By Peregrine

The Shanghai Foreign Expert Bureau is now accepting work permit applications from applicants classified as either Category A or B, and holding an M (business) or L (tourist) entry visa, rather than a Z (work) visa.

Risks and benefits

Note that Category B applicants risk their M or L entry visa expiring while their work permit application is being processed, and they may not be able to extend their entry visa without leaving China.

This simplified process avoids the six to eight weeks usually required to obtain a Notification Letter of Work Permit and a Z (work) visa before travelling to China (compared to about one week for an M or L visa), and may allow the applicant to start work more quickly.

What is the expedited process?

For this route, foreign nationals who qualify in Category A or Category B under the new consolidated work permit system may be able to follow this streamlined process:

  1. Obtain an M or L visa from a Chinese consulate abroad (up to a week);
  2. Enter China;
  3. Undergo a full medical check in Shanghai (about five days);
  4. Apply for Notification Letter and Work Permit simultaneously (about 25 days, but quicker for Category A applicants).

It is important to note that L visas are usually issued for a duration of stay of only 30 days, and M visas for 30 or 60 days, depending on the consulate of application. In-country visa extensions are not guaranteed.

What is the category system?

Under the recently implemented consolidated work authorization system, foreign nationals working in China are categorized into one of three groups (A, B and C) that identify the holder as high-end personnel, professional personnel, or temporary and seasonal personnel in the service or non-technical sectors.

Criteria such as salary, educational background, Chinese language proficiency, age and work experience are evaluated in determining the applicable category.

Category A applicants are not subject to any upper age limit. Police clearance certificates, original university degree certificates, and work experience proof are not required. Application processing is significantly faster than for Category B and C applicants.

Action Items

  • Employers hiring foreign nationals to work in Shanghai are urged to consult an immigration specialist on whether this expedited process is appropriate in their circumstances.