Essential employment paperwork in China



Processing important work documents can be quite complicated in China, which is why most working expats in the country have their documents sorted by their employers. 

The most important things you would need as an expat in the country are the proper visa and proper tax information. Learn more about these essential documents through the detailed information below.


"You must know that your working visa only lasts a year! Each year, you must renew your working contract and your working visa. In the event your employer doesn’t renew your working contract, then you have just a few weeks to find a new employer before your visa expires!" - Georges Hymans, Expat in China

Employment visa: (Z-visa)

  • The process for obtaining a work visa depends on the type and structure of the company which sponsors you. Documents are required from both you and the company to prove your employment. Most employment visas require a letter of intent to hire from the employee’s company, along with a copy of the employee’s resume, references, and qualifications. A medical report is also required, which includes an HIV/AIDS test result. The process is done in conjunction with obtaining a residence permit and in 3 instalments, each typically taking 5 working days. You must surrender your passport for approximately 10 days, during which time only domestic travel is permitted with an exemption letter is obtained from the government bureau.

"Getting the visa and residence permit can be a nightmare, so it is always a good idea to check beforehand if your company has other foreign employees (and thus have experience getting the work visa). If they have never hired a foreigner, prepare for a hell of a ride, contradictory information and countless visits to visa offices."- Marta Marino, Expat in Suzhou, China

Business Visa: (F-visa)

  • This is issued to foreigners who are invited to China for business, research, and lectures, as well as cultural exchange.

Income Tax

Everyone, including foreigners, must declare their income worldwide if they have been in China for more than 183 days and earned more than 120,000RMB annually. 5.5% sales tax is included in all shop bought items.

Currently, the corporate tax rate for domestic companies is 33%, but his may change with the introduction of a lower flat tax rate. Foreign companies used to benefit from reduced tax rate, which was used to attract foreign investment. These rates are currently being repealed, although there is a grace period over the next 4 years to allow for foreign companies to adjust.

In China, personal income tax is deducted automatically from salaries. The tax ranges from 5%-45% (average 10-25%) depending on the salary grade.

Your company’s human resource or accounting department should be able to provide all tax information you require. For more information, you can consult the State Administration of Taxation.