This country-specific Q&A provides an overview of Corporate Immigration laws and regulations applicable in China.
What are the relevant government entities relating to immigration in your jurisdiction?
The National Immigration Administration (NIA) of the People’s Republic of China was established on April 2, 2018. It is a national authority managed by the Ministry of Public Security and is at deputy ministerial level. NIA is responsible for: coordinating the formulation of immigration policies and organizing their implementation; entry and exit administration, port document inspection, and border residents’ traffic administration; foreigners’ stay and residence and permanent residence administration, refugee administration, nationality administration, and management of foreigners’ illegal entry, illegal residence, illegal employment and illegal immigration repatriation; service administration of Chinese citizens entering and leaving the country (border) for private purposes, undertaking international cooperation in the field of immigration, etc.
Foreign Expert Bureau manages issuance of Work Permit.
Public Security Bureau is responsible for issuing Residence Permit and Chinese visa for various entry purposes, such as business visit, employment, dependents, family reunion and etc.
What are the options available for sponsor-based employment in your jurisdiction and timelines involved in securing a work permit?
In order to qualify for a sponsor-based employment in China, foreign nationals must have a locally registered company acting as a sponsor and he/she must work in the same location where the local sponsor is registered. Based on the work authorization criteria, once approved, a Work Permit in one of the following categories will be granted:
Category A: High-Level Foreign Expert/Scientists, High-Tech/International Special Talent (with no age limit)
Category B: China Market Demands Talent
Category C: Temporary/Service Market
Work Permit Cards are based on a scoring system that will consider, among other criteria, an applicant’s income, work experience, educational background, Chinese language skills, age, and duration of stay. The permit categories – A, B, and C – are unified under one Work Permit Card. According to the current rules, Category A Work Permits will be reserved for those with scores of 85 or above, B Permits for those with scores of 60 to 85, and C Permits for those with scores less than 60. The government may alter application requirements among the different types of employment permits to encourage Category A applicants, control the number of B applicants, and limit C applicants.
What are the primary options available for unsponsored work and investment in your jurisdiction?
There is no available option for unsponsored work and investment in China without a sponsorship.
What are the requirements for becoming a sponsor of employment-based migrants and what are the role and reporting duties of sponsors?
In order to qualify for a Work Permit Card, the foreign national must have a locally registered company acting as a sponsor in the same location where employment will take place.
Companies should register an account with the Foreign Expert Bureau, register with the Administration of Industry and Commerce of China, and obtain a Business License. The Provincial Labour Bureau must approve any subsequent change to the entity (e.g., name change). The same registration rules apply for local hires, intra-company transfers, and seconded employees. Company registration is a prerequisite for signing contracts.
Foreign-funded joint venture enterprises must obtain a Certificate of Approval from the local Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM). In some cities, foreign funded and joint venture companies must have a valid Registration Book with the city Entry-Exit Administration.
Reporting of the following may be applicable during the course of employment:
PRC Individual Income Tax (IIT) is assessed and levied monthly. When an individual receives employment income taxable in China, it should be reported and taxed through the submission of a monthly tax return. IIT is generally reported and paid on a monthly basis through withholding agents. An individual or unit that pays taxable income to a taxpayer is deemed to be a withholding agent and is required to withhold and remit the tax payable on behalf of the taxpayer to the tax authorities. Usually, the local immigration sponsor is designated as the withholding agent. Please consult with a tax or employment law counsel for further details.
Changes to the work duties described in the application do not need to be reported, but if the job title is changed, an amendment is required.
Changes to information in the sponsorship application or the application to vary a term of sponsorship, contact details, and worksite location do not need to be reported. However, if the information on company business license such as the sponsor’s name, legal representative, registered address, etc., has changed, an amendment is required.
There are no immigration-related annual reporting requirements in China.
Are applications filed electronically, or paper base? Is a physical visa/work permit document issued or is an electronic approval issued?
China Work Permit (a physical card) is normally required to be firstly filed online in seeking a pre-approval of the application, followed by submission of paper-based documents for final review and permit issuance. During the pandemic, in avoiding personal contact, all Work Permit applications are filed online.
The China Residence Permit (a physical visa affixed to the passport) is required to be filed in person. This is a document that enables the foreigner to travel in and out of China mainland within permit validity.
Is an in-person attendance/interview required as part of the visa/work permit application process? Is an individual required to enrol their biometrics (digital photo, fingerprint scan) as part of the visa/work permit process?
An in-person attendance is not required for Work Permit application, but an in-person interview is required for Residence Permit/visa application, including all dependents over the age of 16 and they are also required to submit biometrics at the local Public Security Bureau. Additionally, spouses must complete a medical exam as part of the Residence Permit application. Parents of the principal applicant or spouse may also qualify as dependents. All dependent applicants must provide evidence of relationships (in the form of a marriage or birth certificate). All certificates must be notarized by an overseas notary and legalized by a Chinese Consulate in the country/region of residence.
What persons qualify as dependants? Can dependants work based on their dependant visa status? Are there any restrictions?
