Work Permits In China For International Contractors
One of the realities of international contracting is the need to obtain a work permit. Very few countries (outside the EU) allow freedom to work and travel visa-free. If you are committed to contracting in foreign countries, it’s essential to learn the immigration rules.
Working in China
Because of the vast opportunities in Chinese industries, many international contractors may wish to look for Chinese clients. While that part may not be too difficult, there is the problem of obtaining a long-term work permit. The type of visa you can obtain will depend on how long you plan to stay and the type of relationship with your client. China’s policies are not very favourable to independent contractors, so you may need to be flexible.
What type of visas are required to work in China?
Many foreigners will enter you as a tourist or students, and then decide to stay and look for work. Although some foreign nationals do work while on a tourist or student visa, that is not advised as it is illegal. If you are caught there will be consequences, including possible deportation.
No Self-employment Visa
As a self-employed contractor, you cannot simply show up and hope to get a work visa. Self-employment visas do not exist for freelancers in China. You will need a Chinese sponsor, or use your own limited company to sponsor the work permit.
Business – M Visa
If you are just going to China for short trips of less than six months in a year, you can use the ‘M’ Visa. This is like a traditional business visa, and you will need a letter of invitation from a Chinese company.
Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise – Z Visa
The other route is to set up your own limited company in China, known as a Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise (WFOE), which can then sponsor your work permit. This method uses the ‘Z’ visa for traditional employment. A WFOE may seem appealing, but it can be costly to set up a company in China unless you are committed for the long term.
Client Employment – Z Visa
If none of those options works, you could ask your Chinese client to sponsor you for a Z employment visa, but that would limit you to that one client.
What are the requirements to apply for a China work permit?
As you might suspect, no matter which visa you are applying for there are numerous requirements. Here are the requirements for the Z employment visa:
- First, a foreigner’s work permit from the Ministry of Human Resources (not to be confused with a work permit/visa from immigration)
- Secondly, a criminal background check
- Then, a medical exam and health certificate
- Also, a classification as a ‘foreign expert’
- Likewise, a police registration
- And also, a temporary Chinese residence permit
- Lastly, a qualification based on the immigration point system
What documents are needed to get Chinese work permits?
There are a couple of documents you need to get a work permit. These include the following:
- Letter of invitation
- Job qualification certificate
- Copy of educational degree
- Employment contract
- Recent photos
How can I apply for work permits in China?
The visa can be applied for at a Chinese consulate near you, with the application form and all required documents. You must apply in person, and processing takes about four days.
Are there any important considerations/regulations I should know about my Chinese work permits?
Once your visa is approved, it is only valid for 30 days until you get your residence permit. The resident permit is valid for the duration of your contract up to 5 years, which would also be the duration for your visa.
How can I extend my work permit?
Previously, the work and resident permit had to be renewed in person with the original application form and updated supporting documents. With Covid, remote renewal is now permitted with certification of documents. Extending a work permit is now reportedly easier than applying for a new permit. Naturally, you will have to show that your contract has been extended as well.
How can Contractor Taxation help with work permits in China?
If you are having a difficult time finding a sponsor for your work visa, Contractor Taxation has a network of umbrella companies that can assist you in China. The umbrella company is an incorporated legal entity in China that can sponsor your work permit. Then, they will assist you with setting up the contracts and facilitating payment from your clients.
Please contact us if you would like assistance with obtaining Chinese work and residence permits