China Work & Business Visas

Obtaining the right visa in China for business operations.

China has been continuously adopting foreigner-friendly visa polices to encourage foreigners to play their respective roles in advancing China’s economic growth. Afterall, Chinese premier, Li Keqiang had recently suggested, “we should not only make use of Chinese talent resources and market space, but also adopt a more open policy for foreign experts”. China warmly welcomes foreign professionals in order to foster an international business environment, thus regularly relaxing its immigration policies.

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Visas in China

It must emphasized that the Special Administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao have their own visa procedures, and this article will discuss the procedures in mainland China.

Chinese visas are divided into two categories: ordinary visas and diplomatic visas, with ordinary visas being further split into 16 different types. The visas that are relevant to business-related activities are the M visa and the Z visa, commonly referred to as the “business visa” and “work visa” respectively.

Obtaining the Business Visa

Introduced in 2013, the Business Visa, alternatively known as “Z visa”, is issued to applicants intending to enter China for commercial or trade activities. This includes business negotiations, client visits and attending trade events. Ideal for foreign nationals who visit China frequently for short business trips, it can be granted for a period ranging from one month to one year, whilst a longer term can be issued for individuals from certain countries. Single entry, double entry and multiple entries are all available for this type of visa.

Long term Business visas for particular countries

A foreign national who is a citizen of one of the countries outlined below may enjoy issuance of a longer period to his/her business visa:

  • United Kingdom: up to 2 years.
  • Canada: up to 9 years.
  • Argentina, Israel and United States: up to 10 years.

The following materials will be required for the M visa:

  • Passport and a copy of the passport photo pages.
  • The passport must be valid for a minimum of 6 months with at least one blank page.
  • Completed V.2013 form
  • This can be downloaded here. The form must be filled electronically in black capital letters.
  • Recently taken passport photo
  • The photo must be in colour and be taken with a light background.
  • Invitation letter from the China-based company.
  • This letter should be from the inviting company in China, and include the following:
  • Applicant details: name, passport number, nationality and date of birth.
  • Company details: Inviter’s name, contact number, address, and signature.
  • Trip details: arrival & departure date, flight tickets, purpose of visit
  • Business license of the inviting company

Applying for an Extension

Should you find that the duration of your stay is insufficient to perform the desired business obligations, you may apply for an extension at your local exit and entry bureau minimum seven days before the expiration of the original business visa.

Working in China with an M visa

It may come as a surprise to discover that working in China with a business visa is permitted, however, only for a maximum of three months and the company issuing payment for work must be a foreign enterprise. If you wish to work for over three months or receive payment from a domestic company, it is highly recommended that you apply for the work visa detailed below.

Obtaining a Work visa

Also referred to as the “Z visa”, the work visa is granted to foreign nationals employed by a China-based company. It is subsequently converted into a “working-purpose residence permit”. It is increasingly becoming easier to obtain this visa as China continues to encourage foreign workers in the country, with the most recent changes having been introduced in 2017, one of which was to ease the requirement for graduates without two years work experience to obtain employment in the country.

The minimum requirements to obtain the work permit include the applicant to be aged 18 or over without a criminal record, have a specified employer, have the required skills and experience for the job, and possess a valid passport along with other necessary travel documents.

Since April 2017, new regulations classified work permits into three categories which are referred to as the first three letters in the English alphabet: A, B, and C. The permit which will be granted to the applicant depends on his/her skills and qualifications; an applicant may either obtain the permit through direct qualification or through a “point system” discussed further below.

Direct qualification

To directly qualify for Class A work permit, any of the following conditions must be met:

  • The applicant has received an international award.
    The applicant was selected by China’s National Talent Import Plan.
    The applicant holds a doctor’s degree or higher from a high-ranking Chinese University or from one of the world’s top 100 universities.
    The applicant is a high-income earner with a salary exceeding 50,000 RMB per month and works in Shanghai.
    To directly qualify for Class B work permit, the applicant must be aged between 18 and 60 and meet any of the following conditions:
  • The applicant holds a bachelor’s degree and has 2 years of full-time relevant work experience after graduation.
    The applicant is an “excellent” graduate with a master’s degree from a Chinese university or from one of the world’s top 100 universities.
    To directly qualify for Class C work permit, the applicant must be aged between 18 and 60 and meet any of the following conditions:
  • The applicant holds a bachelor’s degree or higher from a university in Shanghai and is employed by a company registered in Shanghai Free Trade Zone or Zhanjiang High Tech Park.
    The applicant holds a master’s degree or higher from a Chinese university with a good score, and is employed by a company registered in Shanghai.
    The applicant is an intern in Shanghai as part of the “French Intern 1000 Plan”.

Point calculation

The other method involves a calculation of the total amount of points the applicant has, based on a range of characteristics including their age, HSK level, and level of education. Each quality offers a certain amount of points and a calculation of total points is made to establish whether one qualifies for a working permit or not. The minimum total is 60 points to qualify for a work permit. You may calculate the total points by yourself using the table below:

Obtaining the work permit

A working permit usually will require the applicant to follow certain procedures in their home country and subsequently enter China, however, it is also possible to directly convert another visa into a working permit within China.

Outside of China

These following steps detail the usual procedure for applying for a working permit:

Obtain the notification letter: This is an official declaration from the Chinese authorities that the applicant has the approval to work in China. The employer who will need to apply and provide the necessary paperwork to a local labour bureau, after which the letter will be issued in a few weeks.

Apply for the Z visa in the home country: Visit a Chinese embassy in your home country to make an application for the Z visa.

Follow procedures in China: After receiving the Z visa, enter China and undergo medical examination and register your place of residence at the local police stations.

Making an application in China – only for those living in tier 1 cities

Have the right visa: in a tier 1 Chinese city, only L visas, M visas and X visas can be converted into a residence permit.

Go to the local Exit and Entry Bureau: If you’re living in a tier 1 city, you may go to a local exit and entry bureau to directly apply for a working-purpose residence permit without having to leave the country.

The above two visa types are the most relevant to conducting business in China, however, be mindful that the visa regulations are subject to change. Nevertheless, any future changes are likely to be in line with China’s plan to encourage foreign presence in the country.