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airport-in-asiaWhile you are considering working in China and looking for work there, there are several things you may be thinking about with regards to work sponsorship and visas.

In this post I explain how the work visa process works. It is basically the same whether you are teaching English or working for a company.

Find a Job in China

The first step in this entire process is to first find a job. Without a job, you cannot legally work longterm in China. That said, there are many people who work online, teach English part time or do something else while on a travel visa.

If you want to come to China on a travel visa and look for work, that is fine. You may need to fly back to your home country and apply for a visa back home.

How to Apply for a Work Visa

The second step is applying for a Chinese work visa, also called a Z visa. Your employer should help you with this process.

Some schools are not able to get work visas and will instead hire you on a student visa. This probably won’t happen if you are working for a company.

During your communications with your new employer, they may offer to fly you out to China to have a look at their operations and see if you are a good fit. In this case you can travel there on a travel visa and check out their operations.

This is what I did for the company I worked for in China. After a few months I flew home at Christmas time and also applied for my work visa.

Some companies in China have not hired foreigners before. When I was working in China, I was the second non-Chinese employee at my company, so the HR manager was just starting to understand how the visa process for foreigners works. And he came from a background in law!

Once you have signed the contract, your employer will help you obtain the necessary documentation to apply for a work visa.

In my experience this process usually goes smoothly. You will need to bring or mail the documents to the Chinese embassy in your home country (or wherever you happen to be) in order to get a Z visa.

If you are living in the United States and don’t live near a Chinese embassy, you can use China Visa Service Center. I have used them multiple times for both work and travel visas. No complaints.


Cost of a Work Visa

A Chinese visa costs about $100-$200 for United States passport holders, and mostly goes down from this for other countries. It is $100-$200 for the courier service I mentioned above. Keep your receipts to get your company to pay for these expenses.

Here is the entire visa process in more detail (scroll to the bottom of the page for Z visa), though like I said, you can let your employer worry about this. You will however, probably need to arrange and mail in the documents yourself so it’s good to also have a checklist in your mind.

Work Visa Duration

A work visa is only good for 30 days and 1-2 entries and must be changed into a residence permit upon arrival in China.

Apply for a Residence Permit

The process of obtaining a residence permit is fairly straightforward, someone from your company will bring you to the police station to begin this process, which takes about a week. The resident permit is good for 1 year and multiple entries.

Residence Permit Renewal

If you would like to continue working with your employer in China after 1 year, they will help you renew your residence permit. You do not need to fly back home or go to Hong Kong to renew your residence permit, you can do it in the city where you originally registered.

If you have any questions please email me or leave a message in the comments.

live-and-work-in-china-nick-pic-small AUTHOR: NICK LENCZEWSKI
Nick Lenczewski (Len-chess-key) writes books and makes movies to help people discover the incredible life that living and traveling in China brings. He believes that listening to music, playing cards and drinking tea with friends is one of the best things in life. Nick is fluent in Mandarin.

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10 comments… add one
  • Ghulam Abbas June 1, 2017, 12:24 pm

    I need a invitation letter and visa application form , from China , I am searching a sponsor , please arrange the any sponsor and my visa please

  • Lila June 13, 2017, 1:59 am

    Hey, thank you for the detailed post! There is only one thing that confuses me: on the website you linked to, it said that for Z visa, one of the documents required were (I’m quoting the website here):

    “5. One of the following documents:
    A. Foreigners Employment Permit of the People’s Republic of China issued by Chinese government authorities for Human Resources and Social Security; if your intended work period is 90 days or less, you need to provide an Approval of Short-Term Employment for Foreigners Working in P.R. China. You must apply for your visa before the commencing work date indicated on the Approval and you will be allowed to work only within the period of time indicated in the Approval.
    B. Permit for Foreign Experts Working in China issued by the State Bureau of Foreign Experts.
    C. Registration Certificate of Resident Representative Offices of enterprises of foreign countries(regions) issued by Chinese authorities of industrial and commercial administration.
    D. An approval document for commercial performances issued by the Chinese government authorities for cultural affairs; if your intended performance period is 90 days or less, you need to provide an Approval of Short-Term Employment for Foreigners Working in P.R. China. You must apply for your visa before the commencing performance date indicated on the Approval and you will be allowed to perform only within the period of time indicated in the Approval.
    E. Letter of Invitation to Foreigners for Offshore Petroleum Operations in China issued by China National Offshore Oil Corporation.”

    However, how are we supposed to get such document if we work for a private company? Did you know what your employer used when you got your visa?

    Thank you.

    • Nick Lenczewski June 17, 2017, 1:43 am

      Hi Lila,
      Glad you found this post helpful! Option B, the Foreign Experts Permit is what I have used in the past. The school and private company I worked for both helped me get this document. Your employer should help you with this. Hope that helps!

  • Wisdom F Usoroh June 19, 2017, 8:16 am

    Please am in need of a chinese sponsor
    am still a student done with my high school.
    not into university yet.

  • Darlington David July 22, 2017, 3:37 pm

    Hi Nick, nice to meet you via online. I have lived in china before and I lost my passport, my name is Mr Darlington. I’m living in. Nigeria, but I am a Biafran. I would like you to help me get PR in china. I love china so much. Pls do get back to me thank you.

  • Jerry Hou September 25, 2017, 10:35 pm

    Hi Nick:

    Thanks for this concise and helpful guide.
    A few questions, is your work visa tied to the job you’re currently employed in, in China? Supposed you’d like to transfer jobs while you’re on this work visa, how would the process work with the new company as regards to this visa?


    • Nick Lenczewski November 3, 2017, 7:09 am

      Hi Jerry, according to my understanding, and I’m not a lawyer, there is a release letter you ned to get from your current employer. Then you can go about applying for the residence permit again/work visa but tied to the new company.

  • Jerry Hou September 25, 2017, 10:36 pm

    Hi Nick:

    For my previous question, I meant to ask details about “residence permit”, instead of “work visa”.

  • Khalda Yagoob October 20, 2017, 12:50 pm

    Hello I have a question about the sponsorship.
    If I have a school that provided me with z visa and I went to work with them. Can I change the school? Does that require me to change my visa also.

    • Nick Lenczewski November 3, 2017, 7:11 am

      Hi Khalda,
      In my understanding, if you switch schools, you need to get a new work (Z) visa from the new school.


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