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The Chinese Work (Z) Visa
The Z visa underwent changes in November 1st 2016. A new system will be implemented in April 2017 nationwide, however certain cities such as Shanghai will be starting from November 2016. The current foreign work employment system has two work permits for foreigners: the Alien Employment Permit (Z-visa) and the Foreign Expert Permit (R-visa). These work permits were issued by two different government entities, the common Z-visa used by most foreigners in China was issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, whereas the much rarer R-visa was controlled by the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA). Both applications required extensive paperwork and were highly bureaucratic.
In order to streamline and standardize the process the SAFEA government entity has announced in September 2016 that both existing work permits, the current Z and R-visas will be merged into one, starting in April 2017. However in certain regions such as Shanghai, Beijing, Guangdong and various other cities the process will start in Nov 1st 2016 as part of the government pilot program. The new system will allow any foreigner to work in China as long as they meet the required points and also a few individuals who meet certain qualifications may be exempt from the points system and immediately qualify for a certain tier system.
The new system will have 3 tiers as follows:
Ease of Application
Highly qualified talent
Highly encouraged, no limits
Professional talent in line with labor market demand
Besides the point systems certain individuals may be exempt from this point system.
To be exempt from this points system and automatically qualify for tier A:
- Hold internationally recognized awards: Such as Nobel Prize, Olympians, Pulitzer for example.
- High/Senior positions in the fields of academia, business, entertainment or sports.
- Holder of certain positions in type of field where talent is urgently needed. For example if you have university tenure in a top 100 university and you are applying in the same field in China and this particular field is currently needed due to market situation.
- “Entrepreneurial” and/or “innovative” talent. No exact specifications but start ups founders, patent holders are likely to fall into this list
- Young and outstanding talent under 35 years of age with a degree from a top 100 university or holder of PhD or higher from a Chinese university. This is highly ambiguous and may not be as easy to apply for as the point system awards points for the exact same condition and should therefore be not considered an immediate exemption for all holders of such certificates.
Essentially holders of the previous R visa may find they will most likely fall into this category in the new system.
To automatically qualify for tier B:
- Bachelor degree and two years of work experience in related fields.
- Previous work experience from a long list of certain international organizations.
- Outstanding graduates with Master degree or higher from Chinese universities
- Foreign language teachers who teach in their native language and have a Bachelor from a country of their native language and two years of work experience in education.
- Work experience can be exempted if they hold degrees in education or language related field or if they qualify to be teachers in their home countries or if they hold a TEFL certificate.
Many previous holders of Z working visa will find they will be able to reapply from this list, if they are from multinational companies, similarly English teachers should find themselves covered in here as well.
These individuals may be exempt from the points system and can directly apply for the specific categories.
All other potential foreign applicants who want to apply for a work visa will have to undergo a point system to see into which category they may fall. The exact point scheme is as follows:
Annual Salary (CNY)
350，000 – 450，000
250，000 – 350，000
150，000 – 250，000
70，000 – 150，000
50，000 – 70，000
Degree attained or internationally recognized certificates
Doctor or equivalent
Master or equivalent
Bachelor or equivalent
Work experience in related industry
For more than 2 years, every additional year add one more point
Annual Working Time (monthly)
6 – 9
3 – 6
Chinese related major bachelor or equivalent
North East China or industrial area
Middle or poor area in China
18 – 25
26 – 45
46 – 55
56 – 60
Top University Graduate or Fortune 500 work experience
Graduate from a Top100 university
Worked in a Fortune 500 company
Additional points credited from Provincial Government to attract foreign expertise
Shortage of foreign talent in local market may receive additional points at the provincial government’s discretion
This is the award system. Once you do qualify for a specific tier the application process will take approximately 20 working days. Once approved you will be given a Foreigner’s Work Permit card, which looks similar like a Chinese national’s ID card and could potentially be recognized as part of a legal identification in China, which is yet to be seen, once more work permits are converted to this new system.
This current system allows anyone even if they are over the age of 60, have no work experience or no Bachelors to apply for a work visa, so long they meet the other conditions, which was previously not possible under the older system before 2016.
- Applicant’s passport with 6 months validity remaining and at least 2 blank pages for visas (not all blank pages are designated for visas).
- 1 recent passport sized colored photograph with white background.
- One filled visa application form. Every space needs to be completed, using N/A whenever it is not applicable.
- Invitation Letter issued by duly authorized entity or Confirmation Letter of Invitation issued by relevant Chinese entities.
Process DurationRegular service time requires 30-45 working days
No express service available