Legally married opposite-sex spouses and children under the age of 18 qualify as dependents of the primary Work Permit applicant. Chinese authorities do not recognize same-sex marriages or de facto relationships for either same- or opposite-sex couples.
The dependents cannot legally work in China on dependent visa.
What is the general time frame and processes for obtaining permanent residence and citizenship for sponsored and unsponsored business-related immigration?
The general timeframe for obtaining permanent residence in China is 6 to 12 months. The submission is made to the Public Security Bureau of the residing location. The application will be reviewed among various government authorities. In some cities, high-end talents may enjoy fast track process that will reduce the processing time to 3 to 4 months.
For China citizenship application, the processing time is normally 6-12 months upon submission. The submission is also made to the Public Security Bureau of the residing location. The application package will be reviewed among various government authorities in the lodgement period.
There is no difference in processing time between Chinese PR/citizenship applications sponsored and unsponsored business-related immigration, the requested documentation is assessed on a case by case basis.
What productive type activities can a business visitor undertake and for how long?
In China, business visitors shall generally limit their activities to the following:
Attending internal meetings, seminars, discussions or conferences;
Attending business or “fact-finding” meetings, or conducting business negotiations;
Attending client meetings;
Undertaking sales or marketing activities, such as making sales calls to potential clients;
Attending or receiving training;
Visiting China on business M visa shall be no more than 90 days.
Business travellers who engage in only allowable business activities may still require work authorization if any of the following conditions will apply to their trip:
Being placed on the local company’s payroll and receiving remuneration from China entity;
Signing an employment contract or otherwise establishing an employment relationship with the China entity;
Visiting China on business visa for more than 90 days.
Can remote work be carried out from your country?
There is no immigration rules applicable to remote work in China.
In practice, there is no restrictions to foreigners residing in China on a valid visa that is consistent with his/her initial visit purpose (e.g. for family reunion with Q2 visa) while working remotely for an overseas entity. Yet individual’s physical presence in any China office premises shall be avoided to minimize any potential exposure of being challenged for working for a local company, in which case work authorization shall be require
Are there any productive work / revenue generating activities that can be carried out as a visitor and without the need for a work permit? If so, what activities and for how long?
No, a work permit would be required for any productive work / revenue generating activities carried out on behalf of a Chinese entity.
Is there a remote work or nomad visa category in your jurisdiction? If not, how likely is it that this will be implemented in future?
Visa category for remote work or nomad purpose is not available in China. At present, there is no clear indication of introducing a new visa type in this category.
How easy is it to switch visa categories/jobs/employer from within country? And/or if made redundant, can the individual regularise their stay in another capacity and what is the timeframe allowable?
There are regulatory requirements set out for change of visa/permit type for various purposes and timeframe would vary. For example, if someone changes employer within the country, he/she would need to cancel valid Work Permit and Residence Permit under the current company and apply for new ones which would take around 1-1.5 months for the permit transfer, and during the processing time, the individual cannot work until new permits are issued. For proper planning in avoiding business disruption, advanced assessment is recommended.
What common issues or concerns may arise for employers under business immigration in your jurisdiction?
Some common issues or concerns from the employer when hiring a candidate:
The candidate fits the job requirements, yet not meeting the general work authorization criteria, such as not having two years’ relevant working experience or does not hold a bachelor’s degree, i.e. fresh graduates or experienced technicians.
The candidate is aged over 60 but not qualifying for Category A Work Permit.
What are the activities permissible to be undertaken upon arrival in China while China Work Permit and residence permit is still in progress.
Whether the employee can work in other cities of which is different from his/her Work Permit issuing location.
Is there a fast track process / certification that business can obtain to expedite visa / permit processing?
For China Work Permit and Residence Permit application, expedited services are normally assessed on case by case basis and there is no certificate available to business for fast track process.
What are the recent trends, both political and social (including COVID-19 pandemic), that have impacted your jurisdiction with regard to immigration policy and law? How will this shape the immigration landscape moving forward?
During the pandemic, health policy is now certainly a normal inclusion in immigration policy. Health assessment for COVID-19 become common requirement for China entry, with the development of vaccine all over the world, the proof such as vaccine certificate, negative COVID-19 test report and health declaration code gradually become routine and may even replace the quarantine requirement. Aside from COVID-19, Chinese government continue focus on attracting foreign high-end talents by exploring various approaches in immigration facilitation, including granting residence permit/visa with longer validity, simplifying application documents with shorten processing time and etc.
How is the COVID-19 pandemic shaping the immigration landscape in your jurisdiction?
Immigration landscape changes expected in following areas:
More companies are growingly adopting Hybrid work model with flexibilities offered around locations and eligible population. Advanced consultation from immigration and tax professionals are strongly recommended due to compliance obligations arise from such remote work arrangement.
Given travel restrictions during COVID-19, while Chinese Permanent Resident is not subject to any visa restraints where they can travel freely in and out of China, there has been increasing interest in obtaining Chinese Permanent Residence.
