New Rules on Foreigner’s Work Permit in China— Classification of Talents into Levels, Complicated Documentary Requirements

source:  date:2017-03-20  author:

On September, 9, 2016, China’s State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs (SAFEA) issued new document on the reform in the administration of Foreigner’s Work Permit, effective from April 1, 2017 nationalwide.


1.    Foreigner’s work-related permits unified

Under this new mechanism, the previous Foreign Expert’s Work License and foreigner’s Employment License are unified into the Notice on Approving the Foreigner to Work in China, and the previous Foreign Expert Certificate and Alien Employment Permit are unified into the Foreigner’s Work Permit. Each foreigner working in China will have one number for his/her permits for life time. Thus, this reform involves every foreigner working in China.


2.    Classification of Talents into Levels

The most significant change in this new mechanism is that foreigners are classified into 3 levels, which are Level A- high-level foreign experts, Level B- foreign professional talents, and Level C- ordinary foreigners.


The detailed classification criteria are as follows.


Criteria by Description

Criteria by Points

Level A

high-level foreign experts

s   Selected into national talent introduction plan;

s   Comply with the internationally-recognized standards for professional achievements;

s   Meeting the requirements of the encouraged jobs;

s   Innovative and entrepreneurial talents;

s   Outstanding young elites.


Level B

foreign professional talents

s   Bachelor degree, with 2 years’ related working experience, and is one of:

1.       Management or professional technicians;

2.       Staff that are performing agreements between the Chinese and foreign governments, or international organizations;

3.       Representatives of international organizations in China;

4.       Employees of middle level or above  of transnational corporations and representatives of representative offices;

5.       management or professional technicians hired by various types of entities.

s   Honored graduates from Chinese Universities, earning a master degree or above;

s   Graduates from top-100 universities (according to Shanghai Ranking) overseas, earning a master degree or above;

s   Foreign language teachers.   


Type C

Ordinary Foreigners

Ordinary foreigners engaged in seasonal, temporary, or non-technical jobs. The detailed classification:

s   Employees hired upon approved by related departments of the State Council or inter-govt. agreements.

s   Foreign youths that come to China for internship according to inter-govt. agreements.

s   Foreigners who follow the high level foreign talents to China for housework service.

s   Foreigners that engage in ocean fishing or other works in special areas. 

s   Foreigners that engage in seasonal labor services.

s   Other foreigners under the quota management.



Note: 1. a foreigner meeting the either one of the requirements of Criteria by Description or the Criteria by Points of a level will fall into that level.

2. In the points-based grading system, many factors are involved, including annual salary, educational backgrounds, length of service, working hours in China, Chinese language proficiency, workplaces (concerning regional disparities), ages, graduate universities, excellent working experience and some provincial policy. According to the points-calculation table (trial version), a foreigner, with 5 years’ related working experience and a bachelor degree or above, earning an annual salary of RMB 250,000 or more, aged between 26-45, and engaged in Shanghai with a full-time job can get more than 60 points.


This classification overturns the past system. It categorizes foreigners into 3 tiers, and the principle of “encouraging the top, controlling the middle, and limiting the bottom” will be taken accordingly. There is no quantity limitation on Level A applicants, but conditional limitation on Level B applicants based on market requirements, and quota management on Level C applicants. There is no detailed controlling or limitation measures yet, but it is certain that the employment approval for Level C applicants will be tightened.