Work Visa (Z) for China – The Complete Guide

Work Visa (Z) for China

Without a doubt, one of the motives that bring people to China is work. Today, the People’s Republic of China is a solid reality that isn’t as far off and exotic as our parents would have thought; it is present in many levels of our lives, and we know quite well that for some time it has already held the role of a superpower on a worldwide scale, whose growth seems to refuse to slow down.

For these reasons, moving to China for work is no longer an unusual step and the country continues to attract a growing international work force.

One of the most common jobs in China, at least for foreigners, is that of a foreign language teacher (English is first, but there’s also French, Spanish, and Italian) in universities, public or private schools and in language centers.

Besides teachers, growing numbers of interpreters are needed in the world of Chinese jobs, as are translators, entrepreneurs, etc.

In this article I will show you how to arrive in China with a type Z work visa.

In particular, we’ll look at the specifics of this type of visa, which documents you’ll need in order to apply for one, what are the conditions and prerequisites, where you can get one, what a Working Permit is, what you’ll need to apply for a residence permit when you get to China and what you need to do if you want to change jobs.

What is a type Z Chinese work visa

A type Z Chinese work visa is a category of visa designed for those looking to work in China, specifically as a “Foreign Expert Working in China”, “For Commercial Performance”, “Chief Representative or Representative of a Foreign Company”, “Offshore Oil Operations”, “Volunteering” (more than 90 days) and “Foreigner Working in China with a Work Permit Issued by the Chinese Government”.

As a result, a type Z visa is the only way to legally work in China.

Please note: in case you find yourself in China with a different type of visa than a work visa and want to work part-time (to supplement your scholarship, for example as a student with an X visa), remember that it’s illegal.

Many companies, in fact, aren’t authorized to request a work visa for foreigners and will try to convince you that there’s no problem working with a different type of visa (in this case the most common is the student X visa).

If the authorities should discover that you don’t have a Z visa you risk a fine anywhere between 5,000 to 20,000 CNY (from more than 600 USD to more than about 2,500) and from five to fifteen days in a Chinese jail.

After this you’ll be “invited” to leave the country, or, depending on the specific conditions, deported to your country (at your own expense!). If this should happen, you’ll be prohibited to reenter China for a period of time ranging from one to ten years depending on the seriousness of your situation.

Nevertheless, the sneaky company also runs some risks: for every employee under their responsibility that works illegally, they’ll receive a fine of 10.000 CNY (a little more than 1,400 USD).

There are a few reasons that would move a company to illegally hire foreigners: the procedure that they have to follow to properly hire someone are many and at times complex, so much so that the bosses don’t know them; if they legally hire a foreigner, they are obligated to pay taxes, your insurance, etc; some simply just aren’t allowed to hire foreigners.

So think twice before accepting certain “job” offers.

Note that unlike the initial draft regulating a new work visa, there is no subdivision into a Z1 visa (for work periods more than 180 days) and Z2 visa (for work periods less than 180 days) as is the case for student visas. There is, in fact, just one work visa: the Z visa.

Lastly, there are age limits for those applying for a type Z Chinese work visa: a minimum of 18 years old and a maximum of 60 years. Nevertheless, if you surpass the maximum age limit but find an employer in China who wants to hire you, they may be able to get you a work permit and give you a chance. Age is just a number!

Where can I apply for a type Z Chinese work visa

The type Z Chinese work visa can be applied for in one of the Chinese visa issuing centers in your country, either the embassy, consulate or the CVASC (China Visa Application Service Center).

Pay attention: starting from April 10, 2019, these visa centers have inaugurated a new online application service and from May 10, 2019 they no longer accept handwritten visa applications; they will only accept forms filled out through the online platforms that you’ll find on their respective internet sites.

If you can’t apply for a visa in person, this procedure can also be handled by someone you know, so long as the proper section of the form is filled out.

If for some reason you don’t want to, or can’t personally go to the closest CVASC, embassy or consulate (and you don’t have anyone you can delegate it to), you can use an agency (which will obviously occur an additional cost). In this case, you’ll have to send your passport (and other necessary documents) to the agency and they’ll handle everything.

For a work visa though, I recommend that you do everything to go in person, given that it’s a more complex procedure compared to a tourist or student visa which you can more easily delegate to an agency.

