The State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (“SAFEA”) announced, during a conference it held on September 8 and 9, 2016, the launch of a pilot program to reform the procedures for foreign employees’ work permits (“Pilot Program”). SAFEA issued the implementation scheme on September 27, 2016

The Pilot Program, to be conducted in Anhui, Beijing, Guangdong, Hebei, Ningxia, Shandong, Shanghai, Sichuan, Tianjin and Yunnan, introduces the following changes: 

 - The principle “of encouraging high-end talents (Grade A), controlling general foreign employees (Grade B) and restricting low-end foreigners (Grade C).” 

Administration of each category is based on a scoring system, under which “lowend foreigners” means foreigners working in temporary, seasonal, non-technical, service-related work. 

High-end talents will benefit, among other preferential treatments, from not having to submit paper documents for authenticity verification, from shortened examination periods, and from the use of a commitment of no-criminal record instead of a certificate, while general foreign employees will continue to be governed by procedures similar to those applicable to date.

- It decreases the administrative workload by reducing the number of application documents (e.g., it does not require the submission of application letters, application forms or CVs in Chinese and foreign language). 

- It combines the current foreign expert work permit and the alien employment license for other foreign employees into a new work permit notice for foreign employees, which can be applied for online and is issued electronically. 

- It combines the current foreign expert certificate and the alien employment permit into a new work permit, which has a permanent code that allows foreign employees to work legally in China.

The Pilot Program will be implemented from October 1, 2016, to March 31, 2017, and from November 1, 2016, the new work permit notice for foreign employees and the new work permit will be implemented. However, permits and certificates that have already been issued will remain valid unless foreign employees voluntarily apply for new ones. On April 1, 2017, the new work permit notice for foreign employees and the new work permit will be implemented nationwide.

At the end of October 2016, Shanghai and Chengdu (Sichuan) announced specific implementing procedures. Taking Shanghai as an example, categories and scoring system are as follows: 

  • High-end talents (Grade A) include (i) those listed in the State’s introduction plans, (ii) those approved or that have filed records with the Ministry of Human Resources and SAFEA, (iii) holders of internationally recognized awards and achievements, and (iv) other talent with a score higher than 85. 
  • General foreign employees include (i) management and technical personnel in special service sectors (education, science & research, news, publishing, culture, art, hygiene and sport) and other enterprises, organizations and institutions; (ii) chief representatives and representatives in representative offices of foreign enterprises and international organizations; and (iii) post-graduates from Chinese domestic universities and top 100 overseas universities (based on the ranking published by not classified as Grade A; (iv) foreign language teaching staff; and (v) others with a score higher than 60. 
  • The scoring factors published by Shanghai are salary level, education, work experience (length), months worked per year, Chinese language level (HSK exam), age, university ranking, working place (western China, old industry bases in Northeast China, nationwide, and poor counties in Central China), the top 100 overseas universities mentioned above, and work experience in Fortune 500 companies

Date of announcement: September 9, 2016. Date of issue: September 27, 2016. Effective Date: October 1, 2016