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

Posted by Reading Time: 4 minutes

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

Professional Service_CB icons_2015RELATED: Payroll and Human Resource Services

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.


Asia Briefing Ltd. is a subsidiary of Dezan Shira & Associates. Dezan Shira is a specialist foreign direct investment practice, providing corporate establishment, business advisory, tax advisory and compliance, accounting, payroll, due diligence and financial review services to multinationals investing in China, Hong Kong, India, Vietnam, Singapore and the rest of ASEAN. For further information, please email or visit

Stay up to date with the latest business and investment trends in Asia by subscribing to our complimentary update service featuring news, commentary and regulatory insight.

Related Reading

HR and payroll 2016Human Resources and Payroll in China 2016-2017
A firm understanding of China’s laws and regulations related to human resources and payroll management is absolutely necessary for foreign businesses in China. This edition of HR and Payroll, updated for 2016/17, navigates China’s laws and regulations related to HR and payroll management – essential information for foreign investors looking to establish or already running a foreign-invested entity in China.

CB_2016_04_Establishing_and_Operating_a_Business_in_China_2016Establishing & Operating a Business in China 2016
Establishing & Operating a Business in China 2016, produced in collaboration with the experts at Dezan Shira & Associates, explores the establishment procedures and related considerations of the Representative Office (RO), and two types of Limited Liability Companies: the Wholly Foreign-owned Enterprise (WFOE) and the Sino-foreign Joint Venture (JV). The guide also includes issues specific to Hong Kong and Singapore holding companies, and details how foreign investors can close a foreign-invested enterprise smoothly in China.

DSA Guide_An Introduction to Doing Business in China 2017_Cover90x126An Introduction to Doing Business in China 2017
Doing Business in China 2017 is designed to introduce the fundamentals of investing in China. Compiled by the professionals at Dezan Shira & Associates in January 2017, this comprehensive guide is ideal not only for businesses looking to enter the Chinese market, but also for companies who already have a presence here and want to keep up-to-date with the most recent and relevant policy changes.