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Work and residence permits in China

Foreigners can be hired by companies (Wholly Owned Foreign Enterprise, Joint Venture Company, Representative office, or other local Chinese companies). However, Chinese individuals or individual-owned businesses are forbidden from hiring foreigners. A foreigner who is hired needs to get a work permit approved by the Chinese authorities, just like similar regulations all around the world.


The procedure to obtain a work permit is as follows: First you need to get approval from the Chinese embassy in your country and get a visa to enter into China, or if there is some special circumstance you may apply to the local Chinese Immigration Department in the Public Security Bureau for this directly. Secondly, your Chinese employer applies to the Labour Administrative Authority and gets a “certificate of work” which normally is not difficult. Thirdly, you will apply to the Local Immigration Department for a resident permit so that you will be allowed to live in China. They, the police, may be strict at this stage, such as a documentation review and especially an interview, depending on what country you are from. If you are from Middle Eastern countries, it may prove difficult. There are also some internal regulations within the police, such as for one Representative office there is a maximum of 3 work permits, (this includes 1 chief representative and 2 normal representatives who can get work permits).


The penalty for a foreigner who works without approval in China is a fine of up to RMB 1,000 and, in the case of a serious violation, being expelled from China. The penalty for his/her employer shall be RMB 5,000 to 50,000 plus the expenses incurred for expelling the foreigner.

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