China: New work authorization policy on expats

Be Alert Asia Pacific: employment law e-bulletin


The State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs (SAFEA) has released the Pilot Implementation Plans for Foreigners' Work Authorization Policy (Plans), which is effective from this October until next March in 10 locations, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Tianjin, etc. In the wake of the pilot implementation, the new work authorization policy will take effect nationwide from next April. The major purpose is simplify and unify the application process and improve data sharing on expats.

The highlights of the new policy and the Plans are as follows:

  • Integrating Two Permits into One

Under the new policy, the Employment Permit and Expert Permit are to be combined into a single Work Permit. Starting from the trial stage, the work permit will be issued first in the trial locations and then nationwide when the new policy is implemented nationwide. Expats who still hold a valid Employment Permit and Expert Permit may change to a Work Permit.

  • Categorization of Expats

According to the Plans, expats are categorized into three types:

Type A: High-end foreign talents, who qualify for introduction plans, are scientists, technology experts, international entrepreneurs or talents with specialities.

Type B: Foreign professionals, who meet the score assessment, under the age of 60, hold at least a bachelor's degree and have 2 years' working experience. Certain requirements may be relaxed if necessary.

Type C: Foreign employees, who engage in temporary, seasonal, non-technology or service-related work.

The SAFEA further limits the number of the above three types. Type A are encouraged to work in China, and thus there will be no restriction on their numbers. However, Type B are floatable to market demand, whereas Type C are subject to a quota.

Score Based Assessment

Pursuant to the Plans, a score based assessment will be carried out for foreign applicants. Applicants may be differed with distinguished score by their education, working experience, salary awarded from the sponsoring entity, mandarin proficiency, working locations in China, age, etc.

Local authorities are at their discretions to provide special standards to solicit foreign talents based on local requirements. In this connection, encouragement scores will be awarded to qualified applicants.

Online Applications

Companies should now create their online accounts with the SAFEA and then submit foreign employee applications via the online systems. As the applications are individual-oriented, more detailed information is required, such as criminal records information and academic credentials to be issued and legalized in the home country, along with medical documents.

Nonetheless, given that Type A are the most welcomed expats in China, they are afforded some preference. For instance, during the application process, they should not be required to submit hard copies of criminal records information or academic credentials.

Upon online applications being approved by the authorities, expats should apply for an entry visa (the R or Z visa) before entry into China and a residential permit locally after their entry.

As the new policy is still in the trial stage, minor adjustments or updates may be expected before the policy being carried out nationwide. We will keep you updated.

The new work authorization policy signals a new phase of China's expats employment management. Undoubtedly, the relevant laws and rules will be updated accordingly to be in alignment going forward.