On June 7, the European Chamber of Commerce announced that Shanghai would no longer require an invitation letter, or a PU letter, for foreigners and their dependents. This marks an essential change in Chinese restrictions for foreign workers. Importantly, it eases international travel requirements set in place more than two years ago.
The summer of 2022 has seen China open up again after several months of city-wide lockdowns in the country. These periods off lockdown were especially hard in Shanghai. However, the number of international flights allowed has increased, and quarantine time for some travelers has been shortened to seven days.
This article will summarize the PU letter, who is now exempt from requirements, and the current situation for businesses entering China.
The PU Letter: What Is It?
The PU invitation letter was first introduced in March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a document issued by the Chinese Government Department of Foreign Affairs office when applying for China visas.
The PU (PuTong or “ordinary”) letter is the first step in acquiring a business visa or work visa for foreign nationals.
The application process for PU letters is not a simple one. Individuals or agencies cannot apply by themselves; only employers and businesses can. Before an employer or business can request the invitation letter on behalf of their employee, they must first apply for and secure permission from local authorities to be able to employ foreigners legally.
As with all official documentation in China, the procedures to follow are complex and not always clear. Minor mistakes can lead to serious consequences such as exit bans.
These letter are typically issued via the Chinese embassy in the applicant’s home country. This is another problem as many of these embassies have been closed or overworked during the pandemic.
Due to these restrictions, the PU letter was typically only issued to essential employees of large companies. This usually meant those in crucial management positions and other specialized workers.
The letter was first introduced in 2020. Its supposed reason was to limit the flow of international traffic for health and safety reasons due to the pandemic. In September 2021, the regulation was eased slightly. This allowed spouses and family members of those in China to apply for a PU letter and enter the country.
2022 has seen many cities in China struggling with the Omicron variant and the flood of new cases. Shanghai was on city-wide lockdown for two months alongside other cities such as Shenzhen and Jilin. Regions regularly still lockdown for several days or weeks to control the spread of the pandemic.
Travel became extremely limited, and inbound international flights weren’t available for most travelers.
However, the number of daily cases finally began to drop at the end of May. On June 1, the Shanghai lockdown was officially lifted. Since then, other COVID-19 restrictions in the city and throughout the country have also decreased.
Employees can now return to companies for on-site work. In addition, restaurants are re-opening, and airlines are increasing flight schedules as well. There were as many as 22 international flights each week in July.
China also lifted its pandemic visa ban on India on June 13. This allows Indian employees and their families, to apply for visas and return to live and work in China.
Some Restrictions Remain
It is vital to note that there are still many guidelines in place for foreign nationals seeking to travel to China. Changes may occur on short notice and be otherwise unclear. For this reason, it is wise to check with your embassy for updated information before making any travel plans.
Each city also maintains its own specific rules around visas and quarantine requirements. The number of quarantine days on arrival (14 days) has decreased in most major cities.
However, flare-ups in case numbers can cause restrictions to change or tighten suddenly such as with public transport. In these cases, new lockdowns or travel restrictions may be put in place.
It’s best to stay aware of possible shifts in the situation and remain adaptable, whatever new rules might be implemented.
Hiring in China: How INS Global Can Help You With PU Letter and Other Entry Requirements
Before the pandemic, entering the Chinese market might have already seemed daunting. With many COVID regulations still in place, expanding to China or Hong Kong has become even more challenging.
Uncertainties around legal documentation can cause employees to become unsatisfied or suffer mental health difficulties that affect their performance. Even the visa application process can be a source of unnecessary stress.
Luckily INS Global is uniquely skilled to help you set up your business in China and hire talented workers. INS Global has operated in China for over 15 years since its foundation in Shanghai in 2006. Our staff and legal team are very familiar with every nuance of local labor laws and visa requirements for foreign nationals.
We can ensure the paperwork required for your employee work permits complies with the ever-changing rules around hiring overseas workers.
Our local guidance counselors and translators have an intimate understanding of Chinese culture and best business practices. We can ensure that your entrance into the Chinese market is free from mistaken communication and errors.
INS Global offers PEO (Professional Employment Organization) and EOR (Employer of Record) services in China. We provide payroll and tax solutions, company setup, employee onboarding, and more to improve the way you work in China.
Contact us today to give your company the boost it needs to succeed.