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Can foreign workers work for short-term periods in mainland China?

Foreigners are allowed to work in China by means of secondment from overseas headquarters. However, the procedure is not very smooth, as the China-based subsidiary needs to submit a secondment letter – instead of a letter of intention of employment.

However, this policy only applies to very limited locations, including Beijing and Shanghai. This may be challenging for enterprises which have complex operational systems and internal mobility programmes. As a matter of fact, this remains a challenging issue for workers that come to China for short-term projects – very common especially for enterprises conducting R&D activities.

Please note that, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the issuance of new visas is suspended; entry into China is granted – under extremely tough quarantine measures – only to foreign citizens in possession of valid residence permits (for work or family reunion purposes). Only in exceptional cases may foreigners without a valid residence permit be allowed to enter China.