China Implements New Unified Work Permit Pilot Scheme

By China Briefing

On September 9, 2016, the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs’ (SAFEA) announced that the existing Foreign Expert Permit and Alien Employment License will be merged into a single permit. The new permit introduces a tiered classification system for foreign workers, as well as a streamlined online application and tracking system to attract more high-level foreign talent.

Before the new foreign work permit rolls out nationwide on April 1, 2017, the government will test the system by implementing a pilot scheme in select regions starting on October 1. Foreign workers in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Anhui, Guangdong, Hebei, Shandong, Sichuan, Ningxia, and potentially other regions will be included in the pilot program.

Current System

China’s foreign employment system includes two foreign work permits: the Alien Employment Permit (Z-visa) and the Foreign Expert Permit (R-visa). While the Alien Employment Permit is issued for general employment, the Foreign Expert Permit is issued to “high-level” talent, or candidates whose skills are urgently needed in China’s labor market. The two permits are issued by different government entities: the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security manages the Alien Employment License and SAFEA controls the Foreign Expert Permit.