Employees working in China? Avoid common pitfalls

Canadian business trips to China are on the rise but mix of traditional and modern policies can cause visa headaches
By Sergio Karas and Gregory Sy
|Canadian Employment Law Today

The number of Canadians traveling on business to China has grown exponentially in recent years, fueled by China’s economic boom and an intense desire by Canadian companies to capitalize on its growing market.

In the recent past, a visa allowing a foreigner to work legally in China was difficult to obtain and regulations within the country were strict, preventing foreigners from visiting or staying in certain areas which were considered to be “non-secure” by the Chinese government. While China is now far more liberal in its approach to granting work visas for foreign expatriate assignments, there are still vestiges of the old restrictive system, often resulting in a confusing and contradictory regulatory regime for foreign workers.

One obvious area of controversy is the inability for foreigners to become naturalized as Chinese citizens, no matter how long they have lived in China. There is no formal naturalization process nor a systematic “immigration process” which would allow long-term residents to obtain Chinese citizenship so they no longer require a work visa. However, China recently introduced a “green card” system which allows for permanent residency by foreigners but its availability is restricted to all but the most affluent investors and influential scholars and individuals.