Hoping to Work in China? If You’re a Class C Foreigner, It May Be Tough

BEIJING — If you’ve ever wondered what class of person you are, move toChina and find out.

Starting Nov. 1, the government will begin sorting foreigners into three categories: A, B and C. It is part of a new nationwide work permit systemthat aims to build an innovation-driven economy by “encouraging the top, controlling the middle and limiting the bottom” of foreigners in China, the state news media reported.

“It aims to better serve overseas talent coming to work in China,” said Zhang Jianguo, the leader of the State Administration of Foreign Experts, which will run the system that is to go nationwide on April 1 after being tested in nine cities or provinces, including Beijing and Shanghai.

The planned change is creating a buzz among foreigners working here who are keen to know: How will the government classify me?

According to the most recent official figures, in the 2010 census, about 200,000 foreigners worked legally in China and an additional 400,000 were family dependents.

The number seems low. In an email interview, Eric Liu, a consultant atForeign HR, a human resources company based in Beijing, estimated that there were about two million in total in 2015, with up to 300,000 more working illegally, usually on tourist visas. China needs many more foreign workers, but it is often hard for them to receive visas, he said.