According to Chinese law, you can only apply for a work visa in your home country. However, according to recent rumors, it would seem that you can also get a work visa in Hong Kong (so long as you have an Invitation Letter that clearly specifies that you intend to apply for a visa in that city).

In this case, there are two ways to apply for a visa:

  • Apply at the CVASC (China Visa Application Service Center) in Hong Kong;
  • Apply for a visa through a visa agency in Hong Kong.

In both cases, prepare all your necessary documents in advance.

In any event, I recommend that you apply for your Chinese work visa (of any type) within 90 days of the date of your proposed arrival in China.

The best time to do it is 30 to 60 days before your departure, so not before 90 days since the visa expires after 90 days (or in some cases, 180).

What are the preliminary conditions for obtaining a type Z Chinese work visa

Before starting any procedure for getting a type Z Chinese work visa you have to be able to satisfy certain preliminary requirements.

First of all, obviously you have to find a Chinese employer who wants to hire you, and has the authorization to apply for a foreigner’s work permit.

If the employer doesn’t have such authorization, I recommend that you do not accept a “job”, otherwise you run the risks I mentioned in the first part of this article. Read it again!

Second, you must be an adult and in good health.

Third, you cannot have any type of criminal record.

Fourth, you must have a valid passport.

Fifth, you must have adequate professional ability in the field you are seeking a visa for.

What documents are needed for a type Z Chinese work visa

There are many documents you’ll need to get a type Z Chinese work visa, so take good notes so that you don’t forget anything.

In this paragraph I’ll list all the documents that you need to prepare before leaving for China, which are different than the one’s you’ll need once you get there, which I’ll list later on.

Before leaving for China, you’ll need to prepare certain documents to present to the visa office or embassy/consulate closest to you. Before you go there, you should have ready:

  • 1. Passport: the original, valid for more than 6 months with empty pages for the visa;
  • 2. Copy of your passport: the first page with your information and photo;
  • 3. Copy of your visa application: completely filled out, printed (you can fill it out online at the visa center’s site) and signed;
  • 4. Passport photo: a recent, color passport photo sized 48mmx33mm, recente, showing a frontal view of your entire face, with a white background;
  • 5. Privacy form: printed (you can download it on the visa center’s site), filled out and signed;
  • 6. Self-declaration of countries you’ve visited: printed (you can download it on the visa center’s site), filled out and signed;
  • 7. Work permit or other documentation: the majority of times this is a “Foreigner’s Working Permit” issued by Human Resources and Chinese Social Security (the original and a photocopy); otherwise it might be a:

    a. “Foreign Expert Working in China” (the original and a photocopy) issued by the National Department for Foreign Experts, if you apply for a work visa as an expert, researcher, staff manager and nationally or locally organized staff

    b. “Invitation letter for Foreigners that Run Offshore Activity in China” (the original and a photocopy) issued by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation if you’re looking to come to China for offshore activity

    c. “Chinese certificate (regional) of registration of an representative office of a foreign company” (the original and a photocopy) issued by the administrative department for businesses and industry in the event that you are a representative of foreign offices in China

    d. “Letter of approval” issued by the National or Regional Department for Chinese Culture (the original and a photocopy) or “Short term work permit” (the original and a photocopy) or Foreigner’s Work Permit (the original and a photocopy) if you’re in China for a commercial show

    e. “Verbal Note” or “Official Act” (the original and a photocopy) issued by the firms of the boards of the foreign government and an “Invitation letter” (the original and a photocopy) issued by the International Section of the Chinese National Tourism Board if you belong to the foreign staff residing in China of the National or Regional Tourism Board;

  • 8. Invitation letter: (if required) Consular functionaries could ask for an original format invitation letter, otherwise it could be sent as a fax, photocopy or print out;
  • 9. Information about the family members that will accompany you: this type of visa can also be extended to your family for the entire length of the job (by family it means: spouses, parents, children, grandparents and in-laws). In this case, the family members have to apply for a S1 visa (a visa equal to or more than 180 days) or S2 visa (a visa for less than 180 days) specifically designed for families of foreign residents in China.

    If you apply for a S1 visa at the same time as the relative applying for a type Z work visa (or X1 for students), you need to apply at the same time, provide a photocopy of the necessary material for a type Z (or X1) and an original and photocopy of a certificate legally documenting your relationship (marriage certificate, birth certificate, certificate of family relationship). If the S visa application is not applied for at the same time as the relative applying for the Z visa, you should follow the normal procedure for S visas.

