Work Permit Explained, Application Process in China (Tianjin)

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Before starting, you may want to read: The Foreigners Guide to Work/Hire Legally in China (Tianjin )

UPDATE MARCH 2019: Foreigners with salary not lower than 4 times the local average wage of the previous year can apply for B work permit, disregarding their degrees or relevant work experience.

After finding a job in China the first step will be to start the process of a work permit application.

The employee (+18 years old, in good health and without criminal record) shall gather the necessary document according to the type of working permit they will apply and submit them to employer.

The employer after finishing the process will send an invitation letter to the employee in order for him to apply at his home Chinese embassy for a work visa (Z) of 30 days.

That 30 days visa will be converted into a “resident permit” after arrival in China at the local public security bureau entry-exit administration.

- This article is not valid for Taiwanese and Hong-Kong citizens.

- That article is not valid for foreigners holding Chinese permanent resident permit (green cards).

- For people doing an internship in China please refer to this article.


1. What is a Foreign Work Permit?

2. 'A,B,C' categories explanation

    a. Categories of the A work permit

    b. Categories of the B work permit

    c. Categories of the C work permit

    d. Explaination of the point system

3. Application process:

    a. Documents to prepare and requirement.

    b. Steps and timing

4. Tianjin administrations address book (direct link)


-The Foreigners Guide to Work/Hire Legally in China (Tianjin )

-Work Permit Explained, Application Process in China (Tianjin)

-Work Permit, Resident Permit Renewal and Change (Tianjin)

-Work Permit, Change of Employer or City (Tianjin)

-Internship In China (Tianjin)

-Foreign Auto-Entrepreneurship and Freelancer in China (Tianjin)

-Beichaka, police registration, residency registration

-How to Calculate and Withhold IIT for Your Employees in China (external link)

-Social Security Law for Foreigners in China (external link)

-How to get your Pension Payments back when leaving China (external link)

——> Knowledge database

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1 What is a Foreign Work Permit?

The "Foreigner Work Permit" is the latest legal document for foreigners working in China. He is the merging of the previous Foreign Expert Certificate and Foreign Employment Permit.

The work permit is applied by a work unit or employer (a legally registered company in China) for an employee (a foreigner citizen).

It takes the form of a plastic card with a number that holds all registered information concerning the labor relationship between the employee and employer. Complete identification of the employer and employee, a labor contract that defines (labor place, labor time and length, work position and description, salary), employee job experience, diplomas, Chinese level, and other employees relevant information collected during the application, update, amendment process of the work permit with SAFEA.

In case of any modification of the employee situation, salary change, job change, address of the company changes, the work permit shall be updated with the SAFEA.

Regardless of the category of the work permit, all applicants shall be 18 years of age or older, without a criminal record and in good health.

2 A,B,C categories explanation


Work permits are divided into 3 categories: 'A' for professional talents, 'B' for common staff and 'C' for restricted staff. The general understanding is that 'A' categories workers are not limited by number in China, while 'B' workers are limited regarding the market needs and 'C' are subject to relevant local regulations and have their numbers more restricted.

Type 'A' work permits have access to shorter and easier application procedures, less paperwork, facilities to change city or employer. At the opposite 'C' work permits bearer shall be ready for stricter inspection and more restrictive and slower procedures.


Class 'A'

Foreign high-end talents (category A) refer to scientists, science and technology leaders, international entrepreneurs, special talents and other talents that meet the needs of China's economic and social development.

They are not subject to age and work experience conditions and are divided into the above categories

1 Selected by China government in the domestic talent introduction plan.

2 Internationally recognized talents, Nobel laureate, Awarded with international scientific or engineering prizes or medal, Academician, Chairman on an international scientific organization for Standardization (ISO), Olympic athletes,  Head of research laboratory, Senior Researcher, National research project leader or key member, Deputy editor and key member of international scientific publication, Prestigious cultural and literature awards owner, other type of international talents

3 Foreign talents in line with market-oriented encouraged positions: senior management or technical positions employed by large enterprises (Fortune 500, Chinese state project, International project). Senior management or technical position in a nationally recognized research center, International athletes.

4 Entrepreneur talents: Chairman company owners of companies with at least 500K USD capitalization, with outstanding tax records, trademark or patents or intellectual property. Senior managers or chairman of a company recognized by the local government as an innovative enterprise.

5 Less than 40 years old and engaged in postdoctoral research in university foreigners. 

Or any foreigners getting more than 85 points into the point system.


