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What are the requirements for foreign citizens to be eligible to work in China?

The basic eligibility requirements that foreign citizens to be employed in mainland China are:

  • More than 18 years’ old, less than 60 years’ old, and in good health (no communicable diseases)
  • University degree
  • Possession of the skills and 2+ years of work experience in the job for which the foreign citizen is hired (note: this requirement could be relaxed if the applicant has recently graduated from a renowned Chinese or international university)
  • Absence of criminal record in the home country and in China (if the person has lived in China before)
  • Valid passport
  • To be hired by an employer legally established in mainland China.

Some degree of flexibility exists in certain regions or areas (e.g. high-tech zones, western regions, etc.), particularly in case of urgently-needed and highly-skilled talents.

Furthermore, since 2017, foreign workers in China are assessed and classified based on a three-tier point scoring system:

  • Tier A: scoring >85
  • Tier B: scoring >60, <85
  • Tier C: scoring <60

A-grade workers are most welcome and enjoy specific advantages, such as eligibility to apply to China’s permanent residence permit (green card), longer duration of residence permits and shorter waiting times. Tier B workers do not seem to face particular restrictions, while those in Tier C face stricter entry requirements, lower duration of work and residence permits, and possible harsher conditions in the future as China is trying to focus only on quality and skilled foreign workers. The points of the scoring system are calculated based on criteria such as: annual salary, time spent working in China every year, education background, work experience, proficiency in Chinese language, age, location of employment (points given to workers in Western/North-eastern regions or least developed areas); extra points may be given to workers with previous work experience in Fortune 500 companies, graduated from world-leading universities, with registered IPR and patents, or who have already worked in China for 5 years.

Please note that, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the issuance of new work permits and Z 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.