Remember that the Consulate could ask you for additional supporting documents or call you in for an interview if they deem it necessary. In each case, the issuing or refusal of a visa (as well as validity, number of entrances and length of stay) is decided by the Consulate on the basis of the applicant, namely you.

Note that starting from November 1, 2019, you’ll be obligated to provide fingerprints at most of the visa centers at the time of applying for your Chinese visa.

What is a “Foreigner’s Working Permit”

As you have seen with the list of documents you need to have ready when applying for a type Z work visa before leaving for China, you absolutely need a work permit, better known as a “Foreigner’s Working Permit”.

When you decide to go work in China (unless it’s a particular job for which you have to provide other types of documents other than I’ve already mentioned for a “Foreigner’s Working Permit”) this is the most frequently required document.

Take note that this is a document (Notification Letter of Foreigner’s Work Permit in the People’s Republic of China) that you need to have before applying for a work visa, since it is one of the required documents for one to be issued and must be requested by your future boss in China (in fact it is issued by Human Resources of the Social Security of the People’s Republic of China).

Since the only document you’ll be sent will be a notice of work permit, when you arrive in China you’ll have to pick up the actual document. I’ll explain that more shortly.

In order for your employer to request a “Foreigner’s Working Permit” from the authorities, you’ll have to send the following documents:

  • 1. Copy of your passport: the first page with all your information and photo;
  • 2. Medical report: issued by an authorized clinic (if not provided in advance by your employer, ask them which exams are specifically needed or inquire of the Chinese consular officials in your country);
  • 3. Passport photo: passport format;
  • 4. Reference letter: serves to certify your number of years of experience in the field of your future job in China;
  • 5. Certificate attesting to the absence of a criminal record : it must be valid for at least 6 months and be validated by a Chinese embassy or consulate;
  • 6. School diploma or higher: validated by a Chinese embassy or consulate;
  • 7. CV: if required. It should contain your email address, telephone number, address, schooling and work experience, preferably in English and Chinese.

Note that the majority of these documents should be authenticated by the respective authorities and validated by the Consular officers where you apply.

If you’re applying for a visa in a teaching position, you should also send a TEFL Certificate (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), validated at a Chinese embassy or consulate.

Keep in mind that your future employer might ask for further supporting documentation before issuing a work permit.

Once you’ve obtained these documents, the future employer can forward their request for the issue of a “Foreigner’s Working Permit” with the local authorities, sending: the company’s valid license and its relative codes, registration form, the employer’s, or the responsible person’s information and a copy of the work contract.

Note that the documents they ask you for can vary from those I listed depending on your specific situation. In each case you’ll be informed of the documents to send directly from your employer, because they’re the ones to request the work permit in enough time for you to request your type Z work visa.

Since the Chinese authorities are looking to attract highly qualified foreign workers, before issuing the work permit they will assign you a grade and classification attesting to your level of experience.

The classification system for foreigner’s work permits is rather complex, and since April 1, 2017 it is divided into three classes: class-A, class-B and class-C.

There is no limit on how many class-A work visas can be offered by the Chinese authorities, while there are restrictions for class-B and class-C.

How many and what are the classes for a “Foreigner’s Working Permit””

As was just specified, there are three “classes” of workers that can stay in China, divided into:

  • Class-A (Elite foreign talent);
  • Class-B (Professional foreign staff, the most common);
  • Class-C (Foreigners who do not have technical ability or who are hired short term or seasonally).

The classification of the category you belong in is based on: salary, education, knowledge of the Chinese language, work experience, etc. The objective of the Chinese government is to encourage class-A foreign workers, control class-B foreign staff and limit class-C workers.

There are also two methods of classification for foreign employees:

1. They satisfy certain criteria to be directly qualified for a specific category;
2. They reach a sufficient point based on predefined criteria.


In the first case, class-A workers are those who meet the following criteria:

  • They are the recipient of an internationally recognized prize or have been hired by an important organization as either a Manager or High Level Expert;
  • Chosen by the Chinese Plan for Talent;
  • They have demonstrated innovative business ability;
  • They have been chosen for a job encouraged by the government;
  • Chosen by the Project for Young Talent;
  • They earn more than 600,000 CNY annually (a little more than 85,000 USD);
  • They earned grades equal to or more than 85.

