Additional Visa Requirements for Short Term Work in China

Following the new visa regulations implemented in September 2013, China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MHRSS) released a circular on the visa requirements for foreigners coming to China for short term work. The circular was issued jointly with the Ministries of Public Security, Foreign Affairs and Culture and will enter into force on January 1, 2015. The new regulations provide specific requirements for performing artists coming to China for shows.


The regulations only apply to foreigners coming to China for no more than 90 days. Foreigners coming to China to work for more than 90 days must follow the regular procedures.


The new rules further clarify what visa types apply to short term visits to China. For short term trips, the main distinguishing factor is whether an activity is considered short term work.


Short term work certificate 

As shown above, activities that are seen as short term work now require an additional document called the Short Term Work Certificate.


This document is required in addition to an Employment License (or its equivalent), which is needed for all Z visas. The company that intends to employ the foreigner for short term work needs to submit the application to the provincial or municipal Human Resources and Social Security Bureau.


Approval for performing arts shows


Foreigners coming to China to engage in a performing arts show need to apply for an approval letter from the Cultural Department involved. The letter of approval is the equivalent of an Employment License. The organisers of the show can apply for this document at the Cultural Department assigned to the area where the first show is held. This letter of approval will be marked as ‘foreign related for-profit show or performance for commercial ends.’ In that case, the Cultural Department will issue the Short Term Work Certificate. If the show is held at more than one location, you don’t need to apply for separate approval letters from each Cultural Department.




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Employment license


Foreigners who are travelling to China for short term work, other than engaging in performing arts, need to obtain an employment license from the MHRSS.  This requirement applies to regular work visas (for work over 90 days) as well, but the required documents are different:


  • Photocopies of the domestic partner’s Registration Certificate and Organisation Code.
  • A contract between the Chinese and foreign enterprise, a project contract etc.
  • Resume of the foreigner
  • Valid passport
  • Copies of relevant certifications (applicable to foreigners coming to China for technical or professional work)
  • Additional documents required by the approving authorities


Next steps


After the domestic company has been granted either an Employment License or an approval letter from the Cultural Department, the procedure is roughly the same as with a regular work visa. Next, the company needs to apply for an Invitation Letter. With the Invitation Letter, Employment License and Short Term Work Certificate, the foreigner can apply for a Z visa. For short term work,  a Health Check is not required.


For stays over 30 days (but less than 90 days) the foreigner needs to apply for a Residence Permit as well. Foreigners working in China less than 30 days don’t need to apply for one. Instead, their Short Term Work Certificate and Z visa will state how many days they are allowed to stay.


An Employment Permit (note: not the same as an Employment License) is only required for stays over 90 days.


This article was first published on China Briefing.


Dezan Shira & Associates is a specialist foreign direct investment practice, providing corporate establishment, business advisory, tax advisory and compliance, accounting, payroll, due diligence and financial review services to multinationals investing in emerging Asia. Since its establishment in 1992, the firm has grown into one of Asia’s most versatile full-service consultancies with operational offices across China, Hong Kong, India, Singapore and Vietnam as well as liaison offices in Italy and the United States.


For further details or to contact the firm, please email [email protected] or visit www.dezshira.com.

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The Contributor

China Briefing hosts a wealth of business intelligence on legal, tax, and operational issues in China from a practical perspective. Knowledge, expertise and commentary for China Briefing is regularly contributed by Dezan Shira & Associates´ professional legal and tax staff. Currently located in Futian district, Dezan Shira & Associates has been assisting foreign companies in Shenzhen for 22 years.

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