The New Chinese Work Visa Policy

Several months ago, Baidu CEO Robin Li argued China needs to attract more overseas professionals. As Trump is introducing a more restrictive immigration policy in the United States and complains about the high percentage of non-Americans working in Silicon Valley, Li points out this is a great opportunity for China to attract those talents who will be rejected to bring innovation to the States. Whether it is related to Li’s appeal for foreign talents or not, some major changes are currently carried out in the Chinese visa system.

China has a system with 16 different types of visas. A description of those 16 visa types can be found in the table below.

                                                                                Source: Chinese Visa Application Center 

When it comes to business, M and sometimes F visas might be interesting, but for paid jobs only Z visas (and in special occasions R visas) are suitable. For now, Z visas are valid for the first month you stay in China. In that month, you must arrange a Temporary Housing Certificate, with which you can obtain a residence permit which is valid for a year. If China urgently needs your talent, you might qualify for an R visa. The major benefit of an R visa over the more common Z visa is the validity of 5 years. Besides from the Z visa and R visa, there is the D visa, for those who want to stay in China permanently. The D visa, also called Green Card, used to be very difficult to get, but after relaxing the restrictions last year it got slightly easier. Around 1600 D visas have been issued in 2016. The D visa allows you to stay and work in China as long as you wish, but is usually only granted to foreigners who invested a lot in China, have been working on key positions in large companies for some years or have made an “outstanding and necessary contribution” to China.

Currently, several changes are being carried out on Chinese work visas:

  • People who have been employed in China for at least two consecutive years get the chance to apply for a five-year work permit.
  • People who have been working in the same Chinese province for at least four consecutive years and who meet a certain salary and income tax threshold get the chance to apply for a permanent residence permit.
  • Foreign students graduating from Chinese universities can apply for a residence permit valid for two to five years within one year after graduation.
  • Foreign students graduating from foreign universities with a master’s degree or higher, can do the same on the condition that their university is considered a well-recognized institution.
  • Everybody who applies for a work visa will be assigned an A, B or C-classification. This classification is mainly based on your skills, in which part of China you will work and in which industry you will work.

The aim of the ABC-system is to encourage A-professionals to work in China, control the number of B-professionals and limit the number of C- professionals in China. The A-qualification is for high level talents and will probably mainly be granted to highly-educated people in technological and technical industries. The B-qualification is meant for professional personnel and will probably mainly be granted to highly-educated professionals in other industries. The C-qualification will probably mainly be granted to temporary and seasonal foreign workers.

Overall, the changes sound convenient for (future) expats in China, especially for those with technological or technical backgrounds. However, the changes are currently being carried out and the exact execution is still somewhat unclear. We might for example wonder what is considered a well-recognized university and the minimum salary and income tax threshold required for the permanent residence permit are not specified yet. There is yet another pitfall for foreign graduates; there will be quotas for this kind of work visas. These annual quotas will be announced at the beginning of each year for each province. Besides from the quotas, fulfilling requirements does not guarantee you a visa. In any case the Chinese government remains the right to decline visa applications without the obligation to explain why they declined your application. So, although it might become easier for you to obtain a work visa, you can only be totally certain if you open your passport and see that valuable sticker.

Maxxelli Consulting services can provide you with further information upon request. Send us an email to find out more.



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