Immigration Categories

A brief description of corporate immigration categories by assignment type follows. The appropriate immigration category or status for your employees will depend on their specific details and on your company. The most common category for corporate transfers of foreign nationals in our experience is the Work Permit application, commonly referred to as a Z Visa. For details on non-typical categories, please contact your representative.

Typical Process Overview

The following process overview is applicable to the Z Visa application process. The exact process and processing time varies by province and also by the type of registered company (e.g. branch office, representative office, regional headquarters). The approximate overall processing time from the time the first step is submitted to the time the employee is legal to work in China is sixteen (16) to twenty-one (21) weeks. However, note that lead time for document gathering at the start of the process should be factored in, as should processing time for completion of post arrival formalities. Average processing time for each individual step is noted below.

Step One: Procurement of Documents
Processing Time:
One (1) to four (4) weeks, depending on assignee’s home country/city

The applicant is required to apply for a Police Clearance Certificate (PCC) and a duplicated University Degree Certificate (the highest attainment). The PCC is valid for three (3) months from the date of issuance, during which time the application for the Notification Letter must be made (outlined in Step Five below). Emigra Worldwide may be able to assist with research into the process, if required. Depending on assignee’s location, the assignee may need to apply for the PCC and degree certificate in person.

Step Two: Legalization of Documents
Processing Time: Three (3) to four (4) weeks

Emigra Worldwide assists with the legalization of assignee’s Police Clearance Certificate (PCC) and University Degree Certificate. This step takes place at the Chinese Consulate or Embassy in the country in which the documents were issued. The legalizations are valid for three (3) months from the date of issuance, during which time the application for the Notification Letter must be made (outlined in Step Five below).

Step Three: Medical Appointment
Processing Time: Around one (1) week

This step can be completed either at a medical center in the assignee’s home country or during the assignee’s pre-trip to China (if applicable). If the medical appointment is attended in assignee’s home country, assignee requires another medical check after arrival in China. The medical report is required for Step Four (Online Application for Notification Letter) and Step Eleven (Residence Permit). The medical report is valid for six months from the date of issuance. This step may take place at same time as obtaining documents outlined in Step One and Two.

Step Four: Online Application for Notification Letter (NL)
Processing Time: Around ten (10) working days

Emigra Worldwide requires copies of certain documents from the assignee and the company in order to draft the online form (these will be requested in the introductory email to assignee). Emigra Worldwide can only apply for the online application once the approved medical report and legalized documents are received (Steps One to Three).

Step Five: Physical Submission of Notification Letter (NL)
Processing Time: Around ten (10) working days

The NL is valid for three (3) months from the date of issuance, during which time the application for the Consular (Z) Visa must be made (outlined in Step Six). Emigra Worldwide can only apply for the NL once the online application approval is received (Step Four).

Step Six: Application for Consular (Z) Visa
Processing Time: Four (4) to ten (10) working days, depending on the location

This step takes place at the Chinese Consulate / Embassy in assignee’s country of national / residence. The Z Visa must be activated within three months from the date of issuance. It is a single entry visa and will allow the assignee to stay in China for thirty (30) days from the date of arrival.

Step Seven: Obtain Temporary Residence Registration Certificate (TRRC)
Processing Time: One (1) working day

Within twenty-four (24) hours of arrival, the applicant is required to attend the local police station to register and obtain a Temporary Residence Registration Certificate (TRRC). If staying in a hotel, the TRRC can be obtained from the front desk of the hotel.

Step Eight: Online Application for Work Permit (WP)
Processing Time: Around ten (10) working days

Emigra Worldwide will require certain documents from assignee and company and submit the online application.

Step Nine: Physical Submission of Work Permit (WP) Application
Processing Time: Around ten (10) working days

The Work Permit is permission to work in China for your sponsoring entity. It is generally issued on a yearly basis.

Step Ten: Residence Permit (RP) Application
Processing Time: Around eight (8) to fifteen (15) working days

Once the Work Permit has been issued, the application for the final residence permit can be made, securing a multiple entry status for the applicant through its validity. Personal appearance at the authorities for all applicants is required. The RP is generally issued on a yearly basis or in line with the WP. Assignees are not allowed to work in China until both the WP and the RP are approved.

Step Eleven: Update Temporary Residence Registration Certificate (TRRC)
Processing Time: One (1) working day

Assignees are required to attend the local police station in China to update their TRRCs with their new RP details.

Typical Documents Obtained

Following the Alien Employment Permit application process described above will result in the obtention of the following immigration documents. Typical validity is noted next to each document name. For details on the renewal process, please see the next section, “Renewal.”

  • Work Permit: Typical duration: One (1) year. Secured post-arrival, within thirty (30) days of arrival.
  • Residence Permit: Typical duration: One (1) year. Secured post-arrival, within thirty (30) days of arrival, allowing multiple entries into China.


Renewal is possible. Renewal processes take approximately six (6) to seven (7) weeks; please allow two (2) to three (3) weeks for additional lead time for document gathering.


