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New Immigration Requirements for Foreigners Entering China for Short-term Work Assignment

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 a Notice on the Relevant Formalities for Foreigners Entering China for Completing Short-Term Work Assignment (for Trial Implementation) ("Notice") on 6 November 2014 which provides for new visa and residence requirements on foreigners entering and staying in China for work for no more than 90 days. The Notice has become effective since 1 January 2015.

Old Requirements

Prior to the implementation of the Notice, a foreigner who stayed in China for work for less than 3 months normally did not need to deal with any employment-related formalities (namely application for employment license, work visa (i.e. Z visa), work permit and residence permit, etc.) unless he/she entered into a labour contract with a PRC employer directly. M visa (for commercial and trade activities) or F visa (for activities such as exchange, visit, study tour and other activities) might be sufficient for this purpose. Now such position has been changed by the Notice and a foreigner may not be able to enjoy the convenience as he/she did before.

New Requirements

The new requirements for a foreigner entering and staying in China for no more than 90 days for completing short-term work assignment under the Notice are summarised in Table 1.

The Notice specifically provides that the circumstances in Table 2 shall not be deemed as short-term work assignment and only M visa or F visa is required if the duration of stay does not exceed 90 days.

Important Points to Note

  1. The Notice substantially changes the requirements and formalities in regard to a foreigner’s entry and stay in China for work for no more than 90 days and more factors need to be taken into account now. When a short-term work arrangement in China is required, the relevant parties including the foreigner, the PRC business partner as well as the overseas employer or business partner of the foreigner shall review the proposed work arrangement carefully such that the parties can deal with the relevant formalities and apply for the appropriate visa in compliance with the Notice.
  2. Quite a lot of steps will need to be attended to in order to apply for the applicable approval documents, Z visa and, if applicable, residence permit. The Notice itself does not specify any timeline for processing such application but it can be expected that the process will be more time and cost consuming than it used to be. When planning the work schedules, sufficient time should be reserved for the application process.
  3. A Proof of Short-term Work Assignment in China is not renewable upon expiration and a foreigner is not allowed to work in China beyond such period. Therefore, it is important to have an accurate estimation of the duration of stay required before taking out an application.
  4. A foreigner from a country with mutual visa waiver agreement with China is also required to obtain a Proof of Short-term Work Assignment in China and Z visa before entering China for completion of short-term work assignment.
  5. A foreigner who works in China for short-term work assignment without completing the formalities required under the Notice or fails to comply with the content of the Proof of Short-term Work Assignment will be deemed as illegally working in China and may be subject to a fine, detention and/or repatriation and may be restrained from entering China for 1 to 5 years from the day of repatriation. On the other hand, the PRC business partner with which the foreigner works may also be regarded as illegally employing foreigner and may be subject to a fine and confiscation of illegal income (if any).
  6. The Notice is new and there are quite a lot of issues requiring further clarification. It is yet to see how it will be interpreted and implemented in different localities within China. However, foreign investors or individuals with need to travel to China on business shall pay close attention to the Notice, its implementation and further development. Legal advice shall be sought if required.


Table 1.

Meaning of Short-term
Work Assignment

Approval Documents

Duration of Stay
Specified in Proof
of Short-Term
Work Assignment



Entering and staying in China
for no more than 90 days for
any of the following reasons:

For foreign related
commercial performances:

No more than
30 days

Z visa with
30 days’
duration of

Not required

1. Completion of certain
work such as technical
work, scientific research,
management or
provision of guidance
at a domestic business
partner in China

a. Approval Letter; and

b. Proof of Short-term
Work Assignment in China
issued by the competent
culture authority












2. Trial training at a sports
institution in China
(including as a coach or
an athlete)

c. Confirmation Letter of
Invitation issued by the
competent foreign affair

More than
30 days but
no more than
90 days

Z visa

permit with
duration of
stay of 90
days shall
be obtained
within 30 days
upon arrival in


3. Filming (including
commercials and

For other short-term work



4. Fashion shows (including
a car show model,
shooting of print ads, etc.)

a. Employment License for
Foreigner; and
b. Proof of Short-term
Work Assignment in China




5. Engaging in foreign
related commercial performances

issued by the competent
human resources and social
security authority




6. Any other circumstances
identified by the human
resources and social
security authority

c. Invitation Letter issued
by the competent
authorised entity





Table 2.

Circumstances Not Regarded as Short-Term Work Assignment

Visa Required

1. Maintenance, installation, commissioning, disassembly, guidance or training services for the purchase of machinery and equipment

M Visa

2. Guidance, supervision or inspection with respect to a successful biding project in China


3. Assignment to a branch office, subsidiary or representative office in China for completion of short-term work


4. Participation in a sports event (including as an athlete, coach, team physician, assistant or any other relevant personnel, unless otherwise approved by the competent Chinese authority as requested by the international sports institutions to participate in a sports event with a registration card)




5. A volunteer entering China to engage in unpaid work or is paid by an overseas institution

F Visa

6. Activities which the competent culture authority does not state “cross-border commercial performances” in its approval letter


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