Passport Image

China – Eligibility to Work

Over recent years, it has been relatively easy to obtain a work permit and a working visa in China.

In April of 2017, however, the Chinese government introduced new regulations governing immigration for expatriates coming to work in China.  The objective has been to standardize the system across the nation and to remove loopholes and opportunities for fraud. The impact has been to make it more difficult to obtain a working visa by narrowing the scope of eligibility.

Eight months in and the system is still encountering some issues. The online application system is still not very stable and it doesn’t allow much opportunity for explaining apparent anomalies to officials if the computer rejects an application

In practice the new steps in the process are:

  • The online application
  • The introduction of a points based assessment system for applicants
  • The introduction of three categories of applicant : Categories A, B and C

Category A being reserved for high talent, highly qualified applicants (the higher the degree the  greater the number of points), high salary. For example, in Shanghai if the assignee’s annual salary is more than 600,000rmb (US $91,000 approx) per annum and s/he guarantees that  the annual individual tax paid will be more than 100,000rmb, (US$15,000) s/he will be eligible for Category A.

Category B: standard category for most applicants

Category C for seasonal workers

The basic eligibility criteria which existed before remain :

The applicant must:

  • Be at a minimum age of 25 and no older than 65
  • Have a university diploma (minimum bachelors degree)
  • Have at least two years relevant work experience post graduation
The academic criteria are hard to meet for applicants who are highly qualified technically and have extensive experience but no university degree. Foreign invested manufacturing enterprises frequently have a need for technicians of this type, but they don’t meet the immigration criteria. While it is very difficult to have these applicants approved in major cities, in smaller cities, where the foreign investment is an important part of the local economy, local officials may accept these applicants provided that the employer puts in a very strong statement of support.
In Shanghai, if an assignee is eligible for category A, they are able to get the work permit even if s/he has no university degree.

The introduction of a points based assessment system is also part of the new policy, which helps to define eligibility and put more onus on the individual to demonstrate their eligibility, whereas in the past eligibility was rarely questioned provided that the applicant met the age, academic degree and work experience criteria.

This points system favours applicants who:

  • are Highly educated
  • are Highly paid
  • have worked in a Fortune 500 company 
  • have a high level of proficiency in the Chinese language

Spouses are not eligible to work unless they have obtained a sponsorship to work in their own right.