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Can I apply for a Chinese mainland Work Visa if I’m not in my own country?

From within a third country

If you are living in a country that is not your own while on a work or study visa for that country then you can indeed apply for Chinese Z Visa, aka Work Visa, from there. However, if you are on any other kind of visa then your application will most likely be denied. This also applies if you are in Hong Kong, Macao or Taiwan.

There are cases in which some people have obtained a Work Visa in a country that is not their own, but this differs from place to place and case to case. You could always try, of course, but it is highly likely that you will be rejected. 


From within the Chinese mainland

If you are in the Chinese mainland then you should leave to apply for a Work Visa from your own country. It is technically illegal (or at least forbidden) to get a Chinese mainland Work Visa otherwise.

Some visa agencies may claim to offer a visa conversion service, switching from X, L, F or M Visas to Z Visas, but if they do this, they will be using illegal (or extra-legal) channels and connections, which can lead to problems down the line. If you have an unreliable agency they could rip you off for your visa conversion fee, or even get you caught up in a situation where you end up with your record marked by the authorities, making it difficult for you to reapply legally. 


Useful Chinese words and phrases 

境内变签 jìngnèi biànqiān Visa type conversion within Chinese mainland
工作签证 gōngzuò qiānzhèng Work Visa


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23 Responses to Can I apply for a Chinese mainland Work Visa if I’m not in my own country?

  • Hello. Grateful for this site and thanks much for any advice. I’ve been offered a teaching contract in China. I’m a US citizen living in Thailand. I’m here in Thailand on a Non-B (work) visa that expires on 25 Nov (in 13 days!). I’ve been told I must return to my home country US to process visa then to China. Upon hearing my reluctance to hit US on way from Thailand to China they said that perhaps I could start on a F or M visa before converting to Z, which doesn’t appear to a safe way. 1) Cool to start on F or M then convert to Z? 2) Can having a work visa (with only 13 days left on it) in Thailand (“third” country) allow me to bypass US? Any help is very much appreciated.

  • Hello,

    I really sorry, as this question might has been asked a lot, but I’m still confused… I’m working on a project in Shanghai right now with an M Visa. The company I’m working with will employ me now full time. Is it possible to get the Z Visa here in Shanghai (obviously with all the necessary documents from the employer), or do I need to go back home to Germany for that? Someone said there are new regulations??


  • Hi everyone!

    The forum is really great and informative! Thank you all for replies.

    I have a couple of questions regarding M visa to Beijing. Is it possible to change tourist visa to M visa in Beijing, or do I have to go to HongKong or my country to convert it?
    What is the whole process of changing the tourist visa to M visa?

    Recently I was offered a job as an English teacher in Beijing, (I’m not a native speaker though). The agency wanted to do Z visa, but apparently, there was a recent change in regulations and they are saying I need to be 26 or older, and have 2 years of working experience. How legitimate is this regulation?

    The last one, how difficult is it to get a 1 year multiple entry visa M visa for people who have never traveled to beijing before? What is the whole process of getting a 1 year multiple entry visa?

    Thank you guys, I really appreciate your help!

  • Hey there!
    I have read that, according to the new visa laws, it is possible in some places, namely Shanghai, to apply for the Z visa from within China – legally. I am wondering if there is a way to find out exactly in which provinces and cities this is possible, or if it applies just to Shanghai.

  • Hi,

    I have a similar question as the previous people. I have recently been offered a teaching position in China mainland, but they told me I need to do a visa (z and working permit) run to Hong Kong, and that it’s impossible to do it in the mainland. I would like some advice on this, and also the key reasons as to why they strongly insist to do the Hong Kong visa runs in the first place? I’m Swiss but have dual nationality with South Africa. Also, what are the consequences if they reject the process in Hong Kong and what are the chances of it failing?

    • Hi Johan,
      At where the job offered city, I had just got my “z” Visa application done without third party agents. Basically, the approval come directly from the city where you are going to work is much secured. And, it depends on whether the hirer is willing and familiar with the procedures to process your application.

