China relaxes rules for employment of foreign graduates


Be Alert Asia Pacific: employment law e-bulletin


Three ministries in China have jointly issued a circular that permits foreigners who are fresh graduates to obtain employment in China, subject to certain conditions. Prior to this circular, foreigners who have less than two years of post-graduation work experience are not expressly permitted to work in China.

It is anticipated that work permits would be approved for foreigners who are fresh graduates if there is the need based on local industry demand and the individual's skillset. Together with the new work authorization policy on expats which we reported on late last year (click here to view), this signals China's move towards a more skills based regime for taking in foreign workers.


The Circular Regarding Permission of Outstanding Foreign College Graduates to Work in China was issued on January 6th, 2017 and effective on the same date.

Foreigners who have obtained a master degree or above from either a domestic or a well-known overseas university or college are now eligible to apply for a work permit within one year after their graduation. The foreigner must also satisfy all of the following criteria in order to be eligible to obtain a China work permit:

  • at least 18 years old and in good health;
  • no prior criminal record;
  • grades averaging 80% or B/B+ or above
  • no record of misconduct at campus (domestic universities only);
  • the degree obtained is relevant to the job being offered;
  • there is a confirmed employer and the salary offered is at or above the local average salary (varies by city); and
  • valid passport / international travel documents.

Application Documents

Eligible foreign graduates may submit their applications to the local labor administrations or foreign expert administrations. The application materials include but are not limited to:

  • the applicant's CV;
  • a report explaining the reason for employing the foreign graduate (including evidence of having advertised the position for at least 30 days);
  • offer letters (with salary specified);
  • medical reports;
  • no-criminal record certificate; and
  • academic records.

Work Permit

Applications by foreigners who are fresh graduates are subject to a quota system, so local government can decide how many graduates they may approve per year based on industry needs.

Successful applicants will obtain a work permit with a valid period of one year. Renewals can be sought, which will be valid for a maximum of five years for each renewal. Interestingly, an additional requirement stated for renewals is that the foreign graduate must have paid individual income taxes in full. This is not a stated criteria in the renewal of work permits for other foreigners.


While the new circular opens up the possibility of hiring foreigners who are fresh graduates to work in China, this is subject to certain conditions. It remains to be seen how difficult it would be to obtain approval in practice. The circular also complements the new work authorization policy that we reported on last year (click here to view) which signals a move towards a skills-based regime for approving foreigners to work in China.