China Work Permits: Are You an A, B, or C Tier Talent?

Posted by Reading Time: 8 minutes

By Dezan Shira & Associates
Editor: 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. Under the new framework, the previous Alien Employment Permit and the Foreign Expert Permit have been combined into a single work permit, issued to any foreigner eligible to take up work in China.

The changes to the system result in a more streamlined process, doing away with inconsistent regional administration, and allows for employers to submit applications online. Furthermore, the change has removed any confusion foreigners may have had as to which permit to apply for.

The new system has also introduced a three-tier talent grading system for expatriates, the benefits of which are less clear. While A-grade expats enjoy some additional advantages, those falling in Tier B and Tier C may face tougher entry requirements, lower permit validity, and longer waiting times than before.

This article clarifies who is placed where under the new system, and the implications of the classifications. Expats are placed in either Tier A, B, or C by earning the associated amount of points under the point scoring system, or by fulfilling a condition that automatically places them in a given tier.

Related-Link_CB-icons_2017 RELATED: China Work Permit Calculator: Find Your Tier

Point scoring system introduced

The new work permit system introduces a point scoring system to judge candidates’ qualifications. Applicants scoring 85 or more points qualify for Tier A; those scoring 60-85 class as Tier B; and those scoring below 60 fall under Tier C.

CB infographic-China Work Permit Point Scoring System copy (003)

How to qualify for each tier

In addition to the point scoring system, applicants can be placed in a given tier if they meet certain specific conditions.

Tier A

Applicants fall under Tier A if they meet any of the following conditions:

  • Score at least 85 points;
  • Are employed through one of China’s regional plans for the introduction of foreign talent;
  • Adhere to internationally recognized standards for their field:
    • Awarded for excellence in their field
    • Assumed leadership at a well-known academic institution or international organization e.g. the ISO
    • Contributed as chief editor or other senior position in a high ranking national journal for science and technology e.g. the JCR
    • Occupied a middle-upper management, professorship, or assistant-professorship position at a world renowned academic institution
    • Worked in a senior management position or high ranking technical role at a Fortune 500 company
    • Worked in a senior management position at one of the world’s leading banking or financial institutions
    • Prize holders of prominent awards in the arts e.g. Pulitzer prize
    • Has held a senior position in government, in an NGO, or in a renowned international organization, e.g. ASEAN, the World Bank etc.
  • Are applying for a position in China adhering to one of the criteria listed above, or those to be employed in:
  • Earning over six times the average local salary;
  • Are considered entrepreneurial and new industry talent by:
    • Offering a new product or service requiring a patent, three years of stable investment, real investment not below US$500,000, as well as a 30 percent stake or above in the enterprise
    • Earning three years of annual revenue not below RMB 10 million, or
    • Planning to work in a senior management position or as a technical expert in innovative industries that align with the requirements of regional administrative departments
  • Are under 40 years of age doing post-doctoral research, and have graduated from a high ranking university or academic institution.

Related-Link_CB-icons_2017 RELATED: China Work Visa: Unified Work Permit Benefits Foreigners

Tier B

Applicants fall under Tier B if they meet any of the following conditions:

  • Score 60-84 points;
  • Have a bachelor’s degree or above, two years of work experience in a relevant field, and are employed in one of the following positions:
    • A management, technical, educational, or research position possessing skills particular to: education, science and technology, news, publishing, culture, the arts, hygiene, sports, etc.
    • Any position in Sino-foreign collaborative efforts between: governments and international organizations, or in: trade, engineering, technology, etc. allowing for relaxed age restrictions for dispatched personnel of renowned educational or international organizations
    • Employees at representative offices in China for an international organization or a specialist organization
    • Employees dispatched by international companies, chief representatives, and representatives for foreign industries with representative offices in China
    • Managers or technical staff for areas within industry, institutions, or social organizations
  • Hold an internationally recognized certification for a skill, or possessing a skill, that is urgently needed in the Chinese labor market;
  • Teach a foreign language (their mother tongue) and hold a bachelor’s degree or above and two years of experience in teaching; two years of experience is not required for those with a bachelor’s degree or above in education or in the language that they are teaching, or another form of internationally recognized teaching certification; or
  • Persons earning over four times the average local salary.

