Shanghai Work Visa / Work Permit Application Process

Most people confuse the standard process for work permit application and what it looks like. To start off, you need to understand there are two permits involved: a work permit and a residence permit.

Work Permit

It used to be a red book with a few pages. Around 2014, China replaced it with a blue card. I will refer to this as the work permit or blue employment card.

Residence Permit

The residence permit is the sticker glued to your passport page that immigration officers or border controls look at when you enter Chinese borders.

In a nutshell, you need to get your work permit (blue employment card) before you can apply for your residence permit. 

The Work Permit Application Process

There will be 3 different government departments/staff members screen your documents: online, offline, then a final online again. The application process is the following:

  1. Collect your documents
  2. Submit documents online (round 1 screening)
  3. Submit documents in-person at a work permit center (round 2 screening)
  4. Wait for final online screening (round 3 screening)
  5. Pick-up your work permit card

Step 1 – Collect Required Documents

BOTH soft and hard copies of the following:

  1. Passport ID page (the passport must have two blank pages left and with a validity of more than one year)
  2. Updated CV in Chinese (Work time, place, position, work content; university period, university name, location, major, and other experiences)
  3. Highest educational certificate – legalized by overseas Chinese embassy/ consulates or foreign  embassy/ consulates  in China/ or
  4. Certificate of Health Examination – reserve online (the app SITHC )
  5. A reference letter from your previous company. The letter should reflect at least two years of full time relevant work experience. The reference letter must contain the following: employment period (months and years), company name, job position, job description, the contact means of HR(telephone number or e-mail address) and chopped by that company or signed by HR)
  6. Passport photo, taken within the recent 6 months, on a white background, no hat, no frame, the size of head accounts for 2/3 of the whole size of the image
  7. Non-Criminal Record Certificate by police authorities, security authorities, courts in your home country or the country where you have taken long time residence. This must also be certified/ verified by the oversea Chinese embassy/ consulates or foreign embassy/ consulates in China; The certificate is valid for 6 months.
  8. Labor contract(in Chinese) with new employer – must include the following: company name, work location, job position, job description, pay & compensation, seal (signature)

You will need soft copies for step 2 and hard copies for step 3.

Step 2 Submit documents online (round 1 screening)

Your HR will submit your documents online on an online HR platform for foreigners(exact name: service system for foreigners working in China 外国人来华工作管理服务系统 – your company must have an account on this system in order to hire any foreigners). A government personnel will take 5-7 business days to review your work permit application documents and respond whether you are missing any documents or information on these documents. It will give you pretty clear instructions on how to proceed.

For example:

the application is missing certain information or documents. Please upload the final pieces of information or documents and submit them online again. Afterwards, with all your documents, you can proceed immediately to one of the following work permit application center(s). 

请申请单位按照以下要求修改,并在系统内再次提交后,无需等待预审通过,请直接携带材料前往浦东受理窗口办理(受理窗口 地址:1.环科路999弄浦东国际人才港1号楼1楼受理大厅;2.张杨路19962楼受理大厅;3.环湖西一路99号主楼2楼)”

Step 3 Submit documents in-person at a work permit center (round 2 screening)

For this second document screening, the government wants to check the documents you submitted online are genuine documents. So your HR will need to go to the work permit application center and bring all the documents that were submitted online. The HR also needs to bring his or her Chinese ID and the company’s business license(hard and soft copy). Once this person has finished reviewing your hard copies and matched them with the digital copies submitted online, the person will give you or your HR a pick-up receipt. Your application will automatically be queued for the final online vetting.

Step 4 Wait for results from final online screening (round 3 screening)

Takes around 4-7 business days. The government will not reach out to you when it is done. Your application status will be updated on the online application system. Your HR will need to manually check the online system for your application status until it has changed to “approved and available for pickup”. 

Step 5 Pick-up work permit at work permit center

Your HR will need to visit the same work permit center, submit the pick-up receipt, and, in return, receive your work permit(blue employment card). 

Congratulations! You are now allowed to work!! Hopefully, they will grant you to live in Shanghai. You will find out when you apply for your residence permit at Shanghai Exit-Entry Bureau.

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