07 November 2016

China to Classify Foreign Job Seekers into A, B and C Grade

By Xiaodan Xu(partner) and Hongchuan Li (associate)

For a long time, there exist two work permit management systems for foreigners in China. One is called “foreign expert” management system and the other is alien employment management system. In December 2015, the Approval Reform Office of the State Council decided to combine the two systems into one single “Foreigner’s Work Permit” system. Following the decision, the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs issued a Pilot Implementation Plan on the Work Permit System for Foreigners in China” on September 27, 2016. The key points are as follows:

I. “One unified permit”

Under the new system, the existing two sets of permits as listed below will be replaced by one set of unified permits, with a permanent code assigned to each qualified applicant:

  • Current permits: Foreign Expert Work Permit, Foreign Expert Certificate, Alien Employment License, and Alien Employment Permit.
  • New permits: Approval Notice for the Employment of Foreigners, Foreigner’s Work Permit.

II. Timetable of the reform

  • Pilot phase: from October 2016 to March 2017, a pilot program is due to be launched in Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shanghai, Anhui, Shandong, Guangdong, Sichuan, Yunnan and Ningxia. Non-pilot regions will follow the current policy and prepare for the overall implementation of the new policy. Please note that the specific timetables and policy may vary among those pilot regions.
  • Overall implementation: starting from April 1, 2017, the Foreigner’s Work Permit system will be implemented nationwide, and the new Work Permit will be issued in place of the current ones. Current permits will remain valid for the remainder of the period of validity and the holders may replace their existing permits on a voluntary basis.

III. Classification of foreigners

Under the new system, foreigners working in China will be categorized into three groups (A, B and C-grade) and be managed under the principle of “encouraging A-grade, limiting B-grade and restricting C-grade”. Below is a table summarizing the criteria for classification, within which applicant may opt for either Criteria-match Method or the Point Accumulation Method.


Criteria-match Method

Point Accumulation Method


High-end foreign talents

Ÿ   Selected by Talents-introduction Plan;

Ÿ   Internationally recognized professional achievements;

Ÿ   Jobs encouraged by the government;

Ÿ   Innovative and entrepreneurial talents;

Ÿ   Excellent youth talents



Professional foreign talents

Bachelor or higher degree with more than 2 years of related work experience, and qualified for other requirements;

Outstanding graduates with master or higher degree from universities in China;

Graduates with master or higher degree from world top 100 universities (according to rankings released by Shanghai Jiao Tong University);

Foreign language teachers



Ordinary foreign workers

Ordinary foreign workers satisfying demands of Chinese domestic labor market, undertaking temporary, non-technical, or service work in compliance with national policies, and meeting certain requirements.


As for the method for the calculation of points, please see the section V below.

IV. Quota for foreign workers

In countries and regions like Singapore, Russia and Hong Kong, the governments set quota for foreign workers for the purpose of optimizing the structure of talents, securing local employment, etc.

The implementation plan sets forth that, under the new system, a quantity restriction will be imposed on foreigners working in China. A-grade applicants are immune from the restrictions; for B-grade, the quota will float according to labor market demands; and C-grade applicants, however, are strictly restricted by quota. It is foreseeable that working in China will become more and more difficult for ordinary foreign workers.

V. Point Accumulation Method

As aforementioned, point accumulation is an alternative method for classifying foreign workers. The following Points Assignment Table (Trial Version) is devised for the pilot program, in which annual salary, educational background, Chinese language proficiency, age, among other factors, are all taken into account.




Annual Salary paid by domestic employer (10,000 CNY)

Points capped at 20















Educational Background or International Professional Qualification Credentials

Points capped at 20

Doctor or equivalent

Master or equivalent

Bachelor or equivalent




Seniority in related practice

Points capped at 15

1 point added for each year exceeding 2 years

2 years

Less than 2 years

Capped at 15



Annual Working Months

Points capped at 15









Chinese Proficiency

Points capped at 10

Obtained bachelor or above degree with teaching language of Chinese

Passed HSK 5 or above

Passed HSK 4

Passed HSK 3

Passed HSK 2

Passed HSK 1








Work Orientation

Points capped at 10

West area

Old industrial hubs in North-east area

Special areas like national-level low resources counties in Middle area






Points capped at 15











Graduated from world-known universities or with experience with Fortune 500

Points capped at 5

Graduated for world top 100 universities

With experience with Fortune 500



Extra Points given by provincial administration for foreign workers

Points capped at 10

Special talents in urgent demand of local social and economic development (Specific standards to be formulated by provincial administration for foreign workers.)


Editor’s note: this article was simultaneously published on Chinalawinsight.com

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