The government of China requires all applicants to complete the following deregistration process upon departing the country.
Work Permit holders are required to submit their deregistrations anytime from the end date of their assignments until ten (10) days after the official end date. The Work Permit deregistration takes about ten (10) to fifteen (1) working days working days to finalize from the date of filing (processing time varies depending on filing jurisdiction). This may be completed after the employee departs China for the last time, as their physical presence in China is not needed. However, the original Work Permit booklet must be presented with the application form.
Residence Permit holders, including both employees and their dependents, are required to submit their deregistrations at the Public Security Bureau at least eight (8) to ten (10) working days before their Residence Permits expire. Residence Permit deregistration takes about seven (7) to eight (8) working days to process from the date of filing, during which time the applicant’s physical presence in China is needed, as their original passport will be retained at the Chinese authority until the application is completed. Upon completion of the Residence Permit deregistration, a zero entry China “TingLiu” visa will be endorsed on the passport, which will entitle the holder to remain in-country for up to thirty (30) days.
Note that the deregistration process may vary depending on filing jurisdiction. In some locations, the Work Permit needs to be deregistered first and Residence Permits can then be cancelled afterwards. The Work Permit deregistration can be submitted any time after the last working day stated on the company letter.


Dependent immigration status approval depends on the immigration status of the principal applicant. Where the principal applicant is in China with a Z Visa, the following rules apply for dependents:

  • Minimum age (spouses): Not applicable
  • Maximum age (children): Eighteen (18) years
  • Unmarried partners: No
  • Same sex partners: No
  • Non-traditional dependents (e.g. parents): Info
  • Work authorization granted? No

Since September 2013, there are two (2) visa categories available to family members of foreigners who are in China: the S1 visa and the S2 visa.

The S1 visa is acquired at a Consulate or Embassy of China for people who will enter for a period of more than one hundred eighty (180) days. This visa is available to children up to the age of eighteen (18) years, spouses, parents and parents-in-law. After arrival in China, holders of this visa must apply for a Residence Permit.

The S2 visa is applicable for people who will stay no more than one hundred eighty (180) days and may be acquired by spouses, children, parents, parent-in-law, siblings and their spouses or grandparents.

The S2 visa is essentially a visitor visa for purposes of visiting a family member who holds a Residence Permit, while the S1 visa is the visa acquired to stay in China long-term with the principal applicant.

Application Materials

Application materials vary depending on the immigration category being applied for and on the specifics of the case. We will advise you in detail regarding your specific case; however, general application materials for the Z visa application process are noted below.

  • A variety of personal and corporate documents will be needed to support the application, including current resume (C.V.), original or copy of diploma (depending on province – in Beijing the original diploma is required), birth and marriage certificates, immigration-approved medical exam, employment contracts, and corporate registration certificates.
  • All documentation must be submitted in Chinese. Non-Chinese documents must be translated. Diploma, Birth and Marriage certificates may require legalization. Emigra Worldwide can assist with legalization requirements in most instances.
  • It will be necessary to provide a legalized Certificate of No Criminal Conviction.
  • It will be necessary to provide a legalized University Degree Certificate (the highest attained by the assignee).

Business Visitors

  • Name of visa granted: Business (M) Visa if for commercial or trade activities.
  • Duration of stay: Normally thirty (30) days per entry and further extended in country. It is possible to obtain a longer duration of stay for certain special situations with an official invitation letter from the Chinese authorities.
  • General activities permitted: Home-finding, other preparation for employment, and other activities that are not regarded as officially working can be conducted under business visitor status. Other allowable activities would include business meetings, attending seminars or internal short-term training or exploring business opportunities.
  • Note: It is not compliant to use the Business M visa for purposes of long-term work in China (i.e. a period exceeds ninety (90) calendar days in a calendar year).

Change of Status

A change of status is not possible in most provinces of China.

Salary and Payroll

Salary and payroll requirements vary depending on the immigration category and on the specifics of the case. The basic salary declared must be commensurate with the position applied. Assignees are liable for local tax. Generally, either a local or overseas employment contract/ assignment letter may be provided for immigration purposes. Please contact your representative for more details for your specific situation.


Qualification requirements will vary from case to case and will depend on the immigration category under which the application is made. However, in general, the immigration authorities do expect to see, for new hires, an undergraduate or graduate degree plus at least two (2) to three (3) years’ post-graduation relevant work experience. In some situations, and for intra company transfer cases, a strong case may be made for applicants without a degree, provided their level of experience and industry specific qualification is high. Please contact your representative for more details.

Red Flags

In our experience, the following points are important to note at the start of the process. If any of the below situations apply to you, contact your representative immediately for further detailed advice.

  • Domestic partners who may not be able to receive dependent status.
  • An absence of a degree or relevant experience can complicate Z Visa applications.
  • The immigration authorities may also look at the employer’s ratio of foreign to local workers.
  • Assignees over sixty (60) years of age may not obtain a work permit.
  • Chinese government does not recognize dual nationalities. Foreign passport holders of Chinese origin are required to have deregistered from their home registry “HuKou” and the Chinese national.
  • Record of criminal conviction
  • Assignees with a prior Work Permit that has not been deregistered properly may be required to cancel the old work permit before filing the new application and/or explain the failure to deregister.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

The government of China takes immigration non-compliance very seriously. Penalties for non-compliance may include fines, deportation, and imprisonment.

Employee Penalties:

Individuals who fail to comply with immigration law may be fined an amount between 5,000 RMB and 20,000 RMB for “illegal work”. Illegal workers may also be detained for five (5) to fifteen (15) days.

Employer Penalties:

Employers with illegal foreign workers shall be subject to a fine of 10,000 RMB for each alien so employed, up to 100,000 RMB, and the illegal gains, if any, shall be confiscated. This also affects the other applications. The government may not approve other applications if an employer is found to have employed illegal workers.

For more details, please contact your representative.

Bilateral Agreements

  • Holders of passports issued by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), Macau SAR or Taiwan (Republic of China) are subject to different procedures. Contact your representative for more details.