Getting A Work Visa

Information on the procedure for getting a work visa for China...

Foreigners intending to work in China must arrive in the country on a work visa (Z visa). This should be applied for through an overseas embassy before travelling to China. Sponsorship is required from an approved employer permitted to hire foreign workers. It is a single-entry visa granted to those who have taken a job in China.

Is it common for the employer to secure the work visa, either directly or by hiring the services of an immigration professional providing this service.

Once a job offer has been made and a contract signed, but before moving to China or applying for a visa, certain documentation must be supplied to the employer before beginning the visa application. This documentation is needed for the company to obtain a work permit or foreign expert's licence. The employee is likely to be asked for copies of:

  • Passport
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Certifications of qualifications or expertise (particularly for teachers)
  • GP-signed medical form confirming good health

The applicant's employer should then supply all the relevant paperwork to the employee, who can then apply for the work visa.

The visa application procedure varies according to the policy of each overseas embassy. Applicants will need to supply:

  • Completed application form (with photos)
  • Passport (with at least six months' validity)
  • Work permit or foreign expert's licence (documentation provided by the employer)
  • Official letter of invitation from the employer
  • Marriage certificate and/or children's birth certificates, if travelling with a family
  • Appropriate fee

The exception to the above is for journalists intending to work in China as foreign correspondents. They must apply for a long-stay journalist visa (J-1 visa). The procedure is the same, but they also need a Foreign Affairs Office letter. This should be arranged by the employer.

Times for processing the visas vary depending on the embassy, and can take anything from a few days to a few weeks. For example, the Chinese Embassy in the United States takes four working days to process the visa and charges a fee of US$130 for US citizens. The process can be speeded up by paying an express fee. Some embassies require applications in person, others allow online or postal applications.

Self Employment

It is possible to be a self-employed foreigner in China, although the procedure is not clear cut. Many foreigners start out by being sponsored as a part-time employee for a company before branching out. This can be done on a work visa (Z Visa) or by entering the country on a student visa (F visa) to take a short course, and then applying for temporary residence (see Residency in China).