Changing Jobs in China

If you are looking to change your job in China, then be prepared to get your hands dirty with asking your HR department for paper work to release you from your current company, to be able to transfer to your new company of employment.

Before we get started there are two ways in which you can transfer from one company to another, this all depends on whether you are holding a Z Visa or Expert Certificate. A Z Visa is a working visa which is issued to those here working on business related reasons, such as office workers, managers, working in a hotel etc. An expert certificate is held by those with skills such as teachers. Those of you working as a teacher in middle school, high school or university or franchised schools such as Lucky English and Wall Street English, will hold an expert certificate.

How to transfer my visa?

Depending on which job you a transferring to, there are a couple of ways which you and your new company will transfer you and your visa over.

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Transfer existing Z Visa from Company A to Company B

Transfer existing Expert Certificate from Company A to Company B

Company A apply for an Expert Certificate for you from your Z Visa


Transferring a Z Visa or Expert Certificate go through two different government bureaus. Most international companies or schools will have two separate HR Departments to deal with both. The reason for having two different HR departments is the law and regulations are different for both.

Expert Certificate to Z Visa

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If you currently hold an Expert Certificate and plan on changing jobs to something which requires a Z Visa, this usually requires you to leave the country and to reapply for a Working Z Visa from outside of China. If this is the case you will also need a letter of employment from your new company when applying for your new visa, this letter will have to be sent to the embassy along with your visa application form.


Paperwork needed to transfer company

Below is a list of documents you will need to hand over to your new companies HR department for them to process the transfer.

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  1. Chinese Residence Certificate

    You receive this document when you register at your local police station, when you first come to China. If you have moved since your arrival you will need to re-register at your new local police station.

  2. Contract Ending Certificate

    This document is supplied by your current company, this document must state you start of employment and end or employment dates. This is also usually signed and stamped with a company government stamp.

  3. Z VISA / Expert Cancellation Document

    This document states your current company no longer holds you to your Expert Certificate or Z Visa, and allows your new employer to transfer your Z Visa or Expert Certificate to them.

  4. University Degree

    You must supply a copy of your university degree. Due to new Visa laws only a Bachelor or higher degree must be supplied along with your visa application.

  5. Passport Photos

    With all of this paper work, your new HR will need at least 2 new passport photo’s of yourself. Preferably these need to be stick-back photo’s, this is so your new HR can stick these onto your application forms directly.

  6. Scanned Passport Copy

    You will need to supply a scanned copy of your passport. One copy of the inside of cover which should displayed your passport number, your photo ID page and also your current visa.

  7. Passport

    Handover your passport to your new HR, they will need this to update your visa if needed.

  8. Expert Certificate

    Handover your Expert Certificate booklet (this is usually a blue book like a passport, which is issued to you from the government). Most companies keep this during your time of employment, and won’t give this to you unless you leave the company.


Expert Certificate Warning

[box style=’warning’] Most companies keep this during your time of employment, to ensure you don’t start work and work for another company. If you are a teacher your company will have this document and should keep this safe for you.

There have been many reports that some companies refuse to give this to employees, even after you have told the company you plan to leave. The reason for this is to try and make you stay within the company, stop you from spreading bad news about Company A, and a feeling of difficulty when changing jobs.


Giving Notice

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It is highly recommended that you give your company enough notice time, and part on mutual ground. Remember your current employer needs to supply several documents to help you transfer from one company to another, and it is better to give them enough time to prepare your paper work, and also themselves that you are leaving.

We recommend giving at least 30 days notice, this is normal for most company contracts. You may want to tell them earlier or give them a heads-up that you are planning on leaving. Leaving in good spirits, even if you don’t enjoy your current job is important and to get their help on the whole transfer process.

We are aware that some expats working in China, feel that giving there current employer their notice can cause them more problems, and in some cases don’t give any notice. This can cause some problems today, with stricter visa regulations in China, transferring visa’s from one company to another without this paperwork today is extremely difficult.


I need to leave China

If you are in a situation where you need to leave China and apply for your new visa, then most embassies can process a working Z Visa within 48 – 72 hours (Not in the holiday periods). This will cost more than the normal 7 day visa process, however we strongly recommend paying for the expedient visa process encase there are complications with your visa process, and you need to supply additional documents or information.

It is also important that you get your new companies contact information, email, phone and fax. If they have several people in there HR department try to get at least two different sets of contact information, in an event you need to contact them directly for any reason you have several people to contact. Many times have I had friends travel abroad to apply for their Visa to find the HR person they have been dealing with has gone on a 2 or 3 days holiday or has been sick, and won’t answer their phone.

Medical Check

If you do leave China and return on a new visa, you will need to go through the medical check process again. You can read more on the medical check process, click on the link below.

