Last year we looked at the arduous process of obtaining a Chinese work visa under the latest system, which was introduced in early 2017. (If you haven’t read it prior to reading this article, it is strongly recommended that you do.) Now we guide you through the slightly less arduous (but still pretty complicated) process of transferring your Chinese work visa to a new company. Please note: These are the requirements in regards to Beijing. Procedures will vary from city to city. Have fun with that!
Here’s a quick recap of the standout factors of obtaining your FIRST work visa for China:
• A work visa is only one of several key items you need to legally work in China. It will only allow you to enter China under the assumption that you will work in the country.
• Upon entering the country/getting your visa, you have 30 days to apply for a work permit and a residence permit. These will be valid for either one year or two years, depending on several factors.
• You are under no circumstances allowed to do paid work in China on any other type of visa (technically you need both a work permit AND residence permit in hand).
• If an employer tells you that you don’t need a work visa, or don’t have to go through the proper channels to obtain one, they’re lying and ultimately putting you at risk.
• That Ukrainian dude you have on WeChat once mentioned his best friend’s cousin was allowed to work on a G5 visa that he obtained directly from the descendants of Confucius. This is obviously ridiculous, but the point being made here is that you shouldn’t believe in hearsay, which is rampant in discussion groups and online forums.
• Your work permit is tied to one employer, meaning that it’s technically illegal to work part-time for another one. Keep that in mind before you start teaching English on weekends. This is the kind of thing that can happen.
Once you receive your work and residence permits and start working in China, what happens if you want a new job? What happens if you’re laid-off and have to find a new gig out of necessity? As if obtaining work and residence permits wasn’t difficult enough, transferring them to a new employer is also quite the process, although thankfully not nearly as time-consuming and frustrating.
“Transferring a work visa” is actually a factoid for two reasons:
• You’re not transferring your visa, you’re transferring your work permit.
• You’re not transferring your work permit. You’re technically cancelling it and reapplying.
Here’s a complete guide on how it works.
Assuming you have work and residence permits with one employer already, you should try to keep a good relationship with said employer. The reason why will become obvious later on, but for now, let’s assume you have already found a new job.
Once you’re offered a job at a new company, be aware that you’re not allowed to work for them until your work permit is tied to them instead of your old employer. This how the Chinese labour laws work.
While we’re not going to tell you there’s no harm in starting to work for your new company anyway, you can be quite sure that this rule is seldom enforced due to how much extra paperwork and sweat it is for the government to hunt for expats and companies that bend this anachronistic rule a little.
Resigning from your old company can take anything from less than a week (if you resign during your probation period) to a month otherwise. Do keep in mind that if you willingly resign of your own accord, you won’t receive any severance pay that is mandatory if you’ve been laid-off.
It’s a good idea if you invite the responsible HR persons from both your old and new company to a WeChat group and let them iron out the details. They will need to coordinate the dates they put on the release letter and the new employment contract. If the dates are mismatched, it might draw the ire of the government, and no-one wants that.
Your old employer will ask you to sign a resignation form called “APPLICATION FORM FOR CANCELLATION OF FOREIGNER'S WORK PERMIT”. You also have to sign another document roughly translated into “MEMORANDUM OF LABOUR RELATIONS”, which simply states that you are no longer working at company A. Both forms have to be signed and stamped in original, meaning you’ll either have to go to your old company or have them delivered there after you sign them.
The first document will then be submitted for approval (yes, the government has to approve your work permit cancellation). After they have approved your cancellation you will then be asked to send your work permit to the Entry-Exit Administration Service Center for “deprogramming”. This rather dystopian-sounding process won’t take more than five days at most, but will feel much longer due to the fact that you’re now not legally allowed to work in China.
After your work permit has been deprogrammed, your old company will be given a release letter by the government, or more correctly a “FOREIGNER'S WORK PERMIT CANCELLATION CERTIFICATE”. You need this letter, so if the relationship with your old employer is not the best, this would be the time when they can hold your release letter for ransom. Assuming that’s not the case, the HR person at your new company will take this letter (obviously signed and stamped and not a copy) and start the process of (re)applying for a new work permit.
Reapplying for a work permit with a release letter is almost identical (though slightly more streamlined) to applying for one for the first time. It starts with an online application, which will likely be handled by the HR person at your new company. You might be asked to provide digital copies of the health check report you got when applying the first time, or even take a new test, and your old legalized and notarized academic degree and criminal background check. Most likely you will also be asked to provide a new passport photo.
It’s around this time that the HR person will realise two things:
• Your new job title is different from your old job description.
• Your new job title cannot be different from your old job description.
The labour laws dictate that your original work permit, and all the work that went into obtaining it, is only good for that type of job and no other. There is naturally some flex to this, but not a lot. If you go from a copywriter to a business manager, the Chinese government won’t have any of it.
The most pragmatic solution in this case is to adjust the title in your new contract to better correlate with your old one, but this decision is for your HR department to make. In a company with many foreigners, however, this will hardly ever be an issue as they’ll know about this potential caveat already.
