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CHINA – Trial of Short-Term Work Permits from January 2015

A nationwide trial of a new short term work permit procedure in the People’s Republic of China will come into effect on 1 January 2015.

The procedures clarify which activities will require short-term work permits instead of business visas for employment of less than 90 days. Previously, as long as a foreign national remained on home payroll and contract, work in China for up to 90 days was generally permissible on business visitor status. The new procedure makes it clear that this is no longer possible where the foreign national will be visiting a business partner (i.e. client or supplier), although note that intra company short term assignments may still be conducted on business status.

Which Activities Will Require a Short-Term Work Permit for up to 90 Days?

Under the new procedures, foreign nationals who intend to participate in the following activities in China for up to 90 days are required to apply for a work permit:

  • Visiting a business partner in China to complete a technical or scientific project, or to provide management or guidance;
  • Physical training in a sports club (including trainers and athletes);
  • Shooting a film (including commercials and documentaries);
  • Participating in a fashion show (including runway or print models);
  • Participating in a commercial performance; and
  • Other activities may require short-term work authorisation, subject to the discretion of the immigration authority.

Which Activities Will Not Require a Short-Term Work Permit for up to 90 Days?

Foreign nationals entering to participate in the below listed activities for fewer than 90 days are not required to apply for a work permit, and can enter on an M visa (for the first three types of activities) or an F visa (for volunteers):

  • Providing maintenance, assemblies, testing, taking apart, guidance or training for equipment or machinery purchased;
  • Providing guidance, supervision or inspection of a project;
  • Short-term assignment to a subsidiary, branch office, or rep office;
  • Volunteers without pay or paid by overseas organisations.

Short Term Work Permit Application Procedure

The host entity needs to first apply for an employment licence and “Approval for Short-Term Employment for Foreigners Working in P.R. China” at the local labour bureau, and then apply for a Z visa invitation letter.

The foreign national must then apply for a Z visa to enter China. An applicant whose employment is for less than 30 days will receive a Z visa for 30 days with a note stating that they are allowed to work only within the period of time indicated in the approval.

An applicant whose employment is for more than 30 days will receive a Z visa with a note to apply for a 90-day work-type residence permit upon entry.

Timing is difficult to estimate as the procedures are new, but employers should allow at least four to six weeks’ lead time.

Extensions of Stay

The new short term work authorisations can be granted for up to 90 days.

Foreign nationals obtaining the new short-term work permit will not be able to remain in China beyond the approved period, and the approval cannot be renewed.


The trial procedures implement the 90-day work permit rules from the recent Exit-Entry Administration Law and Regulations.

The procedures were announced on 6 November 2014 in Notice No.78, issued jointly by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Public Security, and the Ministry of Culture.

Action Items

  • If your business has plans to send employees to client or supplier sites in China for up to 90 days, in 2015, note that those employees may now need work permits (not just business visas) in order to remain compliant with the new trial procedures;
  • Employers of short-term foreign workers in the relevant categories should begin the employment licence, work approval and Z visa application process at least four weeks in advance;
  • Employers should also plan projects and assignments to take into account that the new short-term work permits are non-renewable;
  • Be aware that this is a trial implementation and, as such, the details may change, be interpreted variously by different government offices, and may not take permanent effect.

This news alert was prepared using information provided by Fredrikson & Byron and Lehman, Lee & Xu.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this immigration alert has been abridged from laws, court decisions, and administrative rulings and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding the applicability of this information, please contact Peregrine © 2021 Peregrine Immigration Management Ltd.