    • Hi Johann. Unfortunately unless you already have Hong Kong permanent residency, or else a working visa in Hong Kong, you cannot apply for a Z Visa there. You will have to travel back to either Switzerland or South Africa and apply from there, using the corresponding passport to that country.

      We’re honestly not sure why they’re telling you to go through Hong Kong, as you shouldn’t be able to get a Z Visa from there. Unless they expect you to get a Tourist Visa (L Visa) – but then you wouldn’t be legally able to work. It could just be that your school’s HR people have no idea what they’re doing. It wouldn’t be the first time…

      If you are rejected in Hong Kong it will increase the chances of rejection in your home country.

  • Hi All,
    anyone know how this works with a spousal Visa?
    I have been living and working in China for around 12 years.
    Last December i decided to have a break and switched to a spousal visa as my wife is Chinese.
    Now i have been offered a new job and need to get a Z visa.
    any way this can be done with out going back to the UK?

    • Hi Gareth, normally you need to return to your home country to apply for a Z Visa, unless you already hold a working visa for a third (ie. non-Chinese) country or region (include HK, etc.), or are a permanent resident there. In your case, you could go to your local PSB to check out whether you can turn your family visiting residence permit into a working residence permit but we are not sure your local PSB will accept the application, as there are many prior cases of it being both accepted and rejected. We wish you the best of luck!

  • Hi one stop.
    Iam french and i would like to know if with a working holidays visas its possible to do a visas z from australia or i have to go back in france to do it. Thank you very much

    • Hi Jo. You can’t apply for a Z Visa for China if you are on a Working Holiday Visa in Australia, as the law is that you can only apply a Z visa in a third country only if you hold a Working Visa in that country or are a permanent resident there, neither of which is the case with you. So you will have to fly back to France and apply from there. 

  • Hey all,

    I hope you can give me some advice.

    Right now I am in China on a Tourist (L) visa (single entry, 90 days). I would really like to stay in China for 1 year, so I need a visa that allows me to do that. Is it possible to obtain a F or M visa in China without leaving the country? And do you know anything about the validity of this visa?



    • Hi Wendy. It is possible to convert your L Visa to an F or M Visa without leaving the country, but you need to have a Chinese company to invite you and then submit that company’s business license and organization code certificate when applying for them. It is getting more difficult nowadays to convert from an L visa to M/F visa, and it is still at the discretion of the Entry and Exit Office of the Public Security Bureau. 

      If the Entry and Exit Office approves your application, you can get an F/M visa with a validity of up to one year, with each duration of stay no more than 180 days. You can apply for a visa with zero, one, two or multiple entries; it might be a good idea to get one with multiple entries in case your stay duration is limited to a couple of months, so that you can leave the country and come back in to restart the “counter” on your duration. Good luck! 

  • Hello,
    I am in the process of getting a job in China. The school is arranging the Z visa but how do I get it in the UK? It is quite hard to understand what they are doing, so will I need to apply for it here in the UK, or get a tourism visa and convert it over there? I am quite confused about the process, as they asked for a lot of paperwork.

    • Hi Chris. The usual method for getting a Z Visa (which you can read more about here) involves applying at the nearest embassy, consulate or visa center in your country using various documents that your company will supply you with. You will then be given a Z Visa that you can use to enter China. 

      Once in the country, either you will go to your city’s Exit and Entry Office at the Public Security Bureau, or your company (or their agent) will do it for you, and a Work and Residence Permit will be applied to your passport, which will allow you to stay in the country (usually for a year). 

      We hope this helps. If you have any more questions, please do let us know.

  • Hi One-Stop,

    Thank you for all the helpful comments and tips.