This is a more privileged class of worker than class-B or class-C, and for this reason, the procedure for issuing this type of permit will be quicker and less binding.

In fact, class A talent will have at their disposal a “Green Channel” for their documentation and will receive a work permit in 5 business days instead of 10 for the other two classes of workers. This category makes up about 17% of the total foreign workers in China.


Workers in the class-B category are those who meet the following criteria:

  • Have a Bachelor’s degree or greater and at least two years of post-graduation experience in the field in which they are requesting a work permit;
  • Belong to a “Technology Worker” category with experience (possessing an internationally accepted certificate indicating technical ability)
  • For foreign language teachers, they must have a Bachelor’s degree or greater and no less than two years experience teaching the language (if your diploma is in the education, linguistic or teaching field, or you have a recognized TEFL/TESOL, the two years experience teaching is not necessary) as well as a TEFL or TESOL certificate;
  • You have a salary equal to or more than 26,100 CNY a month (a little more than 3,500 USD);
  • You have grade between 60 and 85.

This is a less privileged class of worker than class-A, and for this reason the issuing process will be slower. Despite this, this is the class of foreign workers that is most frequently granted work permits in China (in fact, it covers about 61% of the total number of foreign workers in China).


Those considered as class-C workers meet the following criteria:

  • They are assistants of class-A employees;
  • They have an internship in China thanks to a governmental agreement;
  • They work short term (generally less than 90 days);
  • They get a grade less than 60.

This is the most limited and restricted class of worker (though it does make up about 22% of the total number of foreign workers in China), since the Chinese government tends to attract higher levels of talent. For this reason, if you belong to this class it means you’ll work in China for a short period of time.

As I explained at the beginning of this section, a second method to be placed into a particular class is by getting a specific grade based on predefined criteria.

Class-A foreign workers will have a grade equal to or greater than 85, class-B foreign workers will have a grade between 60 and 85 and class-C workers will have a grade less than 60 according to the table you find in this article.

The notification of the “Foreigner’s Working Permit” will contain: your information, the name of the company that approved the issuance of the work permit, the class to which you belong, the work permit number, the name of your employer, the address of the place of work, the length of the job, the date the work permit was issued, the number of family members that will accompany you (with their names and surnames) and the period of the permit’s validity (this certificate is usually issued in two copies, one English and one Chinese).

When everything is ready and you’ve been evaluated, your future employer will send you a notification of your “Foreigner’s Working Permit” and you can then go to the visa center (along with all the other required documents) to start the necessary procedure to be issued your type Z work visa for China.

Remember: completing all these steps could take a few weeks if not months. In fact you’ll often have to go to different offices based on hours of operation and wait times, so I recommend that you start the process well in advance, keeping in mind that it will take a lot of time and much patience.

How much does a type Z Chinese work visa cost

The cost of the Chinese visa will depenend on the place you apply and/or your nationality. If you apply for a type Z Chinese work visa in US, the Embassy or Consulate fees are the following:

  • Single entry (valid up to three months): 140 USD (30 USD if you aren’t a US national);
  • Double entry (valid from three to six months): 140 USD (45 USD if you aren’t a US national);
  • Multiple entry (valid for six months): 140 USD (60 USD if you aren’t a US national);
  • Multiple entry (valid for twelve months): 140 USD (90 USD if you aren’t a US national);
  • Express visa supplement: 25 USD.

As was mentioned before, if you don’t apply for the visa in person you can do so through a visa agency, in which case you’ll have to pay for sending the passport and documents via a courier.

How long does a type Z Chinese work visa last

A Chinese type Z work visa is good for 30 days and allows a single entry. Note that like D, J1, Q1, S1 and X1 visas, normally on the type Z the validity will say “000” which means that you have 30 days starting from your entry into China, to transform it into a Resident Permit with multiple entries, and generally is the length of a work contract.

In the event that you don’t apply for the permit, your visa will expire automatically after 30 days of entry and you’ll be forced to leave the country.

If you don’t change your Z visa into a “Resident Permit” within that time of expiry you’ll be fined 500 CNY (a little more than 70 USD) for each additional day up to a maximum of 10,000 CNY (a little more than 1,400 USD), after which other actions will be taken (you could even wind up detained in a Chinese prison from 5 to 15 days).

