Contract in China

Contracting in China - FAQ

What is the monthly cost of using an Umbrella Company in China? 

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


How long does it take to get a work permit in China?

Around 4 to 6 weeks.

What is the estimated net retention in China for a contractor earning USD 500 per day?

*update pending

What is the estimated net retention in China for a contractor earning USD 1000 per day?

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

*doesn’t include fee for work permit or other immigration costs

More questions? See the rest of the FAQ for more information on the China work permit process

Getting Started

Taking a contract in China means tackling numerous administrative headaches. Before you even begin working as an independent contractor, there are complicated payroll, tax, and immigration issues to work out.

All this complex admin comes on top of any personal matters you need to sort, as well. Even worse, it can be a huge nuisance when you’re already in China, trying to adjust to a huge relocation – and a new contract!

Streamlining even a few of these obstacles can dramatically improve your experience.

Luckily, there are ways to simplify more than just a few…

Freelance China Requirements


Working on a tourist or business visa can put you in hot water; it’s best to avoid the risk entirely and make sure you have the appropriate permit.

Easier said than done: figuring out Chinese employment laws and permit rules can be a full-time job in itself.

First, you need to apply for an employment/work visa (also called the visa).

Then, after you’ve entered China, you also need to apply for a work permit within 15 days. There’s a residence permit, too; you need to apply for that one within 30 days of entering China.

To get a work permit, you generally need an employer to sponsor you, which means they take responsibility for you while you’re working in the country. That’s fine for full-time employees but, as a contractor, it can be a huge disadvantage to have to filter clients based on their willingness to sponsor you.


Any contract you sign in China will involve a tax. Depending on your duration of stay (and other factors), you could be subject for further taxation.

Additionally, you may still be liable for tax in your home country. No matter where you’re from, you’ll probably also need to figure out social security and any other fees each time you receive payments.

Dual taxation, an unfamiliar tax system, and a variety of permit applications can create a labyrinth of paperwork and restrictions. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone.

Benefits of working through an Umbrella Company in China

You can outsource a lot of these admin problems to specialists at an Umbrella Company (or contractor management company).

An Umbrella Company basically becomes your full-time “employer,” even though you stay in control of your workload, clients, and schedule. The Umbrella Company simply collects and processes your payments, filtering out social security and any necessary fees.

They can also sponsor your work permit, meaning you get to take on new clients without the aggravation of applying for a new permit each time.

Even better, most specialise in tax law for contractors in China and can ensure you’re keeping the largest amount of your earnings as possible. They can even assist you with reducing your tax liability back home.

In short, you get all the benefits of a working for an employer, without sacrificing your autonomy as a contractor.

How to get started with the right Umbrella Company

There’s a lot of Umbrella Companies out there; finding the right one for you can be daunting.

We’ve done the research on Umbrella Companies in China, and know how to match contractors with the perfect company. If you’ve already secured a contract, get in touch with us and let us know your situation. We can get you started with the best Umbrella Company for you, or simply offer feedback on contracting in China.

Oh, and we don’t charge anything. Drop us a line and get free, honest, simple advice.

Send your details for more information

Additional FAQ - work permits & payroll


What is the cost of a Work Permit in China?

$1000 USD

What documentation is required for a work permit in China?

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

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).

Can you transfer from a business visa to a work permit in China?


Can we organise a business visa for China?


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

5 to 7 days.

How much does a business visa cost in China?

$300 USD

Can nationals of certain countries enter China without a business visa (ex. on an entry visa or visa waiver)?


Yes, those from: Singapore, Brunei and Japan.


$300 USD per day.

How does payroll work 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.

Client comment

"Great advice and excellent service on contracting and immigration solutions in the UK. I would highly recommend Tim and the team to assist you with accurate, clear and concise contracting advice in the UK or any other country for that matter."

Prishen Pillay,Global DBA Operations Lead

Shell International Trading & Shipping