Master of None: China Eases Work Visa Requirements for Master’s Graduates

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By Dezan Shira & Associates
Editor: Harry Handley

China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security has announced an easing of the work visa requirements for recent master’s graduates, hot on the heels of the unified work permit policy introduced in November. Essentially, this new policy is an extension of a scheme piloted in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone and Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park for graduates from any of Shanghai’s universities.

The changes, which took effect on January 6, mean foreign master’s graduates from Chinese and ‘well-known’ overseas universities no longer need two years of work experience to apply for a work permit in China. In addition, they are also exempt from the points-based system used under the unified work permit policy. The initial work certificate issued will be valid for one year, but can be extended to up to five years once the relevant income tax has been paid.

Quotas released on January 31 each year will stipulate the number of foreign master’s graduates permitted annually and will vary by region. The size of the regional quotas is yet to be released and there has been no indication of how generous these will be. Employers must take note of quotas in order to time hiring processes efficiently. Small regional quotas may lead to a rush of applicants from February onwards eager to make the cut before the quota is filled.

Taken from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security website (in Chinese), the full requirements of the applicant are as follows:

    • At least 18 years old and in good health
    • No criminal record
    • Excellent academic performance (Average over 80%/B/Equivalent) and behavioral record
    • Have a relevant degree and educational background
    • Confirmed job offer with salary higher than the local average (determined by local social security department)
    • Valid passport

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For those applying from outside of China, a Z-visa will still be required to enter the country. The following documents will be needed to support the visa application:

  • Proof of employment history (CV)
  • Employment offer letter – including proof of expected salary
  • Report giving evidence that the company advertised the job to domestic workers for at least 30 days
  • Proof of health status
  • Criminal record check
  • Degree certificate and transcript
  • Proof of good behavior during university (Students from foreign universities exempt)
  • Photo taken in the last six months

As of yet, the details of the new policy are extremely vague. What is classified as a ‘well-known’ overseas university has not been specified. However, if the unified work permit policy is anything to go by, this may well mean the top 100 universities in the world. If the number of applicable foreign universities is limited, this may be seen as a move to promote Chinese universities to foreign students, as the policy applies to all foreign master’s graduates from Chinese universities. The announcement of this new policy was quickly followed by reports that Chinese officials hope to establish 16 ‘world-class universities’ by 2030 by attracting increased investment and high-level overseas talent. Giving graduates easier access to the Chinese job market following their studies may be one of the government’s methods of attraction to achieve this goal.

Following the introduction of the points-based unified work permit, which many saw as a toughening of the stance of the Chinese government towards foreign workers, this policy appears to open the door to more of the world’s academic talents. Having said that, several major details are still missing from this policy. It is expected that further details will be released along with the quota sizes on January 31, although this may be delayed due to the Chinese New Year holiday.


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