Tier C

Applicants fall under Tier C if they meet any of the following conditions:

  • Score under 60 points;
  • Hold a work permit under the old system, but do not qualify for the A- or B-tier under the new system;
  • Are undertaking short term work in China (under 90 days); or
  • Positions subject to quotas, such as young talent coming to China for internships.

 Professional-Service_CB-icons-2017 RELATED: International Payroll & HR Solutions from Dezan Shira & Associates

How your tier affects your work status

Tier A comprises approximately 16 percent of expats in China. Individuals in this category enjoy several benefits not enjoyed by Tier B and Tier C workers, including a “green channel” service. This allows for expedited approval, resulting in processing times shortened by around five working days.

Tier A expats also benefit from paperless verification during the application process. Moreover, they are not subject to requirements of age, education degree, or work experience. In general, individuals qualifying for Tier A enjoy a more inclusive and convenient environment, both before and after the application process.

Around 61 percent of expats fall into the Tier B. A bachelor’s degree and two years of work experience in a relevant field should be enough to qualify for Tier B status in most cases, so long as the position is reasonably elevated or technical. However, application procedures are strict and time consuming in comparison to Tier A. Those falling under Tier B must provide all relevant documents in original paper form.

Additionally, Tier B expats are controlled according to labor market demand. They may find it more difficult to obtain a work permit in saturated industries compared to their Tier A counterparts. Work permits may also be issued with shorter validity periods than for individuals falling into Tier A. It is still unclear how strict such controls will be. Whether significant changes will apply should become evident within the year.

Tier C (approximately 22 percent of expats) is meant for individuals not planning to work in China for extended periods of time, such as company representatives placed abroad for a few months. It also accommodates individuals entering the country under Chinese government young talent initiatives (currently only the China-France 1,000 interns program exists).

Tier C applicants can expect permit availability subject to the needs of the labor market and are subject to government quotas, longer processing times, and short validity periods.

Related-Link_CB-icons_2017 RELATED: China Work Permit Calculator: Find Your Tier

Weighing the implications

Most individuals already employed in China with a work permit have no reason to worry.  Most of those who qualified under the old system will attain at least Tier B status once applying for a new permit.

For new applicants, most mid-level to senior managers or technical staff should be clear to receive Tier B status or above. Any individual with experience and qualifications in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields will also likely face no difficulty in this respect. Lack of Mandarin proficiency is of little worry, as this has a negligible effect on tier placement.

Additionally, individuals hoping to work in Central or Western China, or businesses hoping to hire foreigners there, are likely to succeed, due to a governmental drive to develop those regions. Those in mid-level to senior positions in higher education are also treated favorably by the new tier system.

Businesses hoping to employ fresh university graduates into entry-level positions may find themselves frustrated. Opportunities to get around the two year requirement have opened up in some cases, such as inside free trade zones. However, the average graduate with a bachelor’s degree will find it hard to work in China without first acquiring at least two years of industry experience abroad.


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52 thoughts on “China Work Permits: Are You an A, B, or C Tier Talent?

    SHOAIB JAMAL says:

    i want to what is my tire, A, B, C, D, so if i send you my detail CV so can you helping me, beacuse i read this page and undersand but their is create some confussion, so if i send you my detail CV, can you help me?

    China Briefing says:

    Hello,

    Please refer to our work permit point calculator, which you can use to input your experience and receive an approximation of what tier you should fall under: http://www.china-briefing.com/news/2017/08/16/china-work-permit-calculator-find-your-tier.html

    Shamin says:

    Dear all.

    I’m a C type work permit holder .
    How many months can work in China?
    I’m going to apply residence permit

    Thanks

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Shamin,

    The amount of time you can spend in China as a Tier C worker depends on the nature of your contract and the decision of local authorities. Usually, it will allow you to stay for up to a year if it is granted, although other factors can affect the length. Please contact our HR specialists for more information: http://www.dezshira.com/services/payroll-human-resource-administration

    Brandon says:

    I currently hold a 168 Hr TEFL Certificate & willing to teach English in China , which category will i fall under?

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Brandon,

    To find your tier, you must also consider factors such as age, relevant experience, education, etc. To find an approximation of your tier, please refer to our work permit calculator: http://www.china-briefing.com/news/2017/08/16/china-work-permit-calculator-find-your-tier.html

    Rafael Cartenet says:

    Hi, thanks for the useful article.

