Important Changes to China’s Work Visa System

OCA Features Editor Isabella Farr explains the different Chinese work visa options available to foreigners.

On Apr. 1, 2017, the Chinese Government issued significant changes to their work permit system, which allows foreigners to work and be employed in China. The new permit merged the former Alien Employment Permit and the Foreign Expert Permit into one streamlined work authorization. This permit features one notable difference: foreigners are now being classified into three distinct tiers, based on a point system. As NYU Shanghai’s second class prepares for graduation, any student wishing to stay and work in China must apply for a working visa.

This new three-tiered system classifies foreigners into groups. According to the State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs, the governmental department responsible for certifying visas, A-grade foreigners are considered “highly qualified top talent.” B-grade foreigners are considered professional talent, while a C is given to unskilled or service industry workers. The higher the grade, the higher the chance that the permit will be granted.

According to the grading system, applicants who have passed higher levels of the HSK, the official Chinese proficiency test, are rewarded with more points. In addition, the higher an employer’s proposed salary, the more points one receives.

For NYU Shanghai students, one significant setback of the visa point system are the categories of points that benefit individuals that have worked for at least two years, or hold a Master’s or PhD Degree. Even for students who are taking the HSK, a lack of work experience could categorize them as a C-grade foreigner.

However, for those planning on working in Shanghai, other visa options may be available. Since May of this year, international students holding a Bachelor’s degree seeking employment in Shanghai’s Free Trade Zone can apply for a work visa outside the new point system. For international students who have graduated from an accredited Chinese program, such as NYU Shanghai, obtaining a work permit for inside Shanghai’s Free Trade Zone may be significantly easier. Tyler Rhorick, an NYU Shanghai alumnus who graduated in 2013, was the first international graduate to benefit from this new exception. Rhorick now works in NYU Shanghai’s Student Life department.

Lathika Chandra Mouli, another NYU Shanghai graduate, obtained a Talent Visa, which allowed her to work in Shanghai after graduation. Except, the R-Visa that grants work permits to those who possess “exceptional talent,” does not specify what talent includes. According to Chandra Mouli, the ‘Talent Visa’ is only available to recent graduates working at startups and Fortune 500 companies.

“In my case, I got this visa because the Yangpu district government allows Yangpu-based startups to hire international recent graduates without work experience” Chandra Mouli explained. However, she also noted that different districts have their own regulations.

Both alumni are examples of how one can successfully obtain a work permit, however, this is only within the confines of Shanghai. For those who wish to work outside the Free Trade Zone, or outside of Shanghai altogether, applying for a work permit through the points-based system seems to be the only option.

This article was written by Isabella Farr. Please send an email to to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Maya Williams (header image) and State Council of China

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