Obviously, when your work permit expires (or residence permit) you can easily renew and extend it directly with the local authorities (generally it’s a Public Security Bureau Entry and Exit Administration Office), on the condition that your employer prearranges everything you need and is inclined to extend your work period and work contract at their firm.

Don’t worry: if the company is interested in renewing your work contract it will do everything it can to handle all necessary procedures quickly and easily. In this case it will be the company itself to indicate what steps to take and which office to turn to.

How to read a type Z Chinese work visa

  • Category: type of visa (Z);
  • Entries: number of entries allowed (01, 02 or M, this last one indicates multiple entries);
  • Enter before: validity of the visa (XX-XX-XXXX);
  • Duration of each stay: length of stay for each entry (XX days after entry. In the case of a Z visa, a type of visa that requires it to be changed into a Residence Permit, you’ll see the writing “000”);
  • Issue date: date of issue (XX-XX-XXXX);
  • Issued at: place of issue;
  • Full name: name of the visa holder often listed in abbreviated form (the name Mr. Mario Rossi, for example, could be written as M. Rossi. In any event, the full name is always listed in the last two lines of the visa’s text, called the “reading code”);
  • Birth date: date of birth of the visa holder (XX-XX-XXXX);
  • Passport number: the visa holder’s passport number (XXXXXX).

What to do after arriving in China

At this point, you’ve turned in all the required documents and have received your Chinese type Z work visa issued by the Consular Officials in your country.

You get on the plane (if you’re fortunate, your future employer will be the one covering the cost of the flight) and arrive in China.

Attention! Receiving a type Z visa doesn’t mean that you’re now totally free and legal to work in China. You should still take other fundamental steps to settle in at your position in the country.

First of all you should provide your registration with the local police within 24 hours after your arrival. Second, within 30 days of your entry into China, you should: submit to your medical visits, collect the actual “Foreigner’s Working Permit” and request your “Resident Permit”. After that you’ll be free to work with complete peace of mind.

So, armed with lots of patience, follow the procedures I’ll list in the next few paragraphs one at a time.

Register with the local authorities

Before moving on to change your type Z visa into a “Resident Permit” you have to go to the closest police station (generally you’ll be told where ahead of time by your future employer) within 24 hours of your arrival in China to register with the local authorities.

If you’re going to stay in a hotel when you arrive in China, the hotel staff should be able to carry out this task on their own; if, though, you’ll be staying in the apartment where you plan to live for the entire length of your job, you should show up in person at the closest police station.

This registration doesn’t cost anything, and if you have a boss that’s prepared, you’ll be accompanied by a colleague that will help you register. The only documents that you need are the following:

  • 1. Original passport;
  • 2. Lodging contract where you’ll live;
  • 3. A copy of the homeowners document and their telephone number. In fact the agents at the police station could contact them to confirm that you’ll be living in their apartment and that there won’t be any attempt at a scam on your part.

Once you finish registering, you’ll receive a temporary registration form (this is a simple piece of paper that will be issued to you even if you’re first staying at a hotel). This document will be essential for getting your “Resident Permit”. Moreover, if you change your residence address during your stay in China, you’ll have to give timely notice at the closest police station.

Let’s move on to the next step: the medical exams.

What do you need to handle medical exams after arriving in China

At this point you have 30 days to apply for a “Resident Permit” but first you still have to take two other important steps: submit to medical exams and collect the “Foreigner’s Working Permit” (the one that you’ll be sent, as I already said, is just a notice of a work permit). Note that these two steps are fundamental for obtaining a “Resident Permit”.

Let’s start with the doctor visits.

To undergo this type of visit you’ll have to go to International Travel Healthcare Centers which, generally, are found in any large Chinese city.

In principle, these centers don’t accept medical reports in English or they don’t fully correspond with their requests; so if at the company where you work there’s a translator who’s able to translate your medical report into Chinese, you can submit the translated version so long as it fulfills all the center’s requirements when it comes to physical tests.

In the opposite case, you’ll have to submit to specific medical visits that generally can be done in one day and can be assisted by the company itself. For this reason you’ll have to prepare the following materials:

  • 1. A passport style photo in passport format;
  • 2. A medical report from your country (if needed);
  • 3. 600 CNY (a little more than 85 euro) to 1000 CNY in cash (a little more than 140 USD): generally covered by your employer and reimbursed with receipt of payment or direct payment.

