China Work Permit Calculator: Find Your Tier

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By Gidon Gautel

Applying for a China Work Permit

China’s new work permit system for foreigners was rolled out nationwide on April 1 this year. The new system has introduced a three-tier talent grading system for expatriates. Expats are placed in either Tier A, B, or C, depending on the number of points they earned under the point scoring system, or by fulfilling a condition that automatically places them in a given tier.

Authorities have transparently shared information on the three-tier talent grading system with the public to help employers and expats understand eligibility and tier category requirements. Based on this official information, the International Payroll & Human Resources team at Dezan Shira & Associates has developed a simple calculator to help employers and expats research eligibility and tier category requirements before applying.

While this calculator is based on publically available information provided by the authorities, and was verified by China-based human resource (HR) professionals, we note this calculator should be used for research purposes only. The calculator does not guarantee that any individual is certain to fall into the tier it displays; employers and expats should contact an HR professional for further information regarding work visa or permit applications.

The application experience

One expat, who has received the new permit, as well as older versions, was able to comment on the application process. The manager, based in Shanghai, explained “I did not go through the direct scoring system, but was assigned a tier, which is printed on the Worker Permit card (similar to the Chinese ID card) that I received.”

Commenting on how transparent the application process was, and whether it was clear why the tier rating was assigned, the expat said:While convoluted, the work permit application process was transparent. The rating system is based on a series of qualifications, such as knowledge of Mandarin, past work experience, the global ranking of your alma mater, patents filed under your name, and more.”

However, the expat also noted that, in some respects, the process of applying for, and receiving, a permit may have become more stringent and time consuming. The expat said, “The process requires a notarization of your degree, as well as a notarization of the non-criminal record. For Americans applying from inside China, this may present a problem as I realized through my personal research that the US consulate in China does not issue notarizations of educational certificates. They must apply to the relevant offices in the US, or go through the Chinese Ministry of Education.”

This suggests that, as with several newly implemented reforms, applicants and their employers should allow additional time to prepare for new documentation requirements, and discuss application documentation and procedures with trusted HR advisors.

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Assessing the new system

The new system is still in its early days. However, it is possible to draw some early conclusions based on its current trajectory.

Thibaut Minot, Senior Associate for Business Advisory Services at Dezan Shira & Associates argues the new system is a welcome change for many work permit applicants simplicity: “Historically, the Chinese work permit system has felt opaque and complex to navigate for many foreigners, with guidelines and application processing timelines often seen as unclear. The new work permit system, which strives to set in place a more systematic approach to reviewing applications, brings welcome clarity and should hopefully make it easier for applicants to understand the requirements, and supporting documentation to be provided, depending on one’s profile”.

Minot also pointed out that some Tier A and B applicants may even enjoy some perks from the new system. Minot said, “For the lucky ‘Tier A’ status applicants, their unique skills and exposure to China will be rewarded with a streamlined application process, and potentially shortened processing times. For the larger group of ‘Tier B’ status holders, fewer application documents required should also make the application procedures less cumbersome to complete for expats.”

In theory, the new application system could also carry some benefits for businesses that employ expats. Vivian Mao, Senior Manager for Business Advisory Services at Dezan Shira & Associates, states: “The tier system does indeed help HR to build a clear picture on the classification of expatriates, and the corresponding requirements and procedure for work permit applications.”

She does, however, add a caveat: “Since this policy and the online application system were newly launched nationwide very recently, in April this year, the online application system for companies is sometimes unstable. Additionally, some employment agencies have not reached out to provide unified rules to verify and approve work permit applications. Thus, in practice, we are facing a situation where the actual approval period is longer than the period stipulated.” She, however, goes on to say that this is most definitely temporary: “We believe that after a few more months, the online application system and relevant policies will function more smoothly and efficiently.

Though some complications may exist for employees currently trying to obtain the new work permit, pro-talent labor entry reforms show the government is determined to attract foreign skilled labor. Within time, the new system will be implemented more assuredly. Sticking points and bottlenecks will be ironed out, and China will progress a step further towards attracting and easing passage for talented individuals to come and work in the Middle Kingdom.


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Dezan Shira & Associates is a full service practice in China, providing business intelligence, due diligence, legal, tax, IT, HR, payroll, and advisory services throughout the China and Asian region. For assistance with China business issues or investments into China, please contact us at or visit us at

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14 responses to “China Work Permit Calculator: Find Your Tier”

  1. Greg says:

    I am over 60 and have a (titular) executive-level position in a Chinese company. My visa was previously for 2 years but when I extended in July I was given only a one-year extension. I was told that the reasons were 1) the company’s economic contribution (company performance and tax payments) was low, and 2) my age was above 60. I also spent minimal time in China during my 2 years. It took approximately 3 weeks to extend the visa.

    It thus appears that factors other than those shown above may come into play.

  2. JK says:

    Hello, I am the legal representative and General manager of a WFOE.

    I am also General Manager of another WFOE.

