Before 1 January 2015, there were no employment-related formalities for foreigners working in China for three months or less, unless the individual entered into an employment contract directly with a local employer. This position has changed. International employers must now comply with new rules before they send staff to China on short term work assignments.
The new rules apply to foreign work projects of 90 days or less. The steps that an employer will need to take depend on the nature of the work and the sector in which it is performed. The general process, however, includes obtaining a PRC employment license, securing a working visa, and ensuring a work-related residence permit is in place before travel. Foreigners from a country with a mutual visa waiver agreement are also subject to requirements; they must obtain a ‘Proof of Short-term Work Assignment’ and a ‘Z visa’ before entering the country.
When planning work schedules, employers should factor in sufficient time for the application process. If an employee works in China without completing the new process, he/she will be deemed to be an illegal worker, and may be subject to a fine, detention and/or repatriation. The individual may also be prevented from re-entering the country for up to five years.
The new law requires further clarification in a number of respects and we are yet to see how it will be interpreted and implemented in different localities within China. Foreign employers should pay close attention to further developments in this area, and seek legal advice where unsure.