    I’m confused about one mention though:
    “Tier A.
    Are applying for a position in China adhering to one of the criteria listed above, or those to be employed in: A research or engineering center in China.”

    I couldn’t so far gather any additional informations about the ‘research or engineering center’ appellation. Could you please let me know what kind of companies are considered as such? Thanks in advance

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Rafael,

    Thank you for reading. Some areas in China have preferential visa policies for certain R&D activities, and the research or engineering center should be recognized or approved by relevant bureaus. However, the standard to qualify for Tier A remains high. For more information, please contact our HR specialists: http://www.dezshira.com/services/payroll-human-resource-administration

    Lyndon says:

    Hi there,

    I am a New Zealand Citizen and have landed a teaching job at an international school in Beijing. I have sent all my documents to the school/HR. Wanting to know when I can be expected to receive my work permit and invitation letter so i can apply for my z working visa.

    Thank you!

    Kind regards,

    Lyndon

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Lyndon,

    If your application is accepted, you will be given a notification letter that you can use to apply for a Z visa at your local embassy or consulate. Once you’ve entered China on a Z visa, you can then apply for the work permit and residence permit.

    Susan Kersop says:

    I am a South African Citizen and have landed a teaching job at an international school in Beijing. I have sent all my documents to the school/HR. I have received an invitation letter but the Visa Centre advised that I need a work permit before getting my Visa. How would I do this?

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Susan,

    The visa center might be referring to the “Notification Letter of Foreigner’s Work Permit in China”. Your company should apply for this letter on your behalf. Once it’s been granted, you can apply at your local embassy or consulate for the Z Visa or R Visa. After you enter China on a Z Visa or R Visa, you need to apply for the Foreigner’s Work Permit and the residence permit.

    For more information, please contact our HR specialists here: http://www.dezshira.com/services/payroll-human-resource-administration

    Tamara says:

    Dear China Briefing, thank you for this usefull information.
    I am having a master of education in French and Russian language and want to teach German in China. I worked for tree years, but for freelance teaching German, so they did not accept my application (because its freelance) that I made with my legalized bachelor degree (only french and Russian language, not education), if I legelaze my masters degree is there a possibility that they will accept my application? Its so expensive to let all the documents be done… Is that information that they do not require 2 years teaching experience if have masters of education actual? Is there any chinese govermental text where I could read it? Sincerly

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Tamara,

    Thank you for your inquiry. Please contact our HR specialists for information on your situation: http://www.dezshira.com/services/payroll-human-resource-administration

    Aisha Zahid says:

    Hi,
    my employer submitted online application which was approved. in submitting paper document all was original but my experience letter was a copy since i Lost the original one. Now can I submit another work experience letter?

    Jalam singh says:

    Dear China Briefing I got a job offer from HongKong jockey Club to work in China. They have offered me a 3 year contract. I want to that how long I can work in China on a Z class visa or can I get a permanent Residence. To work in China?

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Aisha,

    Normally you must submit an original reference letter. We recommend that you contact your previous employer to receive a new reference letter if you lost the original one.

    Louis says:

    Hello,

    What universities are defined as “high-level universities” for the last category in the graphic? Is University of California, Santa Barbara considered high-level by the Chinese government?

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Jalam,

    Normally, a work permit and a residence permit are valid for one year, at which point they must be renewed. Tier A talents, however, can qualify for permits valid for five years, and high-level talents may also be able to receive a Chinese “Green card”: http://www.china-briefing.com/news/2017/02/17/chinas-new-green-card-for-foreigners.html

    Deepti says:

    Hi,
    I am going to apply for Z-visa at Bejing University as Postdoc and my employee have asked that I need to a working experience issued by the employer whom the applicant has worked, including positions, working duration, projects involved in, contact of witness, etc. The certificate is required to be signed by the chief responsible person or stamped with company seal. This shall be notarized by embassy, consulate or foreign embassy, consulate, public notary or National authority of public notary for academic certificate in the country where the applicant resided.

    Currently I am living in Germany. My question is that I looked online and I found that such letter needs not to be notarized. What is the rule?