    We have invested in China and continue to invest.

    The combined registered capital of both WFOE is about about ¥100 million.

    I have 30 years experience in the industry I work in. I am considered a expert by many.

    Currently, I directly employ 30 local people and pay all the tax etc.

    My resident visa and work visa is due for renewal in 2 months time.

    I have held resident status in China for 4 years.

    I pay tax on my salary. My salary is well over the 4 times local average in Guangzhou.

    However, I do not have any degree. I have lived outside my home country for many years thus am unable to get a criminal record check.

    Does this mean I am unable to extend my visa and get the new unified work permit.

  3. China Briefing says:

    Hello JK,

    Thank you for your inquiry. Under the tiered permit system, a degree is not necessarily required if you can fall under Tier A. Legal representatives of WFOEs can gain Tier A status in certain cases, depending on the size of the company, the industry, and the location, among other considerations. Further, the criminal record check can sometimes be replaced with a sworn declaration of a clean criminal record for Tier A applicants. However, if a criminal record check from your last place of residence in your home country can be obtained it would still be beneficial, even if it is outdated.

    Please note that the application process can be lengthy, and could involve delays with the upcoming Spring Festival. It is therefore recommended to begin the process as soon as possible.

    For more information, please contact our local specialists at

  4. NNA says:

    Hello. I am currently holding a Tier C work permit under the new system, from Guangzhou. I only got a 6 month validity. My work permit is due for renewal shortly. I wanted to know if anyone has experienced any issues with renewing a C category work permit. I have been working in china for 6 years already. I hold a Higher Diploma and not a bachelor’s degree, could a higher diploma be counted for points under the new system. According the the points calculator, I qualify for 54 points. Is there anyway I can qualify for a B category permit, since it seems my higher diploma has been accounted for. Also is there any news of C category permits being rejected renewals?

  5. John says:

    Dear all,

    I have been offered a senior management position in Shanghai at one of the biggest automotive companies in the world. I do have over ten years of work experience, however I am still doing my bachelors degree with 30 credits remaining . I also posses an associates degree in business from Germany. Would this be an issue getting the visa? If I fall under the B category by points without a degree would that still work out?


  6. China Briefing says:


    A diploma is not considered equal to a bachelor’s degree, which is a must for obtaining Tier B status when applying for a work permit. The amount of C Tier work permits approved depends on local conditions and the local authorities. For more information, please contact our HR specialists:

  7. China Briefing says:

    Hello John,

    A bachelor degree is a must to obtain Tier B status, and unfortunately an associate’s degree is not considered equal to a bachelor degree. However, there are often exceptions and incentives for senior management positions, depending on the location. For more information, please contact our HR specialists:

  8. Aruba sets says:


    I have 23 years of work experience and I have a lot of technologies in hand but I am not graduated from university or high school (11 years ) because I participated in university courses unofficially and then I didn’t find that be reasonable to get degree,

    I work since 14 years old as software engineer and I have prove of media and newspapers for this and also my chinese partner is ok with paying over 50k rmb a month as salary to me

    With this problem named no high school degree but several proves that I am a known and famous engineer am I able to get qualified to get into china for work ?

    Also I have some registered patents which are critical in high tech


  9. China Briefing says:


    A university degree is needed to qualify for a work permit in China in the vast majority of cases, although there are exceptions. For more information, please contact our HR specialists:

  10. Nicola says:


    from the calculation is possible get B level even without any degrees, but for my (and not only) personal experience, degree play a big role.
    I got C even my points are 65. Some people i know got C also.

    I’ve been living and working in China for 10 years always under regular working permit… and always in manager positions.
    I think the company you are working for play a big role. Foreign company that invest big money in China i think can boost your position and even you have not a degree, you can get B.
    If you work for a Chinese company, even big and important/connected like mine, degree y/n has a big weight…..
    Infact i know someone without degree working for a foreign company that invest quite a lot in China, that get a B.

  11. Khan Baba says:

    hello, where one need to contact to apply for work permit?
    I have contract and other necessary documents original. should i upload somewhere or i need to visit office. Currently, I am in Changsha. so, you may guide me how to proceed. According to your calculator my score are 68 so I can apply for B. but i am unsure where to apply.

  12. China Briefing says:

    Hello Khan,

    It is the employer’s responsibility to submit the application, not the applicant’s. There are local variances as to which government office is in charge, but usually the employer should submit to the local HR bureau or foreign expert office.

  13. Gihan Ranasinghe says:

    I am a engineering graduate who also have a Msc In signal procesing and also have 1.9 years experiances, almost 2 years experiances.I got 45 points and i am in Tier C Visa Type .Need to know the possibiltiese of getting work permit and how long i can get visa

  14. China Briefing says:


    Normally, two years of work experience are required to receive a work permit, barring any special local incentives. If you fall under the Tier C category, it might not be possible to receive a Z visa, though this depends on the local conditions. For more information, please contact our HR specialists:

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