Standard medical exams generally include: hearing and vision exams, a measuring of weight and height, blood pressure, ECG, chest X-ray and blood exams to verify that you’re not afflicted with AIDS or other sexually transmittable diseases.

Remember that the night before your medical exams you should not drink alcohol or coffee, while in the morning you shouldn’t eat or drink anything. Such medical visits are very important because if you test positive for certain illnesses or don’t pass the tests you will be denied a “Resident Permit”. So be healthy!

I recommend that you take these exams as soon as possible, so that you can start the remaining procedure calmly and unrushed.

When you pass the medical exams, you’ll be given a medical report that you’ll need to get a “Resident Permit”. It may be that the report will be given to you within 4 business days or even the same day as the visit.

Pick up your “Foreigner’s Working Permit”

After registering at the local police station and taking the medical exams, the next step that you have to complete is to pick up the “Foreigner’s Working Permit”. As we’ve already said before, the work permit will be issued by the Human Resources and Social Security of the People’s Republic of China, to which you’ll have to turn in the following documents:

  • 1. Passport, the original copy;
  • 2. A photo in passport format;
  • 3. The document that attests to your temporary resident permit with the local police station;
  • 4. A medical report from the International Travel Healthcare Centers;
  • 5. Other documentation required by your employer.

5 to 10 business days are needed to obtain the necessary documents. In this case too, if you’re fortunate, you might be helped by a member of the company where you’ll work.

On the “Foreigner’s Working Permit” there will be: photo, first and last name, sex, nationality, date of issue, name of the authority that issued the permit, the work permit number, class (A, B or C) and a QR Code.

What is a “Resident Permit”

If you’ve come to this point, it means that you’ve managed to complete all the earlier steps and are ready for the final act. Now you have to get what is perhaps the most important document, the “Resident Permit” which will allow you to stay in China for your entire time of stay without a limited number of entries. You can therefore travel with complete ease in and out of China.

It is, in fact, a sticker that, like the type Z visa that was issued to you before your departure for China, will be applied to one of your passport pages, thereby completing the conversion of your visa into a resident permit. In effect, it grants you the legal right to live in China.

In principle, resident permits are valid for no less than 90 days and no more than 5 years (however there is the chance of renewing them depending on the specific situation).

What are the documents and procedures to get a “Resident Permit”

To get the coveted “Resident Permit” you have to go in person to the Exit-Entry Administration Bureau in the area in which you live with the following documents:

  • 1. Passport, the original copy;
  • 2. A document attesting to the registration of your temporary residence with the local police;
  • 3. “Resident Permit” application duly filled out (It will be given to you directly onsite or provided by the agency);
  • 4. Photo in passport format;
  • 5. Work permit, the original;
  • 6. Medical report (if required);
  • 7. Other documentation required by your employer.

Note that the Exit-Entry Administration Bureau will handle your passport for the necessary time to issue a “Resident Permit” (because they have to apply the sticker on the passport), generally between 7 and 15 business days.

Don’t worry, you’ll be given a temporary document as a substitution for your passport with the same validity, so as not to leave you deprived of a valid identification document for the Chinese authorities.

When the document is ready, you’ll be given back your passport with the “Resident Permit” inside, which will also include: first and last name, date of birth, passport number, date of issue, date of validity, place of issue, purpose of the residency and specific notes.

From that moment on you can sigh a breath of relief because the process for working in China is complete!

You’ll be a legal resident in China, you can be at peace and travel how and when you want within national borders or elsewhere.

Remember that after arriving in China with a work visa, you can’t leave the country without getting a residence permit.

If you leave the country, even just for one day, your type Z work visa will no longer be valid and obviously you’ll have to start the whole procedure from the beginning.

What to do if you want to change jobs while in China

During your work experience in China you might want to change your type of work or employer, and in such cases you’ll have to go through the work permit process. Since each “Foreigner’s Working Permit” is connected to only one employer, if you change them you’re forced to apply for a new permit.

If you’ve already found a new job offer, the steps you have to take to change jobs are the following:

  • Annul the work permit you already have;
  • Request a new permit from your new employer.

In each case I strongly recommend that you carefully read the work contract that you signed to see if there are obligations tied to the cessation of the work.

