What is the change? China has issued new rules for Short-Term Work Visas (Z Visas) for assignments lasting 90 days or less.

What does the change mean? While some will have to obtain the new visas, most business travelers will continue to be able to complete short-term work projects on M or F visas.

  • Implementation timeframe: Jan. 1.
  • Visas/permits affected: M Visas, F Visas and Short-Term Work Visas.
  • Who is affected: Athletes, artists and models are among those who will need to obtain Short-Term Work Visas to work on projects lasting 90 days or less. Most others can continue using M or F visas for such projects.
  • Impact on processing times: Processing times will not directly be affected, but the overall time required to apply for and obtain Short-Term Work Visas is expected to be longer than the amount of time required for M or F visa applications. Obtaining a Short-Term Work Visa requires travelers to apply for “Approval for Short-Term Employment for Foreigners Working in P.R. China” at the labor bureau; apply for an invitation letter for short-term work; apply for the Short-Term Work Visa at a Chinese embassy or consulate; and, lastly, apply for a residence permit. In total, the process may take 20 to 35 days.
  • Business impact: Those affected by the new rules will need to allow more lead time, since it will likely take longer to obtain a Short-Term Work Visa than it takes to obtain a M or F visa.
  • Next steps: Those who are affected will have to apply for Short-Term Work Visas rather than M or F visas. Most regular business travelers, however, can continue using their M or F visa for short-term work projects.

Background: In late 2014, authorities released a trial implementation regulation for a new Short-Term Work Visas application to solicit feedback from the public and immigration industry agents. New rules now make it clear which travelers will be required to obtain a Short-Term Work Visa and which can continue using their M or F visas.

Short-Term Work Visas will be required to attend athletic try-outs or auditions; shoot video or film, including commercials and documentaries; carry out fashion shows, including car shows and advertising photo shoots; participate in foreign commercial shows; or to accomplish technology, scientific research, management and supervision, etc. for cooperating parties in China.

Short-Term Work Visas will not be required for short-term work activities such as maintenance, installation and disassembly; supervising or inspecting a bid-winning project; completing work at company branches, subsidiaries or representative offices; or entering China for unpaid volunteer work or where volunteers are paid by an overseas institution.

Short-Term Work Visas may be able to be transferred into long-term work permits and residence permits so long as employment authorization requirements are met. It is important to note that the guidelines on Short-Term Work Visas only apply to foreigners who stay in China for 90 days or less in a calendar year. Those who stay longer must follow traditional work permit application processes.

BAL Analysis: Immigration authorities in China are still finalizing the implementation of the Short-Term Work Visa program, and the program is subject to change. For now, however, it is good news that most business travelers can continue to use M or F visas for short-term work projects in China. Requiring Short-Term Work Visas for athletes, artists, models and some others does mean it will take longer for certain people on short-term assignments to get the proper visa. However, most will not be affected by the change. BAL Shanghai will continue to closely monitor the new program and will provide additional information on the new program as needed.

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

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