The People’s Republic of China is a global business hub, and many international companies have branches and operations in the country. Because of this rapid growth, however, China is experiencing a skill shortage.

There is a high demand for skilled workers and professionals in many of its exciting industry sectors, including engineering, IT or tech, education, media and marketing, tourism, trade and commerce, and the food and beverage industry. So if you’re after career progression and a greater earning potential, China is an ideal place to work in.

Unless you’re only in China for tourism, family visit, business, or transit of no more than fifteen days, all foreign nationals are required to apply for a visa. For work purposes, you have to apply for a Chinese Work Visa (Z Visa). The complete information on mutual visa agreements with China is found in this list.

Furthermore, these regulations are for Mainland China only, and the Special Administrative Regions Hong Kong and Macau have their separate border requirements.

To work in this country, however, you may have to apply for a Work Visa in China first. You can read a detailed outline below.

Steps to Apply for a Chinese Work Visa

In general, your goal will be to acquire a Chinese work visa together with a residence permit to be able to live and work in China. You will start with a job offer, then the formal visa application, then your travel to China, and finally applying for a work-type residence permit.

Alternatively, foreigners already in China can skip a few steps and directly apply for a work permit and work-type residence permit in their area.

In both cases, you must have one permanent identifying number and a job and residence in China at the end of the whole process.

Step 1. Get a Foreigner’s Work Permit Notice

A Foreigner’s Work Permit Notice is a legal document for foreigners to work in China issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security. You acquire this by applying for work in China, where your Chinese employer will be the one to process a work permit on your behalf.

Your employer will initiate the process with the State Administration of Foreign Affairs (SAFEA) – an online management service for foreign work purposes. The accepting authority takes around 15 – 30 days to review them. Once approved, you will be classified into one of three foreign worker categories.

Either way, you must receive a Foreigner’s work permit notice, an approval document, and/or an invitation letter for foreigners.

Step 2. Complete Your Documentary Requirements

Accomplish a China Work Visa Application Form online, have it printed and signed. Prepare all the documents listed above, as well as other special requirements that your specific profession may require.

In case you want to bring your family with you, they can apply for an S Visa and have to show “proof of relationships”, such as a marriage certificate of the spouse or birth certificate of children.

Step 3. Submit Your Application to the Chinese Embassy

Take your work permit notice, application form, and other documents to the Chinese embassy, sub-embassy, or consulate in your country of residence. If you’re unsure where to go, you can view this list of Chinese Diplomatic missions worldwide.

Don’t forget to pay for the Chinese work visa application fees. It costs $140 for American citizens, and between $30 and $90 for citizens of other countries. The regular processing time is 4 – 5 working days.

Step 4. Travel to China and Register with the Police

Once your Z Visa is granted, you have 30 days to travel to China and acquire your work and residence permit. Then, upon arrival in China, you have 24 hours to temporarily register with the local police station. You will complete a “Temporary Accommodation Registration Form” where you declare your permanent residence in China. Prepare your passport, your Chinese address, and a copy of your landlord’s ID and contact number.

If you’re staying in a hotel or service flat, the management will be the one to register you as a foreign guest to the local police station. This procedure is mandatory to the management so you won’t need to visit the local police station anymore.

Step 5. Prepare for Medical Check-Up

If your medical report or physical exam record is translated to Chinese or authenticated by a Chinese company, there is no need for a second medical checkup. If not, you have to do another medical checkup from International Travel Healthcare Centers available in major cities in China.

Step 6. Get Your Official Work Permit

Within 30 days of your arrival in China, you can obtain your official China work visa from the local Labor Bureau. Your company or employer can also be the one to acquire this for you. Just prepare your passport, police registration, medical record verifications, and other employment documents. The processing time is 5 days.

Step 7. Acquire Your Official Residence Permit

Finally, you can now replace your Z-visa with a work-purpose residence permit. Visit the local Exit-Entry Administration Bureau to have all your documents reviewed. They may temporarily hold your actual passport and provide you a receipt instead. Nonetheless, the process only takes 7 working days.

Once your resident permit is granted, you are free to work and travel around China!

Documents Needed for a Chinese Work Visa

Foreigners applying for a Chinese Work Visa (Z Visa) must first satisfy the following eligibility requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years of age and in good health
  • Professionally skilled and qualified corresponding to current job vacancies
  • Have no criminal record
  • Have a job offer or specific employer

If you do find yourself eligible, you must prepare the following documentary requirements:

  • Signed passport with at least two blank pages, and valid for six more months
  • Photographs following the strict criteria of the Chinese Consulate
  • Letter of invitation from your sponsor, host, or employer, including important dates and the duration of stay
  • Proof of current address of residency
  • Proof of no criminal record
  • Fully-accomplished Visa Application Form
  • Physical Examination Record or Medical Report, authenticated by Chinese consulate or translated in Chinese
  • Diploma and other degree certificates for job qualification
  • For teaching positions, TEFL/TESOL certificate authenticated by the Chinese consulate


We hope that this article on how to apply for a work visa in China was helpful. If you’re interested in studying abroad make sure to check out the Available Programs for International Students!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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