What is the change? Chinese immigration authorities, both in-country and at consulates, are increasingly exercising discretion to question various aspects of visa and work permit applications, to seek additional evidence or documentation, and in some cases to deny applications.

What does the change mean? Employers and individuals applying for Chinese visas, work permits (initial and renewals) should anticipate longer processing times and greater unpredictability in how applications are adjudicated.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Visas and work permits.
  • Who is affected: Employers and foreign nationals applying both in-country and at Chinese consulates for immigration services.
  • Impact on processing times: Processing times have lengthened significantly. Work permits, for example, previously took six weeks on average from start to finish, but are now taking three to four months on average.
  • Business impact: Companies may need to rearrange business schedules and work start dates and should anticipate the need to be flexible in addressing processing challenges.

Background: China is in the process of overhauling its immigration regime and moving toward a more centralized system. In recent weeks, authorities in various provinces, as well as consular officials abroad, have been scrutinizing applications extremely closely for any discrepancies or red flags. It has been difficult to predict which issues raise red flags, however, because there have not been any official changes in procedures and decisions are discretionary and case-by-case. However, applicants should expect close scrutiny and potential rejections if they have any criminal history, if they previously stayed in China and their exit stamp does not match the validity period of their visa, or if they are filing an application outside of their home country. Additionally, an applicant’s educational credentials, work experience and other background factors (such as previous international travel) are also being inspected closely.

BAL Analysis: Employers should be aware of the current processing environment and factor in longer processing times, as well as the likelihood of discretionary additional document requests and questioning by immigration officials.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in China. For additional information, please contact

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