On March 28, 2017, the Foreign Expert Bureau, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security jointly issued a notice which announced the full implementation of the new work permit system in every city in China. This full implementation follows the trial period in several provinces and cities that started November 2016 (please see our prior newsletters in October and December 2016).

Going forward, all companies that wish to hire foreign employees should submit work permit applications through a unified nation-wide platform. However, the specific process and documentation requirements may still differ from city to city. For example, an application to change one's employer in Shanghai now requires the applicant to provide the degree certificate which should be legalised by a Chinese embassy/consulate, while a copy of the degree certificate will suffice if a foreign national changes employers domestically in Beijing. In most cities, the no-criminal certificate is required to be legalised by a Chinese embassy/consulate for new applications, while the original no-criminal certificate issued by the police station will suffice in Shanghai.

According to the notice, relevant authorities are to speed up drafting new regulations on administration of foreign nationals' employment in China and a guideline catalogue for foreign nationals on working in China. The current eligibility criteria and work permit application guidance will be further updated. A series of related policies such as a credit system for foreign nationals and hiring entities will be introduced soon.

Key take-away points:

Pursuant to the new work permit system and the future regulation changes, we anticipate the trend is to encourage high-talent foreign professionals and limit low-end foreign labour. Due to the new work permit system, the required documents will be cumbersome and the processing time will likely take longer. Even in Shanghai, where the policies were more relaxed, one or two months of lead time will be required for documentation preparation before commencing the application process.