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The Foreign Expert Bureau has revolutionized the current Work Authorization applications practices with the recent release of the Foreign Employee Work Authorizations Pilot Scheme Policy (工作许可制度试点实施方案). The new policy divides foreign national into three categories according to a score-based assessment system that provides a standardized and more individual-specific application process nationwide.

The new policy will take effect nationwide in April 2017, and the Pilot Scheme went into effect this month in 10 locations including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong and Sichuan.

The purpose of the policy is to simply, unify and standardize Work Authorizations applications and processes across China by combining the Employment Permit and Expert Permit into a single Work Permit Card and creating a uniform data sharing platform for Chinese immigration authorities within and outside China. It is also intended to encourage high-end foreign talent to work in China and strengthen immigration control of other foreign nationals.

The new policy will provide a standardized, score-based talent assessment system and application process across China. Work authorizations will be issued to foreign nationals, categorizing them into the following three types:

  • Type A – High-end foreign talent
  • Type B – Foreign talent
  • Type C – Foreign employee

The details of the applicant assessment criteria have not been announced yet.

What this means is a company in China (sponsoring entity) must now have an online account registered with the Expert Bureau in order to submit its foreign employee employment license application. The Chinese immigration authority will use the online application to assess which category a foreign national falls into and approve or decline the application accordingly. If the online application is approved, a Notification Letter of Work Permit for the approved talent type will be issued to the applicant for him or her to apply for a China Entry Visa (for Z or R visa) to enter the country and obtain the relevant Work Authorizations. If the application is declined, the applicant will be issued a written document stating the reason for the failed application and the right to appeal the decision. A foreign national’s right of administrative appeal against a decision made by the Foreign Expert Bureau is a very new concept in Chinese immigration law.

Due to the new work authorizations application process, which is more individual specific, foreign nationals applying in the future (and – perhaps more importantly – the HR departments hoping to hire foreign nationals) should expect longer application processing times. Also, foreign national applicants should expect to provide more detailed personal information and application documents (i.e. his or her non-criminal record and academic credentials issued and legalized in his or her home country). Currently, non-criminal record and academic credentials are required for Employment License applications that are part of the Z visa applicaiton process in some locations in China, but not all. For future Notification Letter of Work Permit (replacing the Employment License) online applications, the aforementioned documents might be expected for all work locations in China. 

Currently, a foreign national applicant is required to undertake medical examination in China upon arrival on Z visa for some work locations in China in order to apply for Work Authorizations. In the future, an applicant might be expected to undertake medical examination as a first step and submit the medical report as one of the mandatory application documents for Notification Letter of Work Permit  online application.

The new policy particularly encourages Type A (High-end Foreign Talent) to work in China and no limitation is imposed on the number of Type A Work Authorizations that will be issued by the Chinese immigration authority. However, Type B Work Authorizations will be issued in accordance with market demand and a quota might be placed on Type C Work Authorizations issuance.

What’s more, those who hold Type A or B Work Authorizations might be entitled to a number of additional benefits in China associated with R China entry visa (Talent Visa), including having an option to sponsor a Nanny Visa, longer permit validity and relaxed China green card applicant eligibility. Additionally, foreign nationals holding any type of Chinese visa residing in China would be allowed to apply for Work Authorizations within the country if their online applications have been approved for Type A High-end Foreign Talent.

Fragomen China believes that the enactment of the new policy is a landmark moment for China’s immigration laws. Detailed assessment criteria resulting in more individual-specific applications and more transparent and fairer work authorization applications and processes would bring the China Work Authorizations application system one step closer to the international standard.

Becky Xia is a Partner at Fragomen, which is the world’s leading single-focus provider of immigration services and support, comprised of law firms and immigration consultancies in 20 countries across all regions globally.

Iris Zhang is a Senior Manager at Fragomen.

Ariel Hui Wang is a Consultant at Fragomen.