A Guide to Hiring Foreigners in China with INS Global

How to Hire a Foreigner in China: Complexities and Conditions

How to Hire a Foreigner in China: Complexities and Conditions

July 11, 2017


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Key Takeaways

  1. The knowledge of the Chinese HR staff is extremely important.
  2. Internships for foreigners are theoretically restricted.

This article describes the complexities found by foreign companies when hiring foreign workers in China.

It is no surprise that in order to be able to legally work in China, just like any other country, a foreigner will need a valid working visa. China is infamous for its complex visa system and to make matters worse, the requirements continue to constantly change multiple times per year. 

The relevant legal information for both applicants and employers also continue to undergo modifications by the Chinese government. In order to avoid the complexities of hiring a foreigner in China and process relevant steps in an efficient manner, one must maintain to be updated and well informed.

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Quick Tips for Employers

  • Know Chinese Labor law and the various criteria dictated by the PRC national government.
  • Understand how the local labor rules in the location your business will be located are interpreted that sometimes conflict with the PRC.
  • Get some feet on the ground and ear to the pavement in learning what the local labor unions are looking for in hiring foreign workers.
  • Follow the steps to hiring a foreign worker religiously and keep all the paperwork, licenses, and visa requirements in order.
  • Once hired, the continued employment of a foreign worker is subject to many procedural rules and renewal of the various licenses and documentation that were initially required for getting hired in the first place.
  • Develop an acute awareness of the dynamic and fluid nature of the Chinese labor laws. Educate your HR department and stay current with all the rumors on the street and officially declared changes that are being considered.

Conditions to Hire a Foreigner in China

First of all, although some conditions may differ depending on the city, these are the basic conditions a foreign applicant must meet in order to even be eligible for consideration by an employer in China. The candidate must…

  • be in good health and over the age of 18.
  • possess the skills and work experience require for the job.
  • have no criminal record.
  • have a specified employer.
  • hold a valid passport or any other valid travel document in lieu of passport.

Only by meeting the conditions above, may a foreign applicant be eligible to apply for a job opening in China. 

Nonetheless, unfortunately there are further obstacles awaiting both applicants and employers even after the employee’s full qualification.  Here are four common issues that both Chinese companies and foreign companies will encounter when hiring a foreigner in China.

1. Internships are Restricted

Internships for foreigners are theoretically restricted. The main issue regarding internships are that the status, “intern” does not officially exist in the Chinese governmental system. 

Therefore, if a company is willing to employ foreign interns, the candidates must already be studying at a Chinese university under an X-1 Long Term Student Visa. The student must receive permission from his or her university, and then apply to the Public Security Bureau Entry-Exit Administration for a notation on their residence certificate.

If someone comes to China specifically for the internship, it is also possible to do it legally with an M-Visa (Business or Trade Purpose) but the maximum duration of an M-Visa is 90 days. Cases occurred in previous years where firms have been under surveillance by authorities that suspected them of hiring foreign workers/interns without proper legal authorization. 

Using foreign interns on X-visas without having them apply at their school and PSB is strictly illegal. Despite the fact that hiring an intern illegally on an X-visa carries little risk, hiring interns on an L-Visa (Tourist Visa) is considerably more subject to risk for both parties and will be fined if caught.

2. Foreign Expert Certificates & Foreign Working Permits

Foreign Expert Certificates and Foreign Working Permits are two different documents that are administered by different government offices.  These work permits are granted by the labor bureau, whereas foreign expert certificates are granted by a separate foreign experts’ affairs bureau.

When attempting in proving that a candidate has the minimum amount of working experience to apply for a Z-Visa (Work Visa) sometimes a company’s official stamp of the applicant’s previous company is acceptable at the Foreign Experts Affair Bureau, but not at the Labor Bureau. 

The demand and standards for these two documents differ from each other and can be hard to differentiate what is acceptable at which bureau.

3. Limited Time

Foreigners must define time limits and a working area on their work contracts in order for them to legally work in China. The maximum contract length for a foreigner in China is five years with a Z visa (work visa) and it is illegal for foreigners to work in a city or district different to where they have registered.

Additionally, the Z visa is valid for only 30 days from the date of arrival. During this 30 day time period the employee and employer must seek a Temporary Residence Permit for the duration of the working contract which can vary from a minimum of 90 days to a maximum of 5 years (Travel China Guide). 

When hiring an intern, as mentioned previously, the legal maximum length of duration is 90 days with an M visa (Business or Trade Purpose).

4. Legal Awareness

The knowledge of the Chinese HR staff is extremely important. In order to make the process of hiring a foreigner go smoothly for both parties, the Chinese HR staff need to be well informed and updated. Furthermore, The Chinese Labor Law regulations regarding hiring foreigners ought to be part of their training upon employment.

Finally, it is crucial to keep in mind that the duration of time involved in hiring foreign staff is not fixed by Chinese law, which means that the hiring process can take anywhere from four weeks to several months depending on the candidate, how well the application has been prepared, and how educated the firm’s HR staff is. 

However, all in all, despite the many factors that make the idea of hiring foreign talent seem dreadful, there are many benefits that come along with it such as; diversity and cross-cultural communication within the company, talent and working experience that local Chinese employees cannot supply, increase in global connections, and so on. 

As long as the firm is well-prepared, aware, dedicated, and supportive, there should not be any unexpected hardships to face when hiring foreign talent in China.

The Lock-Step Process to Hiring a Foreign Employee

This process is primarily a documentation driven exercise in which you must have followed the effort to obtain this documentation in the correct order.

  1. The employer must first get an employment license from the local labor authorities.
  2. The employer must then secure a work visa invitation confirmation letter from the appropriate foreign affairs office.
  3. Prospective employees may then use that letter to apply for a work visa in their home country.
  4. Upon arrival in China, the employee then must obtain an alien employment permit from the PRC and local labor authorities.
  5. Then, the employee must get an alien residence permit from the local public security department.

Both the work permit and residence permit must be renewed periodically.

The Impact of Local Labor Laws

There are no routine answers to how the local rules affect the ability to hire a foreign worker. Each locale must be considered on a case by case basis. It requires that you sit down with a consulting firm that has their roots in Chinese society and business methods from the locale you’ve chosen and lay out all the facts of your situation. 

This is a preparatory step to meeting with the appropriate local government authorities to present your case and negotiate your way through any obstacles. Some fact-based illustration of the differences from one city or locale to another can be seen in the charts below that describe the differences into entering into a labor contract with a foreign worker vice a Chinese employee.

The New Regulation on Chinese Labor Law

new Chinese work visa policy for foreign workers has came into effect on April 1, 2017.

The latest regulation regarding Chinese work permits required by the government affects all foreigners employed in the Mainland. The application procedure and the nature of the work permit have changed. These changes come to simplify the process and paperwork, and to increase the quality control imposed on foreigners working and planning to work in China.

Since April 2017, the new work permit will have a foreigner I.D. which allows them to do things that once required a Chinese ID card.  They will be able to purchase items and sign up for things that the Chinese ID card was needed. The requirement for renewing your work visa yearly will also change. 

Once you’ve applied twice for the annual permit, you can then request a five-year one. The expat ID card will not have to be reissued each time the work visa is renewed.

How Can INS Help You?

INS is a leading consulting firm in China. We offer staff management and company solutions to help foreign companies expand and develop their business in China. With over 15 years of experience, we have assisted over 200 companies in the Mainland.

Fill in the form below if you would like to find out more about our employment and recruitment services.


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