    Thanks

    Best Regards
    Deepti

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Louis,

    The University of California, Santa Barbara should be considered a high-level university. Please consult this document for a list of universities that are generally considered high-level in China: http://fwp.safea.gov.cn/attached/file/20180516/20180516162250_266.pdf

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Deepti,

    A signed or chopped letter issued by your previous employer should be enough for a Z visa application. The proof of work experience does not need to be notarized.

    turbo omega says:

    hi
    i’ve recently openned a trade company here in china and i’ll like to know if i have to folow the same rancking process to optain a working visa or their’s a diffrent procedure ? my agent can’t help me but i’ll like to have some enlightement on how to apply for a working visa while having a business visa in shanghai for a foreign businnes owner living in china . thanks .

    John Peters says:

    What is the difference between notarized and legalized? If I had my documents legalized at the Chinese consulate do I also need to have them notarized?

    China Briefing says:

    Hello,

    If you are the owner of a company that you’ve opened in China, you may be eligible for a higher tier work visa. Please contact our HR specialists for more information: https://www.dezshira.com/services/payroll-human-resource-administration

    danny says:

    Hello China briefing,

    I have applied for the Class-A work permit (renewal).
    All required documents were handed in and submitted three days ago, how long should it take for me to get the work permit?
    Thanks

    Cinzia says:

    Hello,

    I am applying for a work permit as a music teacher and I have some doubts about the required 2 years of experience. I have 1 full time year and 1 part time: is the second one considered as a teaching year as well? Is it mandatory to write the weekly hours on the reference letters?
    Thank you so much for your help.

    Cinzia

    Frank says:

    Hallo, my name is frank a Ugandan by nationality. soon i will be going to Hong Kong from China for the working visa, currently i have been learning Chinese at the college and the head of the department gave me an opportunity to teach in the college. I have been granted a document accepting me to work here after a long process of of handing in all the requirements at the immigration office,but I need to go to Hong Kong for the working visa under B category. What requirements will be needed in Hong Kong.

    Jason says:

    Hi I have received my resident permit under the new system with a Tier B. My question is do I have to go through all the application process when it comes to renewal? Do I have to submit all my documents again when I am renewing or it will be a much simple renewal application process compare to the initial application process?

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Danny,

    The exact turnover time depends on the city. In Shanghai, for example, the bureau in charge should make the decision on Tier A permits within five working days of acceptance of the application. To be noted, the application should be submitted at least 30 days prior to the current work permit’s expiry date, or else it could be rejected.

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Cinzia,

    It is not mandatory to write weekly hours on the reference letter, only a description of your position, the signature of the referee, and their contact information. If you have a reference letter stating that you were employed in a relevant position during that period, it should be accepted. However, you can contact the local HR bureau to confirm if part time work is considered relevant.

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Frank,

    Ugandan nationals can stay in Hong Kong visa-free for 30 days. Please refer to this article for documents needed to apply for a China Z visa: http://www.china-briefing.com/news/2017/12/27/china-visas-explained.html

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Jason,

    If you are renewing your work permit and residence permit while you’re with the same employer, you will not need to re-submit all the documents. Your employer should take care of most of this process on your behalf. However, you must submit the application for renewal at least 30 days before the expiry of your work permit: http://www.china-briefing.com/news/2018/01/12/visa-incentives-top-talent-introduced-work-permit-renewal-rules-updated-china-regulatory-brief.html

    Jane says:

    Hello,
    I’m considering teaching English in China. Under Tier B, If I have a Master’s degree (MS) in accounting, would I able to waive the two year teaching experience requirement?

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Jane,

    The master’s in accounting would not waive the two-year teaching experience requirement. However, that requirement could be waived if you have an internationally-recognized teaching certification like a TOEFL certification.

    Edna Vasquez says:

    Hi,
    Iam in a band, I’m the lead vocalist, and been in this field for 11 years with my band… how can we get working visa in China? We are here in HARDROCK angkor Siem Reap…

    Thank you

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Edna,

    Musicians can apply for a commercial performance visa, which is a type of Z visa generally valid for 90 days or less. For more information, please contact our HR specialists: https://www.dezshira.com/services/payroll-human-resource-administration

    Aditya says:

    How many days are required for granting work permit.

    What documents should I provide to company to apply for work permit.

    Habiba says:

    I have bachelor degree , but i don’t have work experience for two years , so it’s difficult for me to get work visa from china .

