China has implemented new regulations, effective January 1, 2015, which clarify the types of short-term activities that may be performed without obtaining work authorization and a work visa. The new regulations should enable multinational companies to more readily transfer workers for short-term assignments with affiliated entities in China, or to send workers to China for short-term installation, repair, assembly, or commissioning projects without the expense and lead-time of obtaining work authorization and a work visa.

The new regulations provide that the following activities are authorized for a period of less than 90 days on an M Business Visa, and do not generally require a work permit and work visa:

  1. Repairing, installing, commissioning, disassembling machinery or providing instruction or training regarding the use of machinery purchased from outside of China;
  2. Providing instruction, supervision, or inspection as a contractor working on a project in China; and
  3. Conducting work, on a short-term basis, at a branch, subsidiary, or representative office in China.

Outside of the specific activities listed above, and the more traditional business visitor activities such as business meetings and contract negotiations, most other work-related activities will require a work permit and Z work visa.

The new regulations also introduced the concept of a short-term work permit for foreign nationals who will perform activities that fall outside the scope of appropriate business visitor activities as clarified in the new regulation. Presently, the new, short-term work permit process appears to be largely the same as the current work permit process; however, it is possible that the authorities may introduce a different procedure for the short-term permit in the future. As always, processes and procedures may differ regionally in China, and new procedures may be developed as the Chinese government moves forward with full implementation of the new short-term work permit program.