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Visas and Permits for Expats in Beijing

Are you an expat moving to Beijing? If so, you’ll surely need some practical support and information. Let InterNations help you with your move to Beijing. We provide a general introduction to the city, plus some practical tips on visas, housing, and more. Your adventure in Beijing begins here.
Make sure you have your visa in order before departing for Beijing.

Visa Requirements

Unless you are a tourist (L visa), an international student (X visa), or on a shorter academic visit/business trip to China (F visa), you probably need a Z visa for Beijing: Only Z visa holders are granted a work permit.

No matter what anybody might tell you: Do not come to China with the intention of taking up gainful employment without a Z visa.

Self-made expats who would like to teach English as a Foreign Language and then travel through China are prone to making this mistake. There’s sometimes misinformation floating about TEFL bulletin boards or spouted by shady recruiting agencies that exploit gullible young globetrotters.

Applying for a Visa 

Usually, your future employer will take care of obtaining an Employment License from the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Labor and Social Security for you. For this purpose, they usually need the following documents:

  • a copy of your passport
  • copies of your educational degree(s) and professional qualifications
  • your CV and professional references
  • proof of a clean criminal record
  • a health certificate from a medical check-up examination

Ask them exactly which documents they require. The copies might have to be officially certified or notarized, and you may have to enclose Chinese translations of some documents.

As soon as the HR staff has been issued your Employment License, they will use it to get you an official invite to China. Once you have received these two documents, you are ready to go to the nearest Chinese Embassy or Consulate. Start your visa application process as soon as possible.

With your new Z visa, you can legally enter China. However, there’s still quite a bit of red tape ahead of you.

Still unsure about how to get a Chinese visa? Our Extended Guide article lists various visa categories and offers lots of advice on the application process.

Alien Registration and Work Permits

Within 24 hours after your arrival in Beijing, you must register as a foreign national with the local police. If you are staying at a hotel, the administrative staff normally does this for you. Now you can go about getting your Alien Employment Permit.

However, you will first need to get a health certificate! You can get it from the Beijing Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau. Normally, it’s enough to bring along certified translations of your medical records from a previous check-up at home. This includes a chest x-ray and negative testing for HIV and other STDs.

If you are lucky, your employer will settle the Employment Permit for you. Otherwise, you have to make an appointment with the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Labor and Social Security yourself. Generally, you need to bring these papers:

  • Employment License
  • health certificate
  • two copies of your employer’s business license
  • original and copy of your job contract (plus an official Chinese translation)
  • original and copy of your passport
  • completed Employment Registration Form
  • several passport photographs

Residence Permits

Once you have your Employment Permit, you are still short of a proper Residence Permit. Even a Z visa is valid for 30 days only. In this time, you need to exchange it for the one-year Residence Permit. It is basically a visa in anything but name and has to be renewed on a regular basis.

Go to the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau to change the Z visa into a Residence Permit. With this new permit, re-register with the local police to inform them of your changed residence status.

Journalists and Foreign Correspondents

Please note that the application process for a visa, a work permit, and a residence permit may be different if you go to Beijing on a J1 or J2 visa for journalists. Please ask both the nearest Chinese Embassy or Consulate and the Chinese office of your employer for detailed information on the latest requirements for foreign media representatives in China. 


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Ole Jacobsen

"Beijing has so much to offer for expats. InterNations helped me explore the international community and many close friends."

Farrah Thompson

"At one of the InterNations events here in Beijing I eventually met my French boyfriend, who is an expat just like me."

Global Expat Guide