Are there any anticipated changes in the immigration laws of your jurisdiction?
Over the years, Chinese government has introduced series of immigration policies with aim to attract top talents. Some key changes are:
Simplified document requirements for qualified high-end talents so application processing time will be shortened;
At the time of permit extension, longer validity will be granted to qualified individual.
Relaxation of employment or investment based criteria of Chinese Permanent Residence.
How do you see technology developing and evolving to support immigration process in the future?
Technology plays a vital role in immigration process management. Chinese government implements unified online system for visa/permit processes.
Besides, data sharing among government authorities (immigration, tax and social security, etc.) would further enhance the comprehensive administration of foreigners visiting, working and residing in China.
What are the Right to Work requirements in your jurisdiction?
Based on current prevailing immigration law and regulation, foreign employees can legally work in China after securing both China Work Permit and residence permit (see general assessment criteria in #2).
China Permeant Residents can work in China without securing Work Permit.
What are the types of civil and criminal penalties employers may face for non-compliance with immigration rules i.e. employing an individual who does not have the Right to Work?
Chinese companies that employ foreign nationals without proper work authorization are subject to fines of up to CNY 10,000 for each illegal worker, up to a maximum fine of CNY 100,000, and/or blacklisting of the company, which will preclude it from sponsoring any foreign nationals in China in the future. Additionally, any earnings generated by the illegal workers may be confiscated.
Failing to complete deregistration may adversely affect the company’s future Work Permit applications.
A foreign national commencing employment without a Work Permit Card is subject to deportation, fines between CNY 5,000 and 20,000, or imprisonment between 5 and 15 days, or a combination of these penalties, depending on the severity of the offense and the discretion of Chinese authorities.
If the Work Permit is not deregistered, the employee will have problems applying for a new Work Permit in the future if the system still has a record of the previous Permit.
Are there any quota and / or labour market testing requirements in your jurisdiction and if so, what do they involve?
No. It is not necessary to conduct local labour market testing in China. However, certain industries and entity types, such as a representative branch office, may be subject to requirements regarding business registration type and paid-up capital of a Chinese sponsoring company.
Are there quota requirements, restrictions or a cap on the numbers of foreign nationals hired per company in your jurisdiction?
In general, there are no quota requirements in China. Some local authorities may limit the number of expats working on a Category C Work Permit, although there is no legal quota per the regulations.
However, there is a limit of foreign nationals hired by representative offices of foreign corporation in China.
Are there any exit procedures in your jurisdiction, if an individual is departing permanently?
In coordination with the employee, the employer must cancel/deregister both the Work Permit Card and Residence Permit within 10 calendar days of the end of the employee’s assignment or employment in China.
Employers are not responsible for making sure that foreign employees exit China at the end of employment (e.g., by purchasing flight tickets).
Are there any requirements for medical certificates or vaccinations for your jurisdiction?
Foreign employees must be in good health and free from contagious diseases. To verify this, each foreign national is required to complete a medical exam. Some provinces allow the medical exam to be conducted in the foreign national’s country/region of origin; however, many provinces require that it be conducted in China. In each case, applicants should confirm the requirements for their intended destination in China before completing medical exams in their home country/region.
Even if a province permits overseas exams, medical exam reports issued in the foreign national’s home country/region will need to be verified by the Provincial International Healthcare Service Center after arrival in China, and an additional medical examination at a local medical service center may be requested, this local verification or medical exam should be reserved well in advance.
In COVID-19 period, with an entry visa granted, before boarding on a flight to China, necessary COVID-19 related test results shall be obtained and presented to local Chinese Embassy/Consulate. The certificate of vaccinations is mandatorily required for China entry visa application in majority of Chinese Embassy/Consulate.
Are there any language requirements for your jurisdiction?
There is no statutory language requirements in China.
What are the government costs associated with a typical employment based visa?
Typical government costs associated with employment-based visa includes:
Entry visa – varies from country to country;
Medical check in China;
Residence permit – depending on validity period;
Is a local contract of employment required in order to obtain a work based visa or work permit? Are there salary or other thresholds to be met?
Work Permit Card holders may be on either a local contract or secondment agreement. Foreign or local payroll is permitted, depending on the employment contract type. Working at third-party client sites is permitted, provided that the site is within the city/region where the Work Permit Card was issued; additional restrictions regarding time spent at the site may apply, depending on the city/region. Secondment by a third party is not permitted.
The salary received by the foreign employee shall not be lower than the minimum wage stipulated by the local labour law set out for the working location.
What are the maximum periods of stay for individuals on an employment based visa / work permit?
There is no limit as long as the individual holds a valid Work Permit.
Does your jurisdiction allow dual nationality?
China does not recognize dual nationality.
What are the most positive aspects of your immigration system compared to the rest of the world?
Transparency and clarity on right to work eligibility.
Online-based immigration system provides visibility on case status and improve process efficiency.
Attractive immigration policies applicable to foreign high-end talents.
Estimated word count: 3275
Privacy & Cookies Policy