China – New Immigration Policy

China – New Immigration Policy

What has changed

On April 1st 2017, the Chinese central government introduced a new immigration policy. The new policy is designed to streamline the immigration process by

  • Moving the drafting and submission process from paper forms to an online system
  • Scaling the same online application system to run independently in each of the districts
  • Consolidating two (2) types of work permits (Alien Employment Permit (AEP) and Foreign Expert Permit (FEP)) into one (1) single Work Permit (Card)

Categorizing applications in three (3) groups:

  • Highly Skilled Workers
  • Mid-Skilled Workers
  • Temporary/Seasonal Workers under Government Schemes

Please see ‘What to expect’ for specific jurisdiction information.


Who is affected?

  • Individuals submitting new Work Permit (previously Alien Employment Permit and Foreign Expert Permit) applications.  “Notification Letter of Work Permit” Replaces Alien Employment License (AEL or Working Permit) and official Invitation Letter (IL).As part of the policy change, the Notification Letter of Work Permit has replaced both the Alien Employment License (AEL or Working Permit) AND the official Invitation Letter (IL).  The assignee and family members can apply for Work (Z) Visa and Dependent (S1) Visa at Chinese Consulate/Embassy in the home country by presenting a scanned copy of the Notification Letter along with supplementary documents. The Notification Letter is to be generated from the official online system once approved and the government will not issue an original letter.

What to expect

There have been significant delays in the implementation of the new online system as a result of (1) technical and performance issues, (2) inadequate and, in certain jurisdictions, no training of immigration authorities, and (3) lack of communications among various immigration authorities throughout the jurisdictions and districts. At this time, exact delays are difficult to predict, at this time but we estimate sixty (60) to ninety (90) days.

The new online system is operational in Shanghai, Beijing, and Chengdu, but is suffering due to technical difficulties surrounding functionality and performance. Currently, delays can range anywhere from five (5) days to two (2) weeks.

The status of the rollout in other locations as of April 18, 2017 is as follows:

  • Shanghai and Beijing: New applications must be submitted under the new policy; however, the new online system has been unable to cope with the volume of cases. Therefore, the local authorities are working on another online system to replace the previous ‘new’ (launched April 1, 2017) system. It is still unclear if companies registered using the April 1 system will be required to re-register under the new system or if companies registered under the April 1 system will be automatically merged into the new one.
  • Chengdu: Authorities can confirm, as of April 19th, that another system is ready for registration. It has been confirmed that companies will need to re-register under the latest one. The previous one (launched April 1, 2017) will be operational until April 30, 2017. After this date, all new applications must be filed under the latest system.
  • Suzhou: New applications can still be submitted under the old manual filing process; new applications will have to be submitted online once the new system is implemented. Renewal and cancellation applications continue to be submitted under the old manual filing system.
  • Hangzhou: The new system is ready now. New applications for Work Permits can be filed under the same sponsoring company registered on the online portal. Renewal and cancellation applications can continue to be submitted under the old manual filing system.
  • Nanchang: New applications have been put on hold until the improved system is ready and the authorities have been sufficiently trained. New applications cannot be filed under the old process. Renewal and cancellation cases can still be submitted under the old manual filing system.
  • Tianjin: Processing of cases using the new online system is different, as they are using the old immigration categories (Foreign Export Permit and Alien Expert Permit) as opposed to combining them into one Work Permit. This will require additional time and effort by our staff, and processing time is expected to be a few days longer.
  • Nanjing: The Nanjing government has recently closed down the department for Alien Employment Permit (AEP) applications and requests companies to register under the old process for Foreign Expert Permit (FEP) and apply for FEP for new applications while they are working on implementation of the new system. AEP renewal and cancellation cases can still be submitted under the old manual filing system.

Generally, the authorities are working towards finalizing the implementation of the new and improved system. The earliest it is expected to be finalized is June 2017.

As part of the immigration policy change, the Notification Letter of Work Permit has, as of the end of March 2017, replaced both the Alien Employment License (AEL or Working Permit) and the official Invitation Letter (IL). The assignee and family members can apply for the Work (Z) Visa and Dependent (S1) Visa at the Chinese Consulate/Embassy in their home country by presenting a scanned copy of the Notification Letter along with supplementary documents. The Notification Letter is to be generated from the official online system once approved. The government will not issue an original letter.

There exists a significant and ongoing communication gap between the local Chinese government and the overseas China Consulates or Embassies for consistent implementation. Three examples of the inconsistent enforcement of the new process:

  • The Chinese authority in Hong Kong requires an original Notification Letter, but the Chinese government only issues a scanned copy.
  • The Chinese Consulate in Chicago asks for an Alien Employment License (AEL or Working Permit) and official Invitation Letter (IL) for Z/S Visa applications even though AEL and IL are no longer used under the new immigration policy.
  • Implemented on April 12, 2017 and effective immediately, personal appearance is now required at the Chinese consulates in France and at least the Chicago (USA) consulate.

What you need to do
Planning ahead

  • Emigra foresees ongoing delays to the process or potential rejection of “Z” and “S” Visas in locations where Chinese authorities or Consulates are not updated with the new policies. Required in-person visits to the Chinese Consulate in Chicago and France will result in additional time and costs to the consular visa process.
  • Contact your Emigra Worldwide representative for further details on how these updates may impact you or your client.