In September 2016, the State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs in China announced that a new work permit system for foreign employees will be implemented on a nation-wide level with an effective date of April 1, 2017. Starting from April 1, 2017, the current “Alien Employment License/Foreign Expert License” and “Alien Employment Permit/Foreign Expert Permit” will no longer be issued. Instead, the relevant governing authorities will issue a unified “Work Permit Notice For a Foreigner” and “Work Permit For a Foreigner”. The new “Work Permit For a Foreigner” will replace the current Alien Employment Permit/Foreign Expert Permit that provides work authorisation for foreign nationals in China along with Residence Permits. Residence Permit requirements remain unchanged.

Under the new system, foreign nationals will be divided into three categories according to various criteria such as academic background, professional qualifications and the nature of the assignment/employment in China. The three categories of work permits include:

  • Type A (encouraged) – Foreign High-level Talent
  • Type B (controlled) – Foreign Professional Talent
  • Type C (limited) – Foreigner nationals who engage in temporary, seasonal, non-technical or service-oriented work that also meets the needs of local labor markets.

Before the official implementation of the new policy in April 2017, there will be a trial period in several provinces and cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Hebei, Anhui, Shandong, Guangdong, Sichuan and Ningxia. Information as to the filing process and documentation requirements for different work permit categories are expected to be announced over the next few months.

Key Take-Away Points:

Employers who have foreign employees or wish to assign/hire new foreign employees in China are encouraged to leave more time for preparation of immigration applications. Processes and requirements are expected to change with short notice as the trial period begins.