Guide to Residence Permit for Foreigners in China


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China is a popular destination for foreign workers, students, and entrepreneurs, and obtaining a residence permit is an important step in staying legally in the country. A residence permit serves as an official documentation of an individual’s legal stay in China and allows them to live, work, study or conduct business in the country. It also entitles them to enjoy various benefits and services, such as health care, banking, and access to public transportation.

The purpose of this guide is to provide an updated and comprehensive resource for foreigners who want to obtain a residence permit in China in 2023. The guide will cover the different types of residence permits available, the eligibility requirements, the application process, renewal and extension procedures, common issues and solutions, and frequently asked questions. This guide is designed to help foreigners navigate the complex process of obtaining a residence permit and avoid common mistakes and pitfalls. By following the information and advice in this guide, foreigners can ensure that their stay in China is legal, safe, and hassle-free.

Residence Permit for Foreigners in China

Visa vs. Residence Permit

A visa is a document that allows foreigners to enter China for a specified purpose and duration. On the other hand, a residence permit is required for a more extended stay beyond the visa’s duration. It’s essential to apply for a residence permit within 30 days of entering China for those visas that indicate the need for one.

Types of Resident Permits & Required Materials

China offers different types of residence permits to foreigners based on their purpose of stay.

They have similar basic requirements and specific additional requirements that must be met for each type of permit.

Basic Requirements

To be eligible for a residence permit in China, foreigners must meet certain basic requirements, which include:

  1. Valid Passport: Applicants must have a valid passport with at least six months’ validity remaining.
  2. Good Health: Applicants must pass a medical examination to prove they are healthy and do not have any infectious diseases.
  3. No Criminal Record: Applicants must have a clean criminal record and must not have been deported or denied entry to China before.
  4. Appropriate Visa: Applicants must hold the appropriate visa for the purpose of their stay in China, such as a work visa, student visa, or business visa.

Additional Requirements for Each Type of Permit

1. Work Category

The work permit is issued to foreigners who have secured employment in China. The permit is usually sponsored by the employer, and it allows the holder to legally work and reside in China.

For individuals entering with a Z visa (work visa), submission of a work permit from local human resources and social security, and other relevant authorities is necessary. Other visa holders must also provide materials meeting the conditions specified by the Chinese government for foreign high-level talents, urgently needed specialized talents, investors, etc. Different durations of residence permits are granted based on the category, ranging from 1 to 5 years.

2. Study Category

Those entering with an X1 visa (study visa) should present a letter from the school indicating the study period and admission/enrollment certificates. Similar documentation is required for other visa types. The residence permit duration aligns with the school’s specified study period.

3. Journalist Category

For J1 visa holders (journalist visa), submission of a letter from the provincial foreign affairs department and the issued “Press Card” is mandatory. A residence permit of up to 1 year can be obtained.

4. Reunion Category

Q1 visa holders (reunion visa) should provide the identity certificate of the person to be visited and a family relationship explanation letter. Other visa holders need to submit proof of family relationship. Duration varies from 2 to 3 years based on age, and additional documents are required for foreign Chinese and overseas Chinese fostering foreign children.

5. Private Affairs Category

S1 visa holders (private affairs visa) visiting family should present a family relationship explanation letter and the residence permit of the person to be visited. The duration aligns with the person to be visited. Others must submit relevant private affairs-related documents, and the residence permit can be issued for up to 1 year.

Resident Permit Application Process

Documents Required

To apply for a residence permit in China, foreigners must prepare the following documents:

  1. Application Form: The application form can be downloaded from the website of the Chinese embassy or consulate.
  2. Passport: A valid passport with at least six months’ validity remaining.
  3. Visa: The appropriate visa for the purpose of stay in China, such as a work visa, student visa, or business visa.
  4. Photo: A recent passport-size photo with a white background.
  5. Medical Report: A medical report issued by a designated hospital or clinic in China.
  6. Additional documents: Additional documents may be required depending on the type of residence permit being applied for, such as an employment contract for a work permit or an admission letter for a student visa.

Online Application Process

The online application process for a residence permit in China involves the following steps:

  1. Create an account on the website of the Public Security Bureau.
  2. Complete the online application form and upload the required documents.
  3. Pay the application fee online.
  4. Submit the application online.

Renewal and Extension of Residence Permit

Renewal Process

Foreigners who wish to continue their stay in China after their residence permit expires must apply for renewal at least 30 days before the expiration date. The renewal process is similar to the initial application process and involves submitting the required documents and completing the biometric data collection. The processing time for renewal applications is usually shorter than the initial application process, typically around 10-15 working days.

Extension Process

Foreigners who wish to extend their stay in China beyond the validity of their residence permit must apply for an extension at least 30 days before the expiration date. The extension process is also similar to the initial application process, and the required documents and biometric data must be submitted. The processing time for extension applications is usually longer than the renewal process, typically around 15-20 working days.

Important Deadlines

It is important for foreigners to keep track of the expiration date of their residence permit and to apply for renewal or extension in a timely manner. Failure to do so may result in a penalty or even deportation. Foreigners who apply for renewal or extension after the expiration date may also face additional requirements or longer processing times. It is recommended to apply for renewal or extension at least 30 days before the expiration date to avoid any potential issues.

Common Issues and Solutions

Dealing with residence permit applications can be a complicated process, and many issues can arise during the application or renewal process. Here are some common issues and solutions to help you navigate the process successfully.

Rejection of Application

If your application is rejected, the first step is to find out why. Reasons for rejection may include incomplete documentation, incorrect information, or other issues. To address the problem, you should review the rejection notice carefully and make sure you understand the reason for rejection. Once you have identified the issue, you can correct it and resubmit your application.

