Doing business in China via remote control is difficult– you need an employee you trust to be your local eyes and ears. Fortunately, a new “user-friendly” platform is simplifying the work permit application process. Since its implementation, foreigners who are eligible to take up work in China are divided into 3 categories based on their level of expertise. Let’s take a look.
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Work Permits in China
Paperwork in China can be quite a headache. It is time-consuming, confusing, and written in Chinese. In the past, international employees-to-be in China had to deal with a laborious collection of letters and filling out endless amounts of tedious documents until they received the coveted visa.
Fortunately, a reform launched in 2017 has facilitated this process. Today, the Alien Employment Visa and the Foreign Expert Permit (commonly known as Z and R visas, respectively) have been merged into a one work permit. The big news is that this streamlined and fast-tracked application process can be completed online.
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A classification of talents
From 2017, foreign employees in China carry the same single work permit. However, these permits are divided into 3 categories determined by their level of expertise:
- A – high level of expert
- B – professional worker
- C – temporary / seasonal non-technical worker
Qualifications for each category:
Two different methods have been established to determine the qualifications criteria:
- A grading system
- A list of prerequisites
It is important to remember that the first condition that must be met in order to be able to work in China is to have a local employer who wishes to hire you. Without it, and without supportive documents, one cannot apply for a Chinese work permit.
The scoring system
To gauge the applicant’s qualification, the system takes into account a number of parameters such as years of experience, educational background, a knowledge of the Chinese language, age, employment location, etc. The points assigned to each category are summed together and grant the applicant’s status:
- 85 – A level (held by nearly 16% of expats in China)
- 60-84 – B level (held by nearly 61% of expats in China)
- 59 – C level (held by nearly 22% of expats in China)
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A list of preconditions
In addition to the grading system, a number of preconditions define whether an applicant falls under tier A, B or C. Once applicants meet any of the required conditions, they are accredited the equivalent permit level. Here are a few of the conditions attached to each tier:
- Occupied a key position at a Fortune 500 company
- Applying for a senior position in a WFOE (chairman, legal representative etc.)
- A bachelor degree holder with at least 2 year of relevant experience
- Internationally recognized with a skill that is in high demand in the Chinese market
- Applying for a short-term position (less than 90 days)
- Young interns
NOTE: Work permits applications and extensions in Shanghai are now being submitted online, as part of new regulations that have been issued during the Corona pandemic.
What’s in it for you?
A higher level comes with greater benefits!
The main factor affected by the level of work permit is the ease of application. As expected, applicants eligible for A level enjoy a “green channel”, which means substantially fewer documents to submit and shorter process completion times.
The lower the permit level, the harder the application. The process is more controlled for B level holders, and much stricter for C’s. In addition, the validation period for B and C level is shorter.
The enhanced platform’s main intention is to ease the work permit application process, both for the foreign applicant and the local employer. Moreover, it is a unique way for the government to signal that it wishes to attract and welcome more A level experts who can contribute to the Chinese economy.
So which category do you fall under?
Last updated: January 2021
Regulations in China change relatively frequently. For the most up-to-date regulations, please check in with us.