Residence Permit Made Easier for Foreigners in China

Foreigners especially those with a work residence permit in China continue to await the lifting of the travel ban on foreign nationals amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, China has made every effort to relax the visa requirement for foreigners since last year.

Read our previous article about Chinese Visa and Immigration Policies during COVID-19

In 2019, China implemented relaxed visa measures that could help many foreigners seeking opportunities in China. Here is a recap of the changes adopted in the recent policies.

Extending work residence permit for foreigners

Highly skilled foreign professionals have a chance to apply for permanent residency in China given certain qualifications. These include:

  • Working in China for four consecutive years;
  • Earning more than the average local wage;
  • Paying not less than 20 percent of standard income tax.

These foreign professionals also include those of Chinese descent who have a doctoral degree and have at least six months of actual stay in China. Furthermore, their spouses and children can also apply for a permanent residence permit.

Work residence permit for foreign employees and experts

The following workers may apply for work residence permits for up to five years:

  • Employees of startups in key industries;
  • Foreign workers with in-demand skills;
  • Foreigners employed at Chinese businesses for two consecutive years.

On the other hand, invited foreign experts and scholars can convert their port visas to a work residence permit valid for less than five years.

Foreigners who have obtained approval for long-term work visas can also recommend other foreigners to apply via the expanded reference system.

Expanded scope of work visa and residence permit

More foreigners will now have better employment opportunities as the scope of eligibility for a long term work visa has been expanded. These include:

  • Foreigners working in higher education or businesses that support entrepreneurship;
  • Recent graduates from overseas institutions;
  • Those who are doing an internship in China.

A foreigner who has been granted a work-related residence permit for two consecutive times (one year or longer) can apply for a residence permit of five years. Moreover, foreigners who are already in China and have gotten a job offer will no longer have to leave Mainland China. Previously, qualified applicants have to apply for their work visa at the overseas Chinese consulate or embassy. This means that foreign graduates of Chinese universities do not need to go back home to apply for a Z-visa. After getting the work permit notice letter (WPL), they can apply for the work visa directly while in China.

Read more about China Work Permit Lost? What to Do and How to Update Your Details

Although a qualified foreigner can apply for a residence permit for five years, it is not clear whether a work permit will also be granted. The said work permit will be administered by the National Foreign Experts Bureau.

Internship in China

Overseas interns hired by ‘well-known companies’ can apply for a one-year internship visa in China. However, this is not the same for interns coming to China under intergovernmental arrangements. According to the rule, they will have to apply for a work-related residence permit rather than an internship visa.

Revised rules on permanent residency in China

On February 27, 2020, China’s Ministry of Justice released a draft regarding the policies on granting a “green card” to foreigners. Based on the proposed conditions, a foreigner with the following core qualifications can apply for permanent residency in China.

  • With an outstanding contribution to China and has a key position in major development industries;
  • Has good tax and credit records and stable investment conditions relevant to China’s foreign investment laws;
  • Needs to reunite with family in China; aged 60 years old and a dependent of a Chinese family or a foreign family having permanent residency status in China.

To see the full details of eligibility for permanent residency, read through the Notice of the Ministry of Justice.

Also, check out our previous article on How to get a Permanent Residence Permit in China


China’s National Immigration Administration has enforced the above rules since August 2019 and facilitated the exit-entry procedures for foreign talents. However, the easing of rules on permanent residency in China has caused concerns among Chinese citizens. According to the report, Chinese citizens are worried about losing job opportunities and competing for public welfare resources. Locals expect these problems to occur if more foreigners will be granted permanent residency.

On the other hand, relaxed visa measures indicate a better work environment for foreign employment. Furthermore,  the newly drafted rules on immigration to China may be welcoming for foreigners planning to settle down in China.

Contact us

Whether you are an employee or employer in China, if you want further assistance regarding visa matters, you may email us at contact@ or call our offices in different China locations. Also, visit our tax and accountancy page to see more details of our specialist services.

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