On 6 November 2014, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Culture jointly issued the Relevant Handling Procedures for Foreign Nationals' Entry into China to Perform Short-Term Work Assignments (Trial) (the "Procedures"), which will take effect on 1 January 2015. 

The key points of the Procedures are as follows:

I. Short-term work assignment refers to one of the following activities for less than 90 days:

  1. conducting works such as technical or scientific research, management or consulting activities for a cooperation partner in China;
  2. providing training at a sports institute in China (including athletes and coaches);
  3. film production (including advertisements and documentaries);
  4. participation in fashion shows (including car models or print advertisements);
  5. foreign-related commercial performance; or
  6. other activities as determined by the Human Resources and Social Security Department.

II. The following activities for a period of less than 90 days will not be considered to be short-term work assignments:

  1. providing repair and maintenance, installation, testing, disassembly, guidance and training inconnection with the purchase of machinery or equipment;
  2. providing training, supervision and inspection for a bidding project in China;
  3. performing short-term work assignments for branch offices, subsidiaries or representative offices in China;
  4. participating in sports events in China (including athletes, coaches, doctors and assistants);
  5. carrying out volunteer works in China without pay or with payment by an overseas organisation; and
  6. conducting performances that are not defined as “foreign commercial performance."

For the activities under II (1), II (2), II (3) and II (4) if the stay is less than 90 days, an "M" visa must be applied for. For II (5) and II (6), provided that the stay is less than 90 days, an "F" visa must be applied for.

III. Application process for foreign nationals' entry into China for short-term work assignment:

Step 1: Foreigners seeking to enter China for a short-term work assignment must obtain anemployment license (工作许可) and a work certificate (工作证明) from the local Human Resource and Social Security Bureau. For foreigners who will conduct foreign-related commercial performances, the organising unit must apply for an approval and a work certificate from the local Cultural Bureau. 

Step 2: An invitation letter must be obtained from the relevant governmental authority by submitting the employment licence or approval and work certificate.

Step 3: Foreigners must apply for a work visa (i.e. a "Z" visa) at a Chinese embassy or consulate.

Step 4: Foreigners seeking to enter for a short-term work assignment for more than 30 days but less than 90 days must also obtain a work-related residence permit from the local public security bureau after entering China.

IV. What this means for foreigners with short-term work assignments in China:

In the past, foreigners could come to China for short-term work assignments of less than 90 days by holding a business visa (i.e. an "M" visa). However, according to the Procedures, after 1 January 2015, foreigners entering China to conduct certain activities for up to 90 days will need to apply for an employment licence or approval and work certificate, which means a longer and more complicated application process prior to the foreigner's entry into China.