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Aditya,

    The entire process of applying for and being granted a Z-visa, and then subsequently acquiring a work permit upon arrival in China, can take several weeks to multiple months. For more information on required documents, please refer to this article: http://www.china-briefing.com/news/2016/11/25/obtaining-a-z-visa-work-permit-and-residence-permit-in-china.html

    Sergey says:

    Hi
    I got a work permit notification letter in pdf files from an employer, could I check the work permit online?
    Thank you

    Eussebiu Pompon says:

    hello china briefing,
    I have a doubt, so I hope you can help me. I’m in China now and I was offered to work teaching job, but in my contract stays that I’ll work as R&D manager because I’m non-native English speaker. Can this affect my job, what does this mean and what the consequences can be?
    Thank you in advance
    Eusebiu

    Cathal Brennan says:

    Hello.

    Do you have any more information on “Western Regions”?

    For example, the Chinese government considers Chengdu and Chongqing as part of Western China.

    However, if I apply for a job in Chengdu or Chongqing, will I be granted an extra 10 points?

    Thank you,

    Cathal

    China Briefing says:

    Hello,

    Labor contracts in China should accurate reflect the employee’s position. If the authorities discover that you misrepresented your position, it is possible that your work permit will be canceled and you may have difficulties applying for another one in the future.

    For more information, please contact our HR specialists: https://www.dezshira.com/services/payroll-human-resource-administration

    Kevin says:

    Hi,
    I will soon be finishing my bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (3 years) from a European University, I have EU citizenship. I want to work and live in China in the future. I’m planning to enroll on a Master’s degree in 2019 autumn, from one of the leading Chinese Universities, that is considered a “high level” University according to this document (its listed) by SAFEA: http://fwp.safea.gov.cn/attached/file/20180516/20180516162250_266.pdf

    My hope is to start working legally in China after graduating with my degree but would need to know my possibilities of getting a work permit or if the chances are too slim. The biggest concern is that I don’t have 2 years of post-graduate experience when applying. So, my question is if there are possibilities without having work experience to be granted a work permit. I’m mostly focused on working in Shanghai as the University is located there.

    After graduating with the master’s degree, I will achieve roughly 61 points on the ABC tier level. But I will still not have 2 years of post-graduate work experience. Can I still get a work permit considering my personal qualification points reaches over 60p and thus B-tier? Are there any differences in cities like Shanghai? What about other cities?

    I also heard that graduating as an “excellent” student with 80/100 average scores from a leading Chinese university also can waive the 2 years post-graduate experience. But that there is a quota limitation set each year. Does this grant B-tier level or C-tier level? What are my chances of getting a work permit through this if I fulfill the criteria’s of “excellent” student in Shanghai or other cities?

    Thank you for your time and consideration,

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Sergey,

    The work permit notification letter can be accessed online. However, the process to acquire the relevant visa and work permit must be completed in-person at your nearest consulate or embassy.

    China Briefing says:

    Hello,

    Chongqing and Sichuan are usually regarded as Western regions in government documents. For example, they’re included in the Catalogue of Encouraged Industries in Western China. However, there are no public detailed rules on which regions are considered “Western” for work permit purposes. We recommend you contact the local HR bureau in charge to confirm whether any extra points may be granted for your work permit application.

    Virginia Bowden says:

    Hi,
    Thank-you for all your information. I received a short term work visa last year but need another one for this year. When I did the visa calculator there was no spot to indicate that I had a work visa previously. I thought we got points for having a previous visa.

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Kevin,

    If you graduate with a master’s from a top Chinese university, it is possible that the two years of work experience requirement could be waived. However, there might be certain restrictions. We recommend that you contact your university and the local labor bureau to confirm your eligibility for a work permit after graduating.

    Virginia Bowden says:

    I was granted a work permit and work visa in February when I was 61 but now the fact that I am over 60 seems like it is a bigger issue and my employer is telling me that they are having difficult time getting me a work permit. Do you know if they are now less likely to give work permits to those over 60?

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Virginia,

    According to the official rubric for calculating points released by the government, the applicant does not receive extra points for previously holding a work visa. However, applicants do receive extra points for previously having worked in China for five years or longer.

    China Briefing says:

    Hello Virginia,

    Yes, it is more difficult to acquire a work permit if you are 60 or older. However, the authorities may still grant work permits for applicants over the age of 60 depending on their industry and experience.

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