Assessing travel and visa obligations in China

When traveling to China, your nationality and the types of activities you will conduct during your trip will determine whether you may travel lawfully as a business visitor or if you require a work permit. Please seek advice from your immigration counsel if you are uncertain about the specific types of activities that constitute business or work.

Traveling for business

What types of activities may I engage in as a business visitor?

As a business visitor to China, you may engage in the activities below, depending on the type of visa obtained. The most common types of visas for business visitors are the M Visa, Visa on Arrival, F Visa and Foreign Talent (R) Visa. While this list is not exhaustive and other activities could qualify as business, depending on the visa held, you may:

  • Attend business meetings, conferences, or seminars
  • Attend or give lectures
  • Tour a current project site or factory floor


If I qualify as a business visitor, do I need a visa for China?

Most foreign nationals, including nationals of the United States and the European Union member states, are required to obtain a visa for business activities from a Chinese Consulate or Embassy prior to travel. Only nationals from select countries are eligible for visa waiver status, which allows visitors to enter and conduct business activities in China. Please obtain an individual assessment prior to travel to determine your eligibility for a visa waiver.

Foreign nationals traveling to China for emergency business purposes may be eligible to obtain a Visa on Arrival (also called Landing Visa) upon arriving in China. Please obtain an individual assessment prior to travel to determine your eligibility for a Visa on Arrival.

Working in China

What types of activities require a work permit?

The activities below, whether paid or unpaid, generally constitute work under Chinese law. This list is not exhaustive, and many other professional activities are considered work in China, even if conducted for a short duration.

  • Participating in trade shows and making direct sales to the public
  • Performing repairs (including emergency repairs)
  • Performing maintenance

In limited circumstances, foreign nationals may engage in certain professional activities without obtaining work authorization, including while on short-term assignment, although strict preconditions must be met. An individual assessment is required before deciding whether an exemption is applicable.


If I am traveling to China for work, what type of work permit do I need?

The requirements for a work permit depend on your qualifications, on the nature and duration of your work and on whether your employer has an entity in China. Most foreign nationals working in China must obtain a Z Visa, Work Permit Card and Residence Permit when working in China. The most common Chinese work permits are:

  • Category A Work Permit Card and Residence Permit Card (long-term work authorization for high-level experts in science, high-tech and special talents)
  • Category B Work Permit Card and Residence Permit Card (long-term work authorization for market-demand talents)
  • Category C Work Permit Card and Residence Permit Card (long-term work authorization for temporary/service market workers)


Is it possible to be exempted from work permit requirements?

Residents of Hong Kong SAR PRC, Macau SAR PRC and Taiwan PRC are not required to obtain a work permit in order to work in Mainland China. However, other formalities are required prior to working or residing in Mainland China.


What else should I know?

Inevitably, the legal and strategic considerations impacting visa selection, as well as visa waiver and work authorization eligibility, entail the careful consideration of many factors. We recommend that you consult with your immigration counsel before taking any course of action.


Copyright ©2024 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. Government immigration agencies often change their policies and practices without notice; please consult an immigration professional for up-to-date information. This document does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. BAL maintains comprehensive immigration information and processing specifics for our clients.