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The ABCs on China’s New Work Permit System for Foreigners

Friday, September 30, 2016 5:44
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Foreign employees in ChinaChina recently initiated a pilot program for foreigner work permits that integrates foreigner entry employment licenses and foreign expert employment licenses into one “foreigner employment permit.” The PRC State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA) has been tasked with carrying out this new program. This pilot program is intended to streamline current application and administration procedures and processes and to attract more high level foreign talent to China. SAFEA will begin implementing the pilot program next month (October) in a few cities and provinces, including Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shanghai, Anhui, Shandong, Guangdong, Sichuan and Ningxia. The program will then go national on April 1, 2017.

Here are a few highlights of this pilot program:

Most importantly, the current foreign expert work license and foreigner employment license will be integrated into one document called the foreigner work license notice. The employer and foreign applicant will be able to complete and submit the license form electronically. The original “alien employment permit” and “foreign expert certificate” will be integrated into one permit called the foreigner work permit. Every foreigner will have one permit number per foreigner work permit, which will be used by the same individual for life. Effective April 1, 2017, the foreigner work license notice (外国人工作许可通知) and foreigner work permit (外国人工作许可证) will be formally used. The currently effective employment licenses can continue to be used up to their respective expiration dates.

A nationwide administration service system for foreigners coming to China will be established. The application materials required for submission will be way fewer than before and application letters, expert/employment permit application forms, bilingual resumes, and letters of intent for employment will be eliminated, reducing by about half the documentation you will need to submit.

Foreigners will be divided into three categories: A high level talent, B professional personnel, and C foreigners who are nontechnical or service workers hired on a temporary/seasonal basis. A score system will be adopted that will take into account various criteria for each foreign applicant, such as salary, educational background, experience, and length of service. The goal is to encourage foreigners in the first category (A levels), exert control over the second category (B levels), and strictly restrict the last category (C levels).

A “green channel” will be available to A high level foreign talent. These high level foreigners will no longer need to submit any hard copies of the documents required to apply for a foreigner work permit notice or for a visa application before entering into China. The review and approval period for these foreigners will also be considerably shorter than for foreigners at the other two levels..

How will all of this play out in practice? We shall see and we shall keep you posted.

For more on foreign employees in China, check out the following:

We will be discussing the practical aspects of Chinese law and how it impacts business there. We will be telling you what works and what does not and what you as a businessperson can do to use the law to your advantage. Our aim is to assist businesses already in China or planning to go into China, not to break new ground in legal theory or policy.


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