Companies Sending Staff to China

At the bottom of this page we have detailed information about our solution for China, including management fees, work permit fees & processing times, payroll, taxation, and social security levels.

If you’re looking to send staff to China for an overseas project, it can be difficult to find clear information on an unfamiliar jurisdiction, much less efficient solutions. You’re facing complicated issues, in addition to a host of problems you may not have even considered yet. To compound these difficulties, you’re likely under sizable time and budget constraints.

Contractor Taxation offers a comprehensive solution to these concerns, helping companies extend into new markets and rapidly deploy expatriate resources. Read more about the kinds of goals your company could be achieving, instead of using time and resources to research China’s intricate tax and immigration information.

Taxation in China

One of a company’s biggest concerns will be guaranteeing total compliance with any and all tax requirements. In order to safeguard both itself and the end client, a company needs to consider:

  • Personal income tax for their employees in China
  • Social security costs
  • Payroll tax in China
  • VAT/Sales tax in China
  • Withholding tax in China (if you’re in the U.S., learn more about withholding tax here)
  • Permanent establishment

Work Permits for employees in China

Another major concern will be your ability to secure the appropriate Work Permit for your employee.

Employees need to be sponsored for a permit. To sponsor an employee yourself, you will need to be incorporated locally and be licensed to sponsor foreign workers. If you’re not already at that stage, organising a permit is an impossibility until you complete the (often lengthy) process of local incorporation and licensing. Depending on your project’s time frame, you might need employees on site quickly, making a Work Permit even more problematic.  

The end client may or may not be willing to sponsor a temporary worker, but this raises complicated payroll and employment issues. Sponsors often need to pay the sponsored employee, adding another layer of complication to the already-complex process of taking on a project in China.

You might be able to explore alternate visas for your employee, or even use one visa and transfer to a Work Permit in order to expedite secondment. However, missteps can cost even more time (and money). If an employee is working on the wrong visa, you could be opening the end client to serious legal and financial risks.  

What is a management company and how can it help send your staff to China?

Essentially, a management company operates like an outsourced employer. They sponsor your staff on local Work Permits (where required), employ your staff and payroll them locally. They deduct all local taxes and social security from the assignees’ pay at source, and then pay these to the local tax authorities. In short, they reduce your administrative burden, while mitigating the business risks of employee secondment.

Taxation: As specialists in local tax law, they ensure that an employee 1) is compliant with all regulations, and 2) keeps the largest possible portion of his or her earnings. This reduces your administrative work, along with any risk of tax violation in China.

Immigration: Management companies can sponsor Work Permits for staff, eliminating one of the largest barriers of project work in China.

If you urgently need staff on site, a management company can also help organise a Business Visa for the employee. They can then help the employee transition to a Work Permit, assuring that your employees start work faster while maintaining compliance with China’s immigration regulations. 

Your company’s role: Although a management company involves a fee, you typically save money and time by reducing your administration, as well as potential liability. Why not get a quote and compare the total cost of employment?

China payroll services

Firstly, do you have a local company in China? If so, is it appropriately registered to run a payroll, or to deduct and file taxes? Does it have the right administrative staff and is it capable of staying up-to-date with local tax requirements? Is it able to sponsor international hires for Work Permits?

Without a suitable local company already in China, you need to consider a few different options.

Setting up payroll in China

You can incorporate locally, get registered, and hire staff to handle payroll in China. This option depends on your circumstances; will your project justify the cost of incorporating locally? Will you be able to incorporate within the time limits of the project? Is it even possible to set up a company yourselves with local ownership requirements? Will this company be able to sponsor international hires on local Work Permits?

If you believe this is the correct route for your company, you likely need to consult a local accounting advisory firm. Time and budget permitting, you can also consult an international tax specialist like PWC or KPMG. Some of our partners offer assistance to foreign companies incorporating locally; check with us if you are interested.

Even if you decide that establishing a local payroll in China is the right option for you, you should still consider using a local payroll provider.

Using a local payroll provider

The time frame of your project may not justify local incorporation. In that case, a payroll provider is a more efficient solution. Even if you plan on incorporating in China, you can reduce security risks by using a payroll provider while you get set up. This solution is simple and only requires a monthly, commitment-free operational cost.

Payroll providers versus management companies

Outsourcing payroll can mitigate the risks and liabilities of sending employees to China, but it’s prudent to consider using a management company rather than just a payroll provider. A management company specialises in all of the same payroll tasks, plus a multitude of other services.

Most notably, they are able to sponsor Work Permits for your staff. This means a management company can reduce immigration-related liability, in addition to their specialist tax and payroll solutions.

Getting started with a management company in China

Co-employment eliminates your legal responsibility and dramatically lessens your administrative load. This frees your company to devote its resources to higher value business objectives, and helps maintain consistency across borders. However, different management companies offer different expertise, making it important to find the right company for your project.

Let us know your goals and we can give you easy, concise information on sending your staff to China.  Our advice is free and doesn’t obligate you in any way.

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Work Permits in China: Frequently Asked Questions




Can a management company sponsor Work Permits for foreigners in China? 


How long does it take to get a Work Permit in China?

Around 4 to 6 weeks.

What is the work permit process in China?

The Chinese company sponsoring the visa apply through the Chinese immigration authorities in China, once the Employment License is issued the candidate applies for the Employment/Work Visa (Z Visa) at the Chinese Consulate in their country of residence. On entry in China the candidate and employer submit an application at the local Labor & Social Security Bureau which then takes a further 15 days. Once approved the candidate will need to apply for the Residence Permit (done from within China).

What documentation is required for a China work permit?

Copies of: passport, CV, employment contract, education certificates.

What is the cost of a Work Permit in China?

$1000 USD

Can you transfer from a Business Visa to a Work Permit in China?


$300 USD per day.


Business Visas in China: Frequently Asked Questions



Can we organise business visas for China?


How long does it take to process a business visa in China?

5 to 7 days.

What is the cost of a Business Visa in China?

$300 USD

Can nationals of certain countries enter China without a Business Visa (for example, on an entry visa or visa waiver)?

Yes, those from; Singapore, Brunei and Japan.


Management Companies in China: Frequently Asked Questions



What is the monthly cost of using a management company in China?

5% with a minimum of $300 USD per month.

What is the estimated net retention for an assignee in China earning USD 200,000 per year?

Depending on how it’s structured but around 75%.

What is the estimated net retention for an assignee in China earning USD 100,000 per year?

*update pending


Payroll in China: Frequently Asked Questions



How does payroll work for employers of foreign nationals in China?

Your employer (the company sponsoring your visa) pays the candidate on a monthly basis, social security and income tax are deducted at source and paid to the China tax authorities. Candidates are able to offset their taxable income with relevant business expenses. China has 20% employers social security contribution and 8% employees contribution which covers pension, health insurance, maternity insurance, work-related injury insurance and unemployment insurance. This varies by region and generally has a limit to the employer contribution where the maximum social security contribution cannot exceed three times the average monthly wage. e.g. in Shanghai in 2012 the maximum social insurance contribution was RMB 11689 per month - because the average monthly wage was RMB 3896. The World Bank estimates it takes employers in China 192 man days to ensure compliance with payroll and labour taxes each year.

What is the monthly cost to outsource payroll in China?

$100 per person if it’s simple calculations.