Transfer of Work & Residence Permits to a New Employer

This article focuses on the different possible scenarios a foreign employee may face when trying to change jobs in China and what to do if such situation is to occur.

1.  Work permit is cancelled but residence permit is not
This is usually the most common scenario (at least in Shanghai). The employee, when deciding to change employers, requests a release letter and a work permit cancellation letter from the current employer and submits them along with the other required documents to the new employer. You will then have 10 days (from the issue date of the release letter) to apply for a new work permit and then the residence permit immediately following. Note that the employer applies for the work permit cancellation letter in the government system online and the release letter is issued by the employer. Some industries may also require a recommendation.
It is possible that you may have to apply for a stay permit within ten days (from the issue date of the release letter), if the local Public Security Bureau Entry and Exit Division (PSB) will not issue the new residence permit directly, so it is best to check. A stay permit will provide thirty days from the date of application to obtain a work permit and residence permit through the new employer. It is not the responsibility of either employer to assist with the application. Click here to know the full process.
If you are past the ten days, then technically this is not allowed. For example, if someone quit his job on April 1, 2018, and received the release letter and the work permit cancellation receipt. He is no longer working and is living on his valid residence permit in China. The residence permit expires on June 1, 2018 and he found a job on May 1, 2018.
He may be considered an overstay as he did not move to the new company within the ten days deadline and he was staying on a residence permit that is supposed to be tied with a certain company, but he was actually not working in that company.
Note: With regards to the new foreign work permit card, we have heard that it took longer than 15 days for some of the people and with that in the process of cancellation you could not apply within 10 days from the last working day in previous company, we have heard of many cases that it was accepted (with resident permit still valid).

In practice, often times, the new employer can still process the work permit in this situation. In some cities, it is accepted even if you missed 10 days timeline and could not start application, but your resident permit is still valid. With such applications, SAFEA may require additional documents as PCC (Police Clearance Certificate) / NCR (No Criminal Record) which either can be obtained from Consulate of your country in China or back home. A new medical check or further documents could be required as well. Click here and check the process here. 
If the applicants work permit and residence permit is still in progress and the ten days is up, then he or she can request a stay permit for up to thirty days to complete the process. Click here to know the full process.

2. Work permit and residence permit are both cancelled
If both the work and residence permit have been cancelled, then you would need to apply for stay permit that allows a stay for up to 30 days to start at least the work permit process. Click here to know the full process.
If within those 30 days, you could not complete the process then you will have to leave China and continue the process with your employer from abroad.Again, you would need to apply from your home country for the Z-visa.
We have heard of some cases where, with the help of some documents and other proof from the employer, one can extend its stay up to another 1 month. Usually this can only be applied for in the city where the first one was issued. You may need to provide additional documentation to justify your situation. However, there is no guarantee that an extension will be granted.

3. Change of jobs title to a different (higher or lower) position
If you are changing job title from say a teacher to a Business Development Manager, then SAFEA would request that you show at least 2 years of experience in that role in your past work experience otherwise the candidate would be deemed as unqualified and hence the work permit request would be denied. This means if your job title changes you have to show at least two years of experience in that area. The work experience does not have to be obtained in China and does not have to be your most recent working experience but does have to be post bachelors degree.

4. Change of city/province
This is very city specific, so we would suggest that you consult with the local SAFEA. For example, in the case of transfer to Shanghai from another city in China, as long as the residence permit is still valid and only the work permit has been cancelled (case 1 stated above) then you can change within China. Other cities may require going back to your home country and get a new Z-visa then convert it to local residence permit within 30 days of entering China. In some cities, even if the transfer can be done in China, it requires more documents than a renewal (PCC/NCR is generally asked in here).
Please note that if your situation requires a statement of non-criminal record, generally speaking a local or national report from your home country is required and you would be required to have this notarized and authenticated there. If your embassy or consulate issues these documents then you can obtain it there as well as the related stamps. However, for most cities, a local Chinese-issued non-criminal  report is not accepted. Shenzhen is a rare exception. Please see the above links for obtaining the criminal report and for obtaining a new medical exam at the state issued center.

5.  Issues with employer (e.g. unwilling to provide release letter or cancel work permit, etc)
This is very common especially in the education sector where the school, out of spite, will refuse to issue a release letter or cancel the work permit.
In this case, you either:
  • Have to work out via an intermediary to help resolve the situation (say help the school find a replacement in exchange of getting the papers) so that you can do the change of jobs in China without having to leave.

  • If the school stands by its position then you could try to solve the issue by leaving China, go back home country to apply new passport then work with the new employer to get new a work visa. The key point is that a new passport number is issued. With this said, going forward this is not necessarily a solution.

  • Another option is to take the employer to arbitration. Please see the related article below: Labor Law Protection, Illegal Termination, and Employer Disputes.


Are you looking for more useful tips for your life in China? Get in touch with contributors for a consultation and follow us in our WeChat Group to receive the latest news. Expat Services (WeChat ID: ExS-SH) can add you into our WeChat group if you would like to ask the authors specific questions or concerns.

Julian is based in Shanghai but often travels for work and runs a company that works with individuals and organizations doing business between the US, China, and Africa. He has been based in China for a number of years.

Ikky is an R&D Manager working in Shanghai. He has been living in China for over 11 years. 

Jatin (known by the nickname Prince Jatin) is a Multicloud DevOps Expert working in Shanghai. He has been living in China for over Nine years and owns four Indian communities WeChat groups known for "Helping Indians by Indians" with their specific inquiries regarding China affairs, he is also an active contributor to few other expat communities with expat work affairs based his knowledge and research expertise.


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