    I am currently on a visitor visa in Taiwan. I originally hold a Turkish passport.
    I received work permit and other documents to apply for Z Visa to work in the Mainland.
    I planned to apply for Z Visa in Hong Kong, but, from the first paragraph in the article above, I understand that I cannot apply for Mainland work visa in Hong Kong because I will be in Hong Kong on a visitor visa.

    Am I right?

    Could you please elaborate on this since I am confused a little.

    All the best,


    • Hi Fan-shi. It is true that usually to apply for a Chinese mainland Work Visa you need do it in your home country, although if you are working or studying in a third country/region (and already have the required permits/visas for that third country/region) then you can apply from there instead. 

      As you will be holding a tourist visa in Hong Kong, you don’t meet the requirements to apply from there. In your case, you will need to apply in Turkey. We’re sorry if this will cause you any trouble. Good luck!

  • Hello,

    I currently have all of the necessary paperwork to apply for a z visa. I’m American but resident in Turkey. I’m getting a bit concerned because I have heard conflicting reports about the cost, the time that it takes to get the visa and whether an agency has to be used to do this. Would you have any insight?


  • Hi,

    With all respect, but I entered the Mainland China on L visa and successfully applied for Residence Permit WITHOUT leaving the country. Not long ago I also extended my Residence Permit without any difficulty.

    It is perfectly legal to switch from non-z visa to work Z (actually it is a permit, so the called “Residence Permit for Employment”) and relatively easy and cost effective compared to leaving the country and applying for Z visa from your home country.

    But you need to find a good visa agency!

    • I would be interested in knowing the agency used to convert over to a work visa. We are US citizens living in Mainland China on a tourist visa and need to switch to a work visa. We have a signed work contract agreement and a letter of invitation from my husband’s potential new employer. Are there any step-by-step instructions on this website that we can follow? Do you have any recommendations of agencies who can help us through this here in Mainland China. We live in the Guangdong Province.

      • The visa agency i know is based in Shanghai. I am not sure if they also have an office in Guangdong Province. But you can try to contact them and find it out yourself.

        Do you have an e-mail address so that I can email the contact details of the visa agency to you?

  • Hello,

    I am a US citizen who has a student visa from Malaysia.
    1. Are you saying that Malaysia will give me a Chinese Z Visa to work in China, and
    2.I don’t need to return to the US to get it?
    3. Or/and my Chinese employer will then contact Malaysia and take care of it?
    4. I spoke with the Malaysian consulate and they said as a student I can only get a tourist visa for China, not a Z visa, so I need some correct information asap. Hope you will respond soon…need to have an answer by tomorrow, 6/3. Thank you!


    • Hi Emm. Thanks for getting in touch. First of all, let’s deal with the question “Are you saying that Malaysia will give me a Chinese Z Visa to work in China?”

      We are definitely not saying this – the Malaysian government does not give out visas to work in China (or indeed any visas to visit China – Tourist Visas, Student Visas etc). Those can only be obtained from Chinese embassies or consulates in Malaysia or elsewhere. The article was written to explain that it is possible to obtain some visas to China from Chinese embassies and consulates in countries other than your own (what we call “third countries”). Sorry if this was not clear.

      In most cases, you can apply for a Chinese visa if you are on a study visa in a third country (for example, you are on a Malaysian study visa), and you typically won’t need to go back to your home country to apply. However – and this is something that we will rewrite the article to reflect – every embassy and consulate is allowed to make its own rules on whether or not it will accept visa applications. That means that although it is generally allowed and ought to be possible everywhere, it may not be possible in some embassies and consulates. If the embassy that you contacted was the Chinese embassy in Malaysia and they said that you cannot get a visa from them then unfortunately you will have to go home in order to process the visa.

      Regarding the relationship between your employer and the visa, your prospective Chinese employer should help you get the work permit and invitation letter; they will then send these documents to you. However, you must then go to the consulate to apply for the Z Visa by yourself (or get an agent to do it for you). You will also need to prepare some documents of your own. For more information on what you need to prepare, see this article.

      We wish you the best of luck for the future! If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask us.

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