Visas for foreign employees in China

Based on amendments to China’s visa regulations in September 2013, the following types of visas are applicable to foreigners seeking to do business in China:

Business visas

F Visa

The F Visa, was used previously by foreign nationals coming to China on business but not employed by a Chinese entity. The new regulations have limited the scope of this type of visa to non-commercial purposes only, such as:

It is only appropriate within its limited range of permitted activities.

M Visa

The regulations also introduced a new visa for business travellers called the M Visa. The M visa  is for foreigners coming to the China for business and trade purposes of no more than six months (180 days).

M visas are most suitable for foreigners who will:

You can renew your M visas after six months, at the discretion of the immigration bureau. The risk of rejection has increased, as foreigners tend to reside in China longer.

R Visa

The R visa, a relatively new type of visa, is for high-level foreign personnel and for foreigners whose skills are in shortage in China. To date, the meaning of “high-level personnel” is not entirely clear, but it likely refers to a company’s senior management. Both the Z and R Visas may be considered work visas. The requirements for the R Visa, stipulated locally, are considerably higher than the requirements for the Z visa. .

Z Visa

The Z Visa remains the most common visa type used by foreigners working in China on a permanent, full-time basis.

Strictly speaking, the Z Visa only allows entry into China, after which the employee will need to apply for a residence permit. The residence permit allows the foreigner:

Visa quotas

Officially, there is no regulation explicitly stipulating the number of expats a single company can hire in China. In practice, however, local government agencies have a habit of refusing applications for foreign employees if the company is over a certain limit. Based on experience, local authorities may refuse based on the applicants:

To understand the amount of foreigners you will likely be allowed to hire, foreign investors may inquire directly with the relevant authorities. Providing details such as your registered capital and target industry, or contract the services of a qualified consultancy.


Dezan Shira & Associates

The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service in China recommends that readers seek professional advice regarding their particular circumstances. This publication should not be relied on as a substitute for such professional advice. The Government of Canada does not guarantee the accuracy of any of the information contained on this page. Readers should independently verify the accuracy and reliability of the information. 

Content on this page is provided in part by Dezan Shira & Associates a pan-Asia, multi-disciplinary professional services firm, providing legal, tax, and operational advisory to international corporate investors.

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