Class B

Workers in class B are generally not older than 60 years old and respect one of these conditions:

1 Foreigners with a bachelor degree and at least 2 years of experience after graduation working for foreign-invested companies

2 Holders of international general vocational skills or talents in urgent need

3 Foreign language teachers with proper credentials (master degree or teaching diploma + native language speaker + ESL)

4 Employees with salary higher than 4 times the local average wage of the previous year.

5 Specialized personnel who meet the requirements of the relevant state departments and personnel who implement the project

Or any foreigner getting between 60 and 85 points into the point system


Class C

Other foreigners that meet local regulations.

1: Foreigners in accordance with current labor regulation

2: Temporary and short-term work (less than 90 days)

3: Intergovernmental agreement for an internship, recently graduated students from Chinese or international universities that meet local conditions, special workers as sailors, fishermen... that need to stay on Chinese territory for short duration.


If you didn’t find your category, we invite you to ask for professional advice or to take the point test under


Explaination of the point system

*table from

3 Application process


Documents to prepare and requirements

All applications shall be made online and started by the employer on the SAFEA website at that address

Employer mandatory condition:

Be a Chinese legally registered company with no criminal or wrongdoing history.
Pay foreigners no less than local minimum wage, pay taxes and social security according to the amount on the contract registered with labor bureau.
Registered as a foreign labor unit on the SAFEA website.


Employee mandatory condition:

Have a non-criminal record and be at least 18 years old and in good health to be allowed to work in China, regardless of their application category.


Documents to prepare:

Document to submit will differ according to the category of your work permit. Most of the documents emitted by a foreign entity shall be notarized, legalized and authenticated.

Most common is the B work permit with a bachelor degree and 2 years of experience. You will have to prepare.

1. An application form provided by SAFEA

2. Your highest education degree diploma authentication.

Authentication is a process that can be done either in your home country

-going to an international notary public for notarization
-going to the legalization office of the ministry of foreign affairs
-going to your local Chinese embassy or consulate for final authentication.

or in China which is now offering an online authentication process; if you are in China with your diploma go to this address to start the process: Most major international universities are now supported.

3. Non-Criminal Record. A less than 180 days non-criminal record from home country, notarized, legalized and authentication by Chine embassy in the home country

4. Medical Certificate. The process is cheaper and easier while in China. If you are abroad, ask the local Chinese embassy for a list of recognized hospitals.


5. Labor Contract: Signed by you and stamped by the employer. It will be the only contract that is legally binding and valid for your work permit. Any other contract that you may sign after will have no legal value. Chinese version prevails. (Contact us for Tianjinlink for labor contract services)

6. 2 years of work experience letter, signed by your previous company manager, with his valid email and  phone number.

7. HSK degrees (If in possession)

8. ID photos

9. If an employee comes with family (wife and less than 18 year old child) he needs to prepare wedding certificate, birth certificate, family book or any recognized form of proof of family links. These must be notarized, legalized and authenticated.


Steps and timing

The employee prepares documents (5 - 15 days) and sends the electronic version to the employer. The employer then will start the online application (5-30 days).


The employer sends to employee an invitation (valid for 90 days) to apply for 30 days working visa (Z) in a Chinese embassy abroad. Please remember that some embassies may not allow non-residents to apply for working visa.


The employee arrives in China and applies within 48 hours for a police registration (bèichákǎ).


The employer remit to labor bureau original of document for inspection and delivers the work permit to the employee (some employer may want to keep it, in that case always keep a copy of it)


The employee and his family go through a medical checkup.


Employee, family, and employer go to local PSB to apply for a resident-permit that will cancel the previous (Z) work visa.


Family members are not allowed to take any form of employment in China with their resident permit. Only resident permit of the type work, 就业or工作 are allowed to work in China with the corresponding valid working permit.


*Coming to China with a 30 days work visa (Z) is mandatory at the exception of workers in Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing, or for A talents, or in case of special pre-approval by local authorities. In these cases, they can directly apply for a work permit and a resident-permit within China with their actual visa.


That means that in the majority of the cases if you start your application for a work permit in China you will have to leave the country and come back.

This article has been sponsored and written by Tianjin Link. With more than 15 years of experience, Tianjin Link is a Sino-French consultancy joint venture leader in providing business solutions for foreign enterprises.

You can contact them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Or by wechat: ptshilei

Incorporation - Taxes - Payroll - Accounting - Visa - Import/Export


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