Principal Cultural Consultant at Tianfen Consulting, Inc., has traveled the world and enjoys linguistics and all things culture. Having split her career between project management and business analytics, Monica merges logic, fluency in Chinese and creativity in her new role as cultural consultant. She received a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies/Chinese from Vanderbilt University and a Master of Business Administration (International Management and Marketing) from University of Texas at Dallas. She can be reached directly at


E:  |   W: nor the author guarantee the accuracy of the information on this page. It is recommend that particularly prior to your travels you check with the relevant government authority. Please contact us with any updates you may have. Last updated 12 February 2013.

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