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Employment of Foreign Nationals in China, Obtaining Residence Permit

06th July 2010
By Tom Lee in Immigration Law
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Foreigners wishing to live and work in China must follow strict procedures that involve much paperwork and different levels of state bureaucracy. The complexity of the procedures is heightened by the fact that the names for various permits and certificates are often confused and used interchangeably. All foreign nationals wishing to work in China should hold a work (Z) visa for entry into China. After entering China, they must then obtain a work permit and a residence permit. Failure to do so is an offence leading to possible fines and deportation. (By "expat" here, we mean foreign nationals)
The rules are of interest to foreign nationals in general, but bear in mind that different rules apply to those working in embassies, consulates, with the United Nations or other similar international organizations. Different rules also apply for citizens of Taiwan, Hong-Kong and Macau.
Verification should be sought for the exact documentation required at each step of any application for permits or certificates. This is because documentation requirements tend to change, and will vary depending on the employee's intended location in the PRC. Also be advised that cooperation between the employee and the employer is essential at every stage of the process, as both are required to submit numerous documents to the relevant authorities for the employee to work legally in China.

Criteria for exapts taking up employment in China
(1) be at least 18 years of age and in good health;
(2) Possesse the professional skills and working experience required for the intended position;
(3) have no criminal record;
(4) have a confirmed employer; and
(5) have a valid passport or other international travel document.

Application procedures for hiring an expat
Generally, there are five steps for obtaining all official working and residencing documents for expat workers.

Step One. Obtaining Employment License
The employer, a foreign-invested enterprise or a domestic company, needs to apply to local Labor Bureau for an Employment License for the expat. The labor bureau will check whether the employer is qualified to hire and expat, and whether the expat is qualified to be hired. The following documents are required for submission by the employer to the labor bureau:
- Completed application forms;
- Letter of intent to hire;
- Letter for explaining why the services of the expat employee are required in China;

- Approval Certificate of the employer;
- Business License of the employer;
- Copy of the expat employee's passport or other international travel documents;
- Copy of the expat employee's resume;
- Evidence of the state of good health of the employee confirmed by a medical examination; and
- other documents as required.

Upon approval by the labor bureau, an Employment License will be issued to the employer.
For representative offices (RO) in China, there is no need to apply for an employment permit in hiring a foreigner as its chief representative or representative. The employer must, however, seek approval from the local Administration of Industry and Commerce (AIC) in China. The authority will issue a Working Card for the expat representative.

Step Two. Obtaining Invitation Letter for work visas
With the Employment License, the employer needs to apply to the appropriate approval authority for an official invitation letter. The following documents are required to Beijing Commerce Bureau (if the employer applys in Beijing):
- Approval Certificate of the employer;
- Business License of the employer;
- Employment License; and
- Other documents required.

The employer needs to send the original Invitation Letter together with the Employment Permit to the expiate employee. Note only foreign nationals need the Invitation Letter because they need it to apply for work visa. People from Hongkong / Macau / Taiwan do not need the Invitation Letter, they will go through different formalities to obtain Chinese "visa".

Step Three. Obtaning Work Visa and enter into China
With the Employment License and the Invitation Letter obtained from the previous steps, the expat employee can apply for Chinese work visa at a Chinese embassy /consulate or China visa office in Hongkong. In additional to the two documents, Chinese visa authorities may also require you to provide:
- Passport;
- Photos;
- Application forms;
- Medical checkup reports.

Upon receipt of the Chinese work visa, the expat can enter into China.

Step Four. Obtaining Employment Permit
Within 15 days of entering China, the employer must apply for an Employment Permit from the local labour department by submitting the following documents:
- Approval Certificate of the employer;
- Business License of the employer;
- Completed application form;
- Original Employment License;
- Employment Contract;
- Original Medical Checkup Record (issued by the Sanitation and Anti-Epidemic Department);
- Origal passport;
- Photos; and
- Other required documents.

Normally the Employment Permit is valid for one year, although the employment contract term could be longer.

Step Five. Obtaining Residence Permit
The employor must report to the local Public Security Bureau (PSB) within 30 days of the expat employee entering China. Failing to apply for the residence permit within the 30 days will be fined 500 RMB for each delayed day and maximum fine is 5000 RMB. The following documents are required for submission for applying a residence permit:
- Approval Certificate of the employer;
- Business License of the employer;
- Completed application form;
- Employment Permit;
- Physical Examination Record (issued by the Sanitation and Anti-Epidemic Department)
- Tempory Residence Registration Certificate;
- Passport, and
- Photos.

Tommy China Business Consulting based on ShenZhen China can offer Work Visa and Residence Permit application service to foreign nationals . We are familiar with the application procedures and the applicable chinese law. We can look after the issues and complications of obtaining work visa and residence permit
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