How to Apply for a China (Z) Visa and Work Permit

Post Date: 29 Oct 2019

How to Apply for a China (Z) Visa and Work Permit

In order to better track foreign workers in the country, since 2017 the Chinese government has operated a work permit system.

In practice, this means that those who hope to work in China must first obtain a work permit, after which they can move onto the final stage of applying for and obtaining their work visa. This has added greater complexity to an already complex procedure.

The following article outlines exactly how to complete the new work permit and visa application process.

Three possible scenarios

At the start of this process, there are three possible scenarios you could be in:

  1. You are not currently in China
  2. You are in China – in Shanghai or Shenzhen
  3. You are in China – in any other city

Below is a quick outline of the steps you should take, depending on what your current situation is. An explanation of each major step is shown later in the article.

Scenario 1: If you are not currently in China

For those who are not currently in China, the procedure is as follows:

  1. Apply for work permit notification
  2. Apply for work visa approval at Chinese embassy
  3. Travel to China and apply for a work permit card
  4. Apply for residence permit

Scenario 2: If you are in Shanghai or Shenzhen (and will be working in one of those cities)

Shanghai and Shenzhen are special administrative areas which have streamlined their visa and work permit processing. You simply need to:

  1. Apply for new work permit card
  2. Apply for new residence permit

Scenario 3: If you are in China in any other city

In this case, you will need to leave China and complete the procedures at another embassy. Most commonly, people return to their own country, or go via a nearby embassy such as that of Hong Kong or Thailand.

  1. Apply for work permit notification
  2. Apply for work visa at embassy (in your own country or Hong Kong)
  3. Return to China and apply for work permit card
  4. Apply for new residence permit

Keep in mind that Chinese embassies in some countries will only process nationals of that country. If you are wanting to go via an embassy not in your own country, and are in doubt about this aspect, be sure to contact the embassy beforehand to check.

A more detailed explanation of each step

Most steps in the visa and work permit process can be quite involved. Below is an explanation of each, with an outline of what you need to do and what documents you’ll need.

Applying for Work Permit Notification

This step is most commonly completed by your employer. It is done via a Chinese government website written only in Chinese.

For your part of this step, you need to state the embassy you intend to apply for your visa.

Once the notification has been granted, the notice will be sent to that embassy. Be aware that you cannot change to another embassy after this point; you must go via the embassy you originally chose.

To complete this first stage, the following documents are required:

  • Passport (scanned copy)
  • Digital passport photo with white background
  • CV / résumé
  • Reference letter provided by your previous employer (original copy)
  • Non-criminal record certificate (original copy, legalised*)
  • Degree certificate (original copy, legalised*)
  • Employment contract for the job you intend to do

*To understand document legalisation, please see the following article: How to Authenticate Documents for China

Finally, please ensure your new employer has registered on the Foreigner Work Permit system.

Applying for a Chinese Work Visa

After successfully passing the work permit application, you will need to apply for a work visa. This is done at a Chinese embassy outside of China, unless you are based in Shenzhen or Shanghai and intend to work in one of those cities. In that case, you can apply directly in the city’s entry/exit bureau.

The following documents are required for work visa application: 

  • Passport (original)
  • Work permit notification (English and Chinese version)
  • Passport photo
  • A copy of your new employer’s contact details (and, in some cases, a copy of your employer’s business license)

Applying for a Chinese Work Permit Card

This is done at your local entry/exit bureau. The following documents are required:

  • Degree (original)
  • Non-criminal (original)
  • Medical report. Most jurisdictions have a hospital specialising in producing a medical report for people entering the work force. In major cities, there are hospitals offering this service in English. (Original copy of the report is required)
  • Evidence of work experience. This is required if you intend to work in a job that is not English teaching. You must provide a letter from your past employer stating that you worked for at least two years in the capacity of the job you are currently going for. 
    • If you are going to China as an English teacher, this is not required. Instead, you should provide an original copy of your English teaching certification (TEFL, TESOL, etc.)

Applying for a Residence Permit

At this point, your visa and work permit have been granted. You finally need to apply for a residence permit which grans you the right to stay permanently in China for the duration of your visa.

Your employer will normally complete this part of the process on your behalf; however there are some things you will need to provide.

  • Passport (original)
  • Work permit card (original)
  • Proof of Chinese residence. This is a slip sating your name, address and other details, which is obtained from your local police station in China.

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