After having your online application approved, (again, assuming it will be), the next step is to make an offline application at the Entry-Exit Administration Service Center. The surprising difference this time is that you don’t have to be there in person; only the HR person is needed. The processing time for your new work permit is supposed to be 10 working days, but by now no-one cares anymore and you will probably get your new work permit card within five!
When your new work permit is ready for collection, you don’t even have to pick it up yourself. That task will once again befall the HR person, the unsung heroes of hiring foreigners in China.
Upon receiving your new work permit, you will immediately realise it’s actually the same one. Same work permit number, same validity, same picture, and grade. The only difference is that if you scan the QR-code, the details about your employer will be related to your new one. Your residence permit and accommodation registration don’t change at all throughout this entire process.
Transferring your work permit is a comparatively easy process. If you’ve been accepted as a foreign worker by the Chinese government once, you won’t have to re-do everything if you change your job as you’re already inside the system.
But streamlining aside, the entire process will realistically take between one and two months from start to finish. Keep that in mind, especially since you won’t be able to leave China as soon as your work permit has been sent away in Step 3. Technically speaking, leaving China won’t be an issue, but coming back will be.
But with work and residence permits back in your possession, you’re now back on track and free to leave and enter China as many times as you like. I just wouldn’t recommend changing jobs too often, for your own sanity!
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You didnt mention foreign expert certificate - i fear you have confused it with work permit and/or residence permit which it is often called. Sorry, but you should either update this or scrap it altogether. I live and work in Beijing and am presently going thru this process. Step 1: Resign your position (they usually need sufficient notice other wise they can block the process) Step 2: Find a new position (lots of jobs out their so don't stress) Step 3: Get your HR to sign the recommendation letter (its all in Chinese and without it they may not want to proceed with employing you) Step 4: Cancel foreign expert certificate Step 5: Reapply for foreign expert certificate Step 6: Cancel/transform work permit/residence permit to new employer Step 7: depending on carious factors that nobody really knows, do another health check (note: I haven't done one in 3 years including when I came from Hz to Bj). This step may or may not proceed step 7. That is my experience from past years and seems to be what H.R is telling me to do this year although time will tell.
Dec 05, 2019 23:15 Report Abuse
Does this mean that I don’t need to cancel my residence permit? My residence permit expires in the end of August but i’m going to start with my new school in July. I was told by some that I also need to cancel my residence permit after my work permit is cancelled, but that could make me have a problem with my stay here. Please enlighten me, I have asked my manager but some officials say different things. Add me on wechat: onethingremains07
Jun 11, 2019 21:29 Report Abuse
Memorandum of human relations? Application form for cancellation of foreign work permit? Huh? I'm near the end of the transfer process myself and never had to worry about those. The visa officer from my company at the time took care of that, as well as transferring my existing work permit to the PSB. All I had to do was hand in my notice to my boss, give my passport to the visa officer and wait for the PSB to send back my release papers and 30-day stay permit. That was it. When applying for the permit, one of the first steps is to get new visa photos with a white background. But to change from a short-stay to family or tourist visa as required by law, you need another visa photo with blue background. You also need to provide receipts for both photos. None of this was mentioned in the article. I'm also pretty sure that when applying to work for a new company, you need to undergo another health check - you can't use the one from your previous company. Also, the notarization of your (new) police check record and uni degree (which can be done at the embassy or consulate) has to be translated into Chinese by an approved agency. This is a crucial step that also wasn't mentioned. Finally, I completely disagree that it's a relatively easy process and the time frame of 1-2 months is complete fantasy, really. I started the process in December. It's now March and it's still not finished. The rules are so complicated, I had different people telling me different things because the laws are very vague and subject to be changed on a whim. For what it's worth, I'm based in Guangzhou so maybe the process you've described is how they do it in Shanghai or Beijing, which is diifferent from here and performed much more quickly and efficiently.
Mar 01, 2019 13:18 Report Abuse
That's quite the comment you have there. First things first - yes, it should be noted that this guide refers to Beijing, I'll see to it that it is clearly stated in it. Obviously, you won't know the names of these documents if your visa officer/HR person is taking care of it for you. A new health check is not always necessary, they are valid for six months and I've experienced both situations. One time they didn't need one, and another time they needed one. Neither a new police transcript nor a university degree is not needed, although you are correct that when applying for the first time, both need to be translated and notarized. But yes, the rules are vague, and quite often not very clear. Though transferring a work permit is certainly much easier than applying for one in the first place.
Mar 03, 2019 15:35 Report Abuse
"That Ukrainian dude"?? Why are you pointing out to Ukrainians? You are bloody racist whoever wrote this article! Echinacities is a racist and expressing hatred and intolerance towards other nationalities living in China. Please, remove the sentence about Ukrainians immediately, or it will be posted on Facebook and Instagram.
Feb 27, 2019 03:04 Report Abuse