Who needs a visa?

In general, all nationals require Visas to enter China, although exceptions do apply.  There are in excess of 100 Visa and Work Authorisation categories.

Please contact our Global Immigration Team for further advice.

Business Visa

Generally a Business (M) Visa is issued to visitors travelling to China for a short-term trip to conduct business activities including attending business meetings, discussions or conferences. Please note that certain exemptions apply to nationals of countries with reciprocal agreements and nationals of certain countries such as Hong Kong require additional documentation.

Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) Business Travel Card

The APEC Business Travel Card is a travel document issued to business travellers who are citizens of APEC participating economies including Hong Kong, which can entitle the holder to Visa free entry for a short term period for business travel.

Type of Visa

Depending on the applicant’s nationality, Visa options include such categories as Tourist and Family Visit Visas (L-visa), Business Visas (M-visa), Work Visas (Z-visa) and Permanent Residence Visas(D-visa).

Application Process

All Visa applications will need to be submitted in the applicant’s country of residence.

Processing time

Processing times for Visa applications tend to vary and change without notice. For Visa applications submitted in the UK, processing times are between 3 to 4 working days.


The validity period of most Business Visas vary. The permitted maximum allowable stay as a business visitor is 90 days cumulatively within a calendar year.

Work Authorisation

Due to the large number of Work Authorisation categories, the following information provides details of a favoured category.


Type of Visa

To obtain a Work Visa, the applicant must obtain the necessary work authorisation. There are number of different Work Visa types with each region and city having their own Immigration and Labour Bureau process and the employee will be required to complete certain requirements such as a medical examination.

It is possible to convert from Business Visitor status to Employment Status without leaving China in some provinces.  However, others require applicants to exit China and obtain a Type Z Visa at a Chinese Consulate in their home country or Hong Kong SAR.

Application Process

The process varies from province to province. However, the immigration documents necessary follow:

  • Employment License;
  • Invitation;
  • Z Visa or F Visa;
  • Employment Certificate;
  • Residence Permit.

Upon entry into China, the Employment Certificate and Residence Permit are secured.

Processing time

Processing times for full Work Authorisation applications tend to vary and change without notice.

However the following guideline can be used:

  • Employment Licence                 1 to 3 weeks
  • Invitation Letter                          1 to 2 weeks
  • Z Visa                                       1 week
  • Employment Permit/Certificate   1 to 2 weeks
  • Residence Permit                      1 to 2 weeks


Under Chinese immigration laws, an employer is allowed to employ overseas workers for varying periods.  Sometimes the length of time is determined once the foreign worker enters China and obtains a Residence Permit.


Dependents may be granted permission to remain in line with the foreign worker. Legal spouses and children up to age 21 of Employment Visa holders can receive Dependent Z Visas. Employment is not permitted, and non-married partners are not recognised.

Penalties for Non Compliance


If the employer breaches the immigration rules the Chinese government may:

  • Impose fines of up to CNY 500 per day;
  • Impose lump sum fines of CNY 50,000; and
  • Can prevent the employer from sponsoring further assignees for Work Authorisation category applications as well as being named in State Media as not respecting local laws and customs.


If the foreign worker breaches the immigration rules their visa may be cancelled and they will be required to leave China. They can also face penalties including fines up to CNY 5,000 and, in some serious cases, detention until their removal from China can be arranged.

Areas of Concern

  • Please note that nationals of certain countries may require police clearance certificates.
  • Unofficial partners cannot receive dependent status.
  • Absence of degree, relevant experience, or sufficient compensation can complicate Work Authorisation applications.
  • In certain circumstance, an employer’s ratio of foreign to local workers may be scrutinised during applications for Work Authorisation.

The contents of this article are for information purposes only.  The information and opinions expressed in this document do not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for legal advice or a comprehensive statement of law or current practice.  Immigration rules and requirements frequently change without notice.  You should not rely upon the contents of this document but instead should seek appropriate professional and legal advice in the light of your personal circumstances.  No liability is accepted for the opinions contained or for any errors or commissions. Please contact our Global Immigration Team for further information.