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Leave a comment

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Visa regulations and laws are subject to change at any time, and we will try to keep this article up-to-date to support those regulations. Visa regulations are getting tighter in China throughout, where the amount of paperwork you need to support your visa application to work in China is increasing. If you work in a reputable company their HR department should be able to help you with all of the transfer documents and advise you, on the entire process.

This article is designed to give you an overview of the visa transfer process, and some pointers to help you along the way.



7 thoughts on “Changing Jobs in China

  1. Great write up, extremely helpful. I’m currently in the process of changing my job, and was very nurvous as I didn’t want to have to leave the country to come back.

    One thing to note, if you are transfering to a comapny of the same type you don’t need to redo your medical check. If the change of job is with a different job type then you do. I changed from a high school to university and didn’t need to retake my medical.

    Thanks for the guide.


  2. Very helpful, thank you for taking the time to get together this info. I can’t understand why China makes it so difficult to change jobs, the power of your former company, and the potential need to spend thousands leaving the country hang perilously over our heads.

  3. I am currently in the process of starting a new job here in Beijing. I finished my contract with my previous employer and I still have 3 months validity on my Z-Visa.

    My prospective employer (which is a large reputable company) wanted to transfer my original work permit to them. My previous employer balked at the notion and said that I needed to cancel my original work permit with her company and have my prospective employer apply for a new one.

    This was eventually the agreed upon course of action on all sides.

    Now my prospective employer wants to start the application process for my new Alien Employment Permit and they need much the same articles that are listed above. My previous employer is willing to give all but one. When my original Alien Employment Permit with my previous company was cancelled the Labor Bureau issued a pink receipt of its cancellation. Right now my previous employer has that and refuses to part with it under any circumstances.

    Now my prospective employer is going to have to, at the best, push my start date back a month (they do large onboarding groups once a month), and at worse I might have to return to the States and start the entire application process over?

    I have been recieving conflicting information on both sides. But recently my prospective employer sent me a link to part of the Labor Bureau’s website with some convincing evidence that they do, in fact, need that receipt of cancellation:

    My question being, is there any form of recourse I might be able to take against my previous employer for the potential lost wages I am looking to incur because of this? Is there any way to have the Labor Bureau issue me a copy of this receipt directly? And has anyone else had a similar experience?


    • Hi Brandon,

      I know, and I think I can safely say many people have been through similar or the same process.

      To be honest, taking any kind of recourse towards your previous employer could make things worse for you, especially if you’re looking to move to a new company.

      Today if a company which has you registered, or had you registered on there books as a foreign employer doesn’t support your work transfer or movement, you may find getting another visa more difficult, or even blocked.
      We find more people needing more and more company recommendations to move to a new company or to transfer their visa to a new company, and without a good recommendation letter, that visa is hard to come by.

      You can apply for the pink slip directly from the Labor Bureau, or have your new companies HR Department do this on your behalf, however this is a long process, and can take up to 4-6 weeks, during holiday time even longer.

      Not always, but sometimes the Labor Bureau may check your current visa status and previous employer.

      (I’ve heard, but not from personal experience, that companies don’t like them calling directly, and as such some companies bad mouth there previous employees, again causing unnecessary trouble). I’m guessing the reason for this is because they are worried they may get looked into and find something.

      Your best bet would be to ask your new companies HR to talk with your old company, and to get a copy of your paper work that way, if not ask them to talk directly to the Labor Bureau to see what they can do for you.

      I’m sorry I can’t be of much help, and I’ve probably raised more questions than answers. These cases are truly unique every time, and if you find another solution please do let us know.


  4. Thanks for the reply. Haha, yes it did raise more questions. I’ve actually been doing some more digging and I think I might have found out why she is being so uncoorperative.

    She was contractually obligated to pay my income taxes while I worked for her. However, in addition to refusing to provide proof of my Work Permit cancellation, a release letter w/ the company chop, she has also refused to provide an end-of-year tax statement.

    She is now threatening to cancel my Z-visa. I believe if she does that she is obligated to switch it to a 30-day L-Visa, though. I also hear it is fairly difficult for her to do without my passport.

    I have talked to my new companies HR and they are trying to handle things on their end. My start date has, unfortunately been pushed back four weeks because of this, though.

    It feels a lot like I’m being trapped by a child having a temper tantrum, though. There is no way to talk to my former employer at all at this point.

    I will, however, be in conctact with the Labor Bureau regarding the Release Letter, among other things. I’ll be sure to post the results.

  5. I am going through a similar situation with my current employer – making it difficult to transfer and I may have to go back to South Africa to apply for my visa from scratch. My new employer says this will take about a month and a half. Is there anyway to speed up the process? When I transfered from Zhengzhou to Tianjin it took about a week…


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