How to Work in China for Foreigners


July 24, 2020

The World’s Largest Market

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work in the world’s largest economy? China is globally recognized as a hub of success and growth– many of the world’s most prominent international companies have offices based in China. Check out this Alariss post on working in China as a foreigner to get an overview of the required documents and overall application process. We hope that following this guide will help you figure out the next steps to advance your career and make a smooth transition to living in China.



First, let’s talk about the three documents that you will need for your application to work in China. These include:

  1. Work permit
  2. Z-visa (the Chinese work visa)
  3. Residence permit

The work permit is the document that allows you to be legally paid by a Chinese company. This is different from a visa, and you must first obtain the work permit in order to apply for the Z visa.

The Z-visa is a single-entry visa that you must hold in order to enter China, and it will inform the Chinese government that your goal is to work and receive a salary in the country. You will not hold onto the Z-visa for long: after you arrive in China, you will trade in the visa for a residence permit after you follow the appropriate process.

The residence permit gives you the right to live in China for one year at a time, and it allows unlimited exit and re-entry into the country. This is essentially your visa inside of China, and it is pasted into your passport exactly like a visa.


Application Process

A. Apply from outside China for a work permit

Once you have an employer that wants to hire you, it’s time to start the application process. First, you need to get a work permit from the Chinese government, and you’re going to need to supply a bunch of documents. This is likely the most difficult part of the application process, and you may need to communicate frequently with your employer during this time. The materials you will need are:

  1. Scan of your passport 
  2. Resume with education and work experience from university onward
  3. Medical examination report at an authorized hospital in your home country
  4. Background check authenticated by Chinese embassy or Consulate in your home country
  5. Bachelor’s degree or higher diploma authenticated by Chinese embassy or consulate
  6. Recent passport-size photo
  7. Reference letter from a previous employer
  8. TEFL or TESOL certificate authenticated by Chinese embassy or consulate (only applicable for teaching positions)

You will likely need to mail these documents to your employer in China for them to complete the application for you and send you an employment permit. If not, you may want to look at Chinese agencies such as Visa in China.  If everything goes smoothly and your application is approved, you are ready to apply for the Z-visa.

B. Apply for a Z-visa from a Chinese embassy or consulate

You can now visit a Chinese embassy or consulate to apply for your work visa. Here is the complete list of Chinese diplomatic missions around the world. You should bring the following documents:

  1. Actual passport
  2. Completed visa application form (should be filled out online in advance and printed)
  3. Recent passport-size photo
  4. Work permit provided by the employer in China

Mail these documents to the closest Chinese embassy or consulate, and you will receive in return your passport with the Z-visa in it. With your passport and visa in hand, the next step is to enter China!

C. Accommodation registration with police within 24 hours of arrival in China

If you stay at a hotel, you may be able to register there. But if you are staying with a Chinese resident, you must register at the local police station that governs the area. The following documents need to be brought to the police station:

  1. Actual passport
  2. The housing contract;
  3. A copy of the landlord’s ID and phone number. The police may call the landlord to make sure you are truly living at the apartment, or they may even ask that the landlord shows up at the station with you.

According to the Chinese government, registration at the local police station should be done within 24 hours of entering China.

D. Medical verification as soon as possible after entry into China

For the most part, Chinese authorities don’t accept an English version of a medical report from other countries. You will likely need to get a physical examination report within China at one of these medical centers for foreigners. These are the things you will need to bring for a Chinese medical checkup:

  1. An original medical checkup from your country (if it is partially completed)
  2. Cash fee (could cost up to 600RMB)
  3. Passport or ID photo

With the physical examination report and police accommodation registration in hand, all that is left is for your employer to provide your employment documentation, and then you can receive your residence permit.

E. Apply for the Residence Permit within 14 days of entering China

Finally, the end goal: a residence permit. To obtain this, you must go in person to the local Public Security Bureau center, bringing these documents:

  1. Actual passport
  2. Police accommodation registration form
  3. Physical examination report
  4. Employment documentation
  5. Cash fee

The processing time for the residence permit will be approximately two weeks, so apply as soon as possible before your Z-visa expires. The Public Security Bureau will hold onto your passport during this period and will give you a receipt that can serve as a replacement passport during this time.

Now that you have obtained the residence permit, you are, for most intents and purposes, now considered a resident of China. You are free to travel around China and can come and go as often as you wish, without needing any extra paperwork. Congratulations, now go make your dreams a reality!



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