China Visa Requirements for Short Work Stays

In November 2014, China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (“MHRSS”), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Public Security, and Ministry of Culture jointly published the Circular on the Issuance of Interim Processing Procedures Regarding Foreigners Who Enter China to Complete Short-Term Tasks (人力资源社会保障部 外交部 公安部 文化部关于印发《外国人入境完成短期工作任务的相关办理程序(试行)》的通知), effective January 1, 2015. In this post, I highlight a few key aspects of those Processing Procedures.

According to the Processing Procedures, if a foreigner comes to China to complete a short-term work task and stays no more than 90 days, he or she must get a work visa (a/k/a a Z visa). The Processing Procedures define a “short-term work task” as one of the following:

  • Completing tasks such as those involving technology, scientific research, management and guidance at the place of the China partner
  • Participating in athletic tryouts at a China sports institution
  • Shooting films, including advertisements and documentaries
  • Performing in fashion shows, including car models, and shooting print advertisement.
  • Participating in foreign-related commercial performances
  • Other circumstances as identified by MHRSS.

The Processing Procedures specifically exclude the following as short-term tasks:

1. Providing services such as maintenance, installation, commissioning, disassembly, guidance or training associated with the purchase of machines and equipment

2. Guiding, supervising and inspecting a China project won in a bid

3. Being seconded to work short-term at a China branch, subsidiary or representative office established by a foreign company

4. Participating in most sports competitions

5. Working as a volunteer for free or even though paid, payment is received from a foreign entity

6. Participating in commercial performances not noted as “foreign-related commercial performances” by the relevant cultural authorities in the approval letter

A foreigner coming to China for no more than 90 days to complete tasks in categories 1-4 (directly above) needs an M visa (visas issued to those invited to China for commercial and trade activities) and those coming for no more than 90 days to complete tasks in categories 5-6 needs an F visa (visas issued to those invited to China for exchanges, visits, study tours and other activities).

Before a foreigner can come to China to perform one of the short-term tasks stated above, the foreigner must take the following steps. First, the China partner (the entity/institution/etc. that invites the foreigner to China) must apply for an employment license and a work certificate, which generally requires submission of the following documents: the China partner’s business registration certificate and organization code, a cooperation agreement/project contract between the parties, the resume of the foreigner who is applying for the work visa, the foreigner’s passport or other valid travel document. If the task to be completed involves technology, a certificate that proves the foreigner’s academic degrees or skills is also required.

The second step is for the China partner to apply for a work visa invitation letter. Next, the foreigner needs to apply for a work visa at a Chinese embassy or consulate, usually by submitting the employment license approval letter and work certificate, the work visa invitation letter, and the foreigner’s passport or other valid travel document. If the foreigner is staying in China for over 30 days (but no more than 90 days), he or she must also obtain an alien residence permit.

Bottom line: If what you are planning on doing in China falls under the above-mentioned definition of “short-term work tasks,” a business visa is probably no longer sufficient and you would need to obtain a work visa.

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