Change of Employer

If you change your employer while in China, you will need to apply for a new work permit and residence permit. The process involves canceling your old work permit and residence permit and applying for new ones with your new employer. The new employer must also provide documentation to support your application, such as an employment contract and business license.

Change of Visa Type

If you need to change your visa type while in China, you will need to apply for a new visa and residence permit. The process involves canceling your old visa and residence permit and applying for new ones with the new visa type. You will also need to provide documentation to support your new visa type, such as an admission letter for a student visa or a business invitation letter for a business visa.


Overstaying your visa in China can have serious consequences, including fines, detention, and deportation. If you realize that you have overstayed your visa, you should take immediate action to address the issue. The best course of action is to apply for an extension or renewal of your visa before the expiration date. If you have already overstayed your visa, you should contact the local Public Security Bureau immediately to discuss your options and avoid any legal issues.

China work permit

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the residence permit for foreigners in China.

Can I work part-time on a student visa?

Foreign students in China can work part-time with the permission of their school and the local Public Security Bureau. The student must obtain a work permit and an endorsement on their student visa from their school. The work permit allows the student to work up to 20 hours per week during the academic year and full-time during holidays.

Can I apply for a residence permit in China?

Foreigners who plan to stay in China for more than six months are required to apply for a residence permit. The permit allows the holder to enter and exit China multiple times during the validity period without the need for a visa. The application process involves submitting the required documents, completing the biometric data collection, and attending an in-person appointment at the local Public Security Bureau.

Can I bring my family with me on a work permit?

Foreigners who hold a work permit in China can apply for a family visa for their spouse and children. The application process is similar to the initial residence permit application and involves submitting the required documents and completing the biometric data collection. The validity of the family visa is linked to the validity of the work permit. The spouse and children can also apply for a work permit if they wish to work in China.

Policies related to resident permits

Expert residence permit and green card

The Shanghai Science and Technology Commission has created a list of 3,500 ‘Innovative’ firms whose foreign employees qualify as ‘experts‘. If your employer is one of these 3,500 companies, you can now apply for a new five-year work permit. Once you have worked for 3+ years, you can directly apply for permanent residency (China green card [D Visa]).

Benefit for high earners

Irrespective of your position or employer, you can get a permanent residence permit if you earn over 600,000 RMB per year, paid your timely income taxes (120,000 RMB+ per year), and have worked in Shanghai for more than four consecutive years with no criminal record in your home country.

Long-term five-year residence permit

Expatriates who have continuously worked a minimum of two years in Shanghai with a working visa, and have not broken any China immigration laws and regulations, can apply five years long term working residence permit the next time. Excellent news for those who are weary of the annual residence permit renewal process.

Personal employment permit

Expatriates with (China green card/D Visa) permanent residence permits can hire personnel, who can be issued residence permits. If you have a green card or a five-year work permit, you may choose to employ a foreign nanny or an Ayi.

Residence permits for foreign China university graduates

Shanghai aims to support its top graduates by allowing them to apply for a two-year residence permit following their graduation. This policy applies to foreigners who have graduated from top Chinese universities. This will be helpful for their internships, short-term assignments, or entrepreneurship ventures.

For more details in terms of the expatriates’ visa application in China, you can read our article about working visas in China.

Final tips and advice for foreigners in China.

Here are some final tips and advice for foreigners living in China. Firstly, be patient and flexible, as the country has a unique culture and way of doing things. Secondly, learn Mandarin to communicate effectively with locals and immerse yourself in the culture. Thirdly, respect local customs and traditions, such as removing your shoes when entering someone’s home. Finally, be aware of your surroundings, take necessary precautions, and follow local laws and regulations to avoid any legal issues. By following these tips, you can enjoy a smooth and fulfilling experience living in China.

How HROne can be beneficial to your business

Living and working in China is an enriching experience, but it comes with unique challenges. To make this journey seamless, HROne’s Employer of Records (EOR) service is your ultimate ally. Here’s why you should trust HROne to guide you through the complexities of work and residence permit applications:

Comprehensive Employee Benefits and Visa Management

HROne offers a holistic approach, covering all aspects of employee benefits and visa management for your company. Whether you’re a business or an individual, ensuring full compliance with local policies and regulations is paramount. HROne takes charge, ensuring your company meets all requirements.

Direct Employee Hiring Without a Legal Entity

For companies without a legal entity in China, HROne’s specialized team facilitates direct employee hiring. This streamlines the process, allowing your business to thrive without the need for extensive legal infrastructure.

Navigating Work Permit and Residence Permit Applications

Work permits and residence permits are the keys to a successful stay in China. HROne understands the intricate details of the application processes. From documentation to submission and follow-ups, our experts ensure a hassle-free experience, helping you secure the necessary permits for your stay.

Tailored Solutions for Different Permit Categories

Whether you are seeking a work permit, student visa, or other residence permits, HROne tailors its services to your specific needs. Our expertise spans across various permit categories, ensuring that you receive accurate guidance and support.

Ensuring Compliance with Local Regulations

Navigating China’s regulatory landscape can be complex, but with HROne, compliance is assured. We stay updated on the latest regulations, guaranteeing that your applications align with the current legal framework.

Trusted Partner for a Fulfilling Experience in China

Patience, flexibility, language learning, cultural respect, and legal adherence are key to a successful stay. By choosing HROne, you align yourself with a trusted partner committed to providing a smooth and fulfilling experience in China.

Embark on your journey in China with confidence. Choose HROne – your dedicated partner in navigating the intricate processes of work and residence permit applications, ensuring your time in China is not only legally sound but also professionally rewarding.


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