Obtaining China’s New Unified Foreign Work Permit

Posted by Reading Time: 5 minutes

By Dezan Shira & Associates
Editor: Ari Chernoff

On November 1, 2016, China’s State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA) launched the new unified work permit in select regions across the country. The limited release targets the regions of Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Anhui, Guangdong, Hebei, Shandong, Sichuan, and Ningxia, as the government seeks to gauge the program’s success before the nationwide rollout on April 1, 2017.

China’s previous foreign work permits, the Alien Employment Permit (Z-visa) and the Foreign Expert Permit (R-visa), have been integrated into the Permit System for Foreigners in China, a single work permit based on a three-tiered classification system. The permit provides a federal model administered by SAFEA, eliminating the often troublesome and inconsistent regionally administered policies.

The three-tiered system classifies foreign workers as A, B, or C level candidates. The classification system takes into account candidates’ education, salary level, age, time spent working in China, and Chinese language skills. Applicants who receive more than 85 points are given the letter “A,” 60 to 85 points, “B,” and less than 60 points, “C.” For more information on the system’s criteria for assigning point values, visit our China Work Permit Calculator.

Application requirements

The Chinese government deems that all applicants should meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be in good health
  • Have no criminal record
  • Have a commitment from a legal employer
  • Have the professional skills necessary to do the work, or a corresponding degree

Application procedure

The following steps outline the application process and the required documents for foreign workers and their employers under the new work permit.

Step 1: Apply online

The first step in the application process is completed by the employer in China. An employer looking to hire a non-Chinese employee can submit an application, along with the relevant documents online on the management system for foreign workers in China (only in Chinese).” The required documents for submission are as follows:

  • Application form
  • Business license and organization code certificate
  • Social insurance registration or certificate of registration of the resident representative office of foreign enterprise
  • Information such as the name, ID, and phone number of the foreign worker
  • Power of Attorney
  • Identity of the employer or manager

Professional Service_CB icons_2015RELATED: Payroll and Human Resource Services

Step 2: Online pre-qualification

Within five working days of the online submission, the receiving agency will make an examination of the materials submitted by the employer. If the foreign worker is coming from abroad, they should apply for the “Work Permit for Aliens of the People’s Republic of China” (Often referred to simply as the “Work Permit for Foreigners in China”) no later than 15 days after entry. If the materials submitted by the employer contain errors or are incomplete, the receiving agency will offer the employer one chance to correct the relevant materials.

Step 3: Verification of the employer’s application

If the employer’s application meets the requirements, a special seal will be issued by the administrative organ, including its signature and the date when the employer’s application was verified.

Step 4: Review

After the employer’s application has been verified, the decision-making body will review the materials and make a decision within 10 working days to accept or decline the employer’s request to hire a foreign worker. If the agency decides to accept the employer’s application, then the employee can formally apply for the “Work Permit for Aliens of the People’s Republic of China.” The following documentation is required for the application:

  • “Work Permit for Aliens of the People’s Republic of China” application form
  • Proof of previous work experience
  • Certificates of highest level of education
  • Official proof of no criminal record from country of permanent residence
  • Medical certificate
  • Employment contract or other proof of employment
  • Passport or other travel document
  • A photo from the last six months in which the applicant is bareheaded

Step 5: Final decision

If the applicant meets the conditions for the work permit, the agency will grant the administrative license, create an electronic “Notice on Work Permit for Aliens,” and offer the applicant the Foreign Work Permit within 10 days of their final decision.

If an applicant is not accepted, they can apply for reconsideration, or bring an administrative lawsuit against the licensing authority.


With the new work permit ready to rollout nationwide on April 1, 2017, interested parties would do well to track the relevant regulations and circulars as they are promulgated by the Chinese government in case of any alterations.

As seen above, much of the application requirements for foreign workers are completed by their potential employer. Only when the employer’s submission has been examined, verified, reviewed, and accepted, can a foreign worker officially apply for the “Work Permit for Aliens of the People’s Republic of China.”

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on May 17, 2012, and has been updated to include the latest regulatory changes.


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 china@dezshira.com or visit www.dezshira.com.

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