New policies of work permits and residence permits for expats in China

There is no doubt about it that China has become one of the biggest and fastest growing economies in the world, who has been increasingly attracting talent from all over the world. However, China is still a country with very low (possibly the lowest due to the colossal population) international population, 0.06%, which is far less than the average number of 1.6% in developing countries, let alone the 10% in developed countries.

In order to attract more international talent, China has launched the Recruitment Program of Global Experts since the year 2008. More preferential policies have been introduced to international students and professionals since. On 13th March 2017, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security of the People’s Republic of China revised the Administrative Regulations on the Employment of Foreigners In China ( in Chinese “《外国人在中国就业管理规定》”, hereinafter referred to as ‘the Regulations’), which intend to streamline the applications and administrative procedures of work permits and residence permits for expats in China.

Given the new policies and changes, how to apply for a work permit and a resident permit in China?

In summary, the below steps will need to be followed in order to obtain work permits and residence permits in China. When referring to China in this article, we exclude Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and Taiwan.

I.        Set up an account online by the Chinese employer;
II.        Apply for Work Permit Notice (《外国人工作许可通知》);
III.        Apply for Z-visa to enter China;
IV.        Apply for Work Permit (《工作许可证》); and
V.        Apply for Residence Permit.

We will further elaborate on the above-mentioned steps in this article below.

I.        Set up an account online

Upon the confirmation of your employment by your Chinese employer, your Chinese employer will need to firstly set up an account in the online application system by submitting certain documents. For foreign companies who have been established in China for a long time, this online account probably has been created already.

II.        Apply for Work Permit Notice

When the online account is ready, the next step is the application for the Work Permit Notice, which is a crucial step for granting the approval to work in China. A series of documents will need to be submitted online in order to receive the Work Permit Notice, including your CV, your employment contract, your highest diploma obtained, reference letters from your former employers, no-criminal record certification, etc. Some of the documents will need to be notarized by a Notary Public in the Netherlands and then legalized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and subsequently the Chinese Embassy in the Hague. Meanwhile, you will also be required to conduct a health check (validity of six months) at a designated medical institution either in China or in the Netherlands.

III.        Apply for Z-visa to enter China

Provided the Work Permit Notice is successfully granted, you will need to apply for the working visa (Z-visa) at the Chinese Embassy in The Hague within a certain period of time. Within the validity of the Z-visa, you can enter the Chinese border for the purpose of working. It is suggested to enter China with the Z-visa as soon as it is received due to the fact that two more steps in China within the validity of the Z-visa still need to be completed.

IV.        Apply for Work Permit

At the moment when you are in China, please do remember to register yourself immediately with the local Public Security Bureau (“公安局”). You can either register via the hotel where you stay or at the local Public Security Bureau where your apartment/house locates. Late registration might lead to a warning from the Public Security Bureau or in a worse scenario a monetary penalty. Upon the completion of the registration, a registration certificate will be issued to you on the spot.

When you are in China, with the assistance of your employer, you will need to proceed to apply for your Work Permit right away at the local Human Resources and Social Security Bureau (“人力资源和社会保障局”) within fifteen days following your entry date. While you are waiting for your Work Permit and within the validity of your Z-visa, you are permitted to work in China.

The validity of the Work Permit is normally for one year and you will need to apply to renew it 30 days prior to the date of expiration.

A sample of the Work Permit is presented below:


   V.        Apply for Residence Permit

The last step of the entire procedures is to apply for your Residence Permit at local Public Security Exit-Entry Administration (“出入境管理局”), which can only take place after you are granted the Work Permit. A series of documents (more or less the same as the ones you submitted in the previous steps) will still need to be submitted for examination. Ideally you should receive your Residence Permit before the expiration of your Z-visa (normally 90 days), if you experience delays, it is possible to extend your Z-visa in China. The validity of the Residence Permit is normally in line with the validity of your Work Permit.

A sample of the Resident Permit (a sticker in your passport) is presented below:

This article provides you with a general understanding on how it works in China to apply for a Work Permit and a Residence Permit for a foreign employee, please be kindly noted that the policies and procedures might vary slightly from city to city. The abovementioned procedures and requirements apply to general foreign employees who intend to work in China, if you are qualified as foreign high-class talents or foreign expert talents, preferential policies will apply.

If you have any question on work permits and resident permits applications in China, please do not hesitate to contact Victor Zheng at +31610989333 or or Joost Vrancken Peeters at +31620210657 or