Around this time each year, a lot of expats working in China start looking for new job opportunities. By changing to a new employer, there are important rules and processes that need to be kept in mind.
Firstly, the foundational case is that which requires applicants to apply for a “new” visa from scratch. This is the same process, whether in China or elsewhere. Candidates are treated as new applicants who need to freshly apply through the usual channels.
For those who are currently working in China and whose visas are still in date, the other option is to transfer your work permit so that it’s valid for working with the new employer.
Some points to remember:
- The only visa legally valid for employment in China is an employment visa.
- An employment visa grants the holder the right to work for the company that the work permit is registered with, NOT any other company.
- Do not work for employers that are not connected to your work permit. (See here for more information: Here’s How to Not Get Deported – Visa Laws and Scams in China)
- Make sure you are able to obtain all the relevant documents from the employer you want to leave
- To transfer your work permit to a new employer, you do not need to leave China
What to Do Below is a detailed summary outlining the steps that must be taken in order to transfer a work permit over to a new employer.
Firstly, it isn’t your visa that is transferred, it is your work permit!
Step 1 - Receive a job offer from new employer
Note that at this point you cannot start to work for them. This is simply an expression of desire to employ you; work cannot begin until the permit transfer process is completed satisfactorily.
Step 2 - Resign from your current employer
Depending on how long you have been working, your resignation can be instant or it may be a few weeks before you work your final day. Check the details of your contract carefully to see what obligations you agreed to. We suggest you connect the HR representatives of the new employer and your current employer, so they can co-ordinate various paperwork aspects, for example agreeing on the dates at which your work permit transfer was completed.
Step 3 - Cancel your current work permit
Your current employer will have access to the online government system and access to the cancellation forms via their account.
You will be required to sign a document entitled ‘APPLICATION FORM FOR CANCELLATION OF FOREIGNER’S WORK PERMIT’, and another Chinese language document which states you have officially stopped working for your current employer.
Both forms must be signed and stamped, and must be original copies. A photocopy or scan is not okay.
Your current employer will then send the cancellation document for approval by the relevant authorities, after which you will be requested to submit your work permit for decommissioning.
Step 4- Obtain the cancellation certificate
After the work permit has been decommissioned, a document entitled ‘FOREIGNER’S WORK PERMIT CANCELLATION CERTIFICATE’ will be sent back to your current employer. This letter is required for your work permit transfer, so you must remember to obtain it. Your new employer requires the release certificate to start the application for your new work permit with the new company.
Step 5 - Get a new work permit
This stage of the process is very similar to a standard work permit application.
The process happens online and will most likely be handled by your new employer. Depending on the jurisdiction you are working in, may be required to provide copies of the documents you used during your previous work permit application. This includes legalized and notarized degree & criminal record certificates, and the health report which you completed the first time around.
You may also be required to provide a new passport style photo of yourself. It’s important to keep in mind that your new job must be similar to your old job. If you’re changing to a completely different role, this will quite likely cause an issue. To avoid this, try to make sure the job title on your new contract is quite similar to your old job title.
Step 6 - Collect you new work permit
When the online part of the application process is completed, you will be required to go to the Entry and Exit Bureau or Labor Bureau to collect your new work permit card. This is often done on your behalf by your new employer. If not, you simply need to go to the Entry and Exit Bureau or Labor Bureau to collect it, with relevant evidence or receipts to prove who you are.
Your new work permit will be almost identical to your old one, indeed it may even be the same permit you handed in previously! The main difference is that if you scan the QR code on it to see your registered details, you’ll notice that the employer details have been updated to show your new employer.
Step 7 - The final step
In most cases, the final step is for your passport to have its visa updated so that its details (start and end date) are in line with those on the work permit. You will need to go to the Entry and Exit Bureau to do this.
What if my current employer does not want to co-operate?
There are some cases where people have complained that they were unable to obtain a release letter. This usually happens due to confusion or misunderstanding in the details of the employment contract.
In this unfortunate situation, if you are adamant that you want to leave regardless of having the release letter or not, the only option is to start again with a whole new visa application. This means surrendering your current visa and work permit, and in most cases you will have to leave China until the application is complete.
Transferring your work permit over to a new employer is a relatively easy process. Often everything is handled by your old employer, meaning you simply need to write your resignation then provide things as and when they are needed.
Remember – Do not start work for a new employer until the new work permit has been granted.