Annul the work permit you already have

First, your old employer will be the one who, through a system they have access to which can handle work permits for foreign employees, will have to annul your work permit (which will take between 6 and 10 business days). To do this, along with your old employer you’ll have to prepare the following documents:

  • 1. “Application Form for Cancellation of Foreign’s Work Permit” (provided by the old employer) signed by you and your former employer with the company’s stamp;
  • 2. A “cessation of work” document (provided by the old employer) signed by you and your former employer with the company’s stamp;
  • 3. Work permit, the original copy and a photocopy.

At this point all these signed and stamped documents will be sent by your employer to the appropriate authorities who, if everything goes well, will annul your work permit.

I recommend that you maintain a good relationship with your old boss, since they will be the one to request the cancellation of the old work permit needed to get a new one and change your job.

Note that the work permit could be cancelled for three reasons: at the request of the worker, if expired and not renewed, if revoked by the Chinese authorities.

In the end, you’ll receive the so-called “Foreigner’s Work Permit Cancellation Certificate”, essential for effectively changing jobs. Without this document, in fact, the new employer won’t be able to begin the process for your new work permit.

Attention: this document will include the reason for the cancellation of the work permit. So keeping a good relationship with the old employer could be essential so that the negative impact of this certificate doesn’t influence your new employer.

Request a new permit from your new employer

Now it’s time to address your future employer.

In this case too make sure that they have all the proper papers to hire foreign workers!

First of all you have to understand how to classify the new occupation. So, you have two options:

  • A new employer but the same occupation: for this you can stay in China during the application for the new work permit without needing to leave and re-enter the country, so long as your “Resident Permit” is valid for the length of the process;
  • A new employer and a new occupation: in this case you’ll be forced to leave the country and re-enter with a new work visa. For reasons we already mentioned before, the Chinese government will verify if you’re qualified for the job desired. So if you change from the job of a teacher to a director of a company, you’ll obviously have to prove that you are qualified. If you change your work position you’ll once again have to undergo the classification into Class-A, Class-B or Class-C and start all over again. In case of any doubts, I recommend that you contact the appropriate authorities (for example, the Entry/Exit Bureau or the Labor Bureau) for further clarification.

If you’re part of the first case (better for you!) you should prepare the following documents and provide them to your new employer:

  • 1. “Application form for Foreigner’s Work Permit”, provided by the new employer, signed and stamped;
  • 2. New work contract, provided by the new employer, signed and stamped;
  • 3. Copy of your passport. In particular, the page with your personal information and photo;
  • 4. Copy of the page in your passport that has the “Resident Permit”;
  • 5. Two photos in passport format;
  • 6. Foreigner’s Work Permit Cancellation Certificate that you got from the last employer.

Note that if you request a transfer of your work permit within a month of its expiration, you won’t be required to present all those annoying documents you had to present the first time (criminal record, diploma, certificate that attests to your previous experience in the field, medical report, etc.) because it’s still valid.

In the opposite case, you should provide them again, prolonging the wait for the new work permit. In any case the new firm might ask you to undergo further medical exams according to the company’s guidelines.

It may take a few weeks to carry out this procedure (so long as you don’t belong to the class-A of foreign workers which provides a “Green Channel” to speed up times); as I suggested before, get going well in advance so as stay in the remaining period of validity of your “Resident Permit”.

When the work permit is ready, you’ll have to pick it up with the Entry/Exit Bureau or Labor Bureau of the area, but generally it will be the new company to do it for you.

Once you get a new work permit, you’ll note that it will be pretty much identical to the last one, but if you scan the QR Code, you’ll notice that now the information about the employer will have changed.

In many cases you’ll have to also update the “Resident Permit”, tied to the work permit. So go to the Entry/Exit Bureau and hand in all the required documents (they’re the same ones you turned in the first time, which you can find in this article under the heading“What are the documents and procedures for getting a ‘Resident Permit’”).

For all procedures, from the beginning (notifying your desire to your old employer) to the end (the eventual updating of the “Resident Permit” with new information), will take about a month. If the new job isn’t too different from the last one, it’s a rather simple procedure that you can do right in China without having to leave the country.

All that’s left is to wish you a good stay in China and, as the Chinese often say, zhao cai jin bao 招财进宝, or “May health and prosperity enter into your dwelling”.

Photo Credits: Photo by Rudy and Peter Skitterians on Pixabay

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