Can A WOFE in China Provide Visas? How Many?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008 4:18

It may seem like a no brainer in answering this question, but last week I was fed a question by a good friend who had been hearing that his friends were having trouble getting his employees from an F to a Z.

In his email to me, he wrote:

that the registered capital requirement for an entity (foreign or domestic) to apply for a first time Z visa for a foreigner had been raised from RMB1m to RMB10m. Clearly this restricts even further where folk can get Zs from…

Immediately, I emailed some friends whose job it is to advocate and assist foreign firms in China at some of the highest levels in China…. After all, this could become a huge human relations headache for some….

Today I got my first response:

Here’s the rules to my understanding:

For WFOEs with less than USD 3 million in registered capital, only the GM/CEO (top guy) can have a Z visa (residence permit). Other foreigners can have F visas but not Z visas.

For WFOEs above the USD 3 million line, all foreign employees can have Z visas (residence permits).

Now, under the old system I have never heard of anyone having issues… but under these time of strict enforcement it could prevent some smaller WFOEs (and perhaps some larger WFOE in the services industry) from registering their employees on a Z visa.

Anyone with any experience on this, or with a story, please share.

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11 Responses to “Can A WOFE in China Provide Visas? How Many?”

  1. thoughtware says:

    April 29th, 2008 at 9:44 am

    I am wondering how recent is the update? In late Januarry, we’ve got an update on Z(Work Permit) from our immigration lawyer, that now only managerial or key personnel(top guy?) will be able to obtain a Alien Employment License, which is required for an Z visa later on, except we didn’t get the capital registration requirement. Since January, we’ve managed to double our work permit numbers from 5 to 10, as a WOFE SUBSIDIARY whose registered capital is only 10M. The trick is you will have to do some creative lawyering to prove them that the applicant is KEY to your company, if he’s not a top guy.
    It’ll be a shocking news if capital requirment is no longer a subjective requirement but rather a hard criteria, there’s no way that we would to raise our registered capital from 10m to 300m as a consulting company, I don’t think a lot of companies would do that either.

  2. Rich says:

    April 29th, 2008 at 1:05 pm


    thanks for sharing your perspective… and as you have shown, I think that it is service firms who will feel the pinch of this rule should it be fully enforced.


  3. John Guise says:

    April 29th, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    My understanding is that proving why that specific person is required by your company is always a requirement. Even before these new regulations took effect, I saw friends have their applications for Z visas rejected because it wasn’t felt by the government that they were qualified to be working in that field (IE not much work experience and just three or four months out of university).

    I think it will only be more difficult to do that now.


  4. Rich says:

    April 29th, 2008 at 7:56 pm


    That is my understanding as well, and I am pretty sure the bar will be elevated. I knew people who used to use “English” as the sole qualification.

    Also – I would expect that if China’s job market become more difficult for fresh grads, that will only make the bar go even higher. I was applying for jobs in S’pore and HK after the Asia Crisis… and I got caught up in that. US did the same after the tech wreck… lots of precedent

    Hope all is well

  5. Chris Devonshire-Ellis says:

    April 30th, 2008 at 1:41 am

    Rich we have several permanent expats within our firm and different nationalities: British, American, Indian, German, Spanish and so on – we’ve never had problems getting them Z visas. I think the language capabilities may have something to do with it, plus we have a history here of paying Chinese staff their correct welfare, paying our due taxes and so on. It may be just we’ve been around for awhile and have never been a problem for the authorities so they don’t worry about us so much. It may well be more difficult for a new start up. I suspect having a good compliance track record in China helps. I know a lot of invested businesses are not quite as strict and cut corners, don’t pay full welfare, deliberately deflate salaries to pay less income tax, that sort of thing. The Chinese aren’t daft, they know whats going on. That is now becoming a liability when in China. Now you have to pay the China price, in full, if you want to get things done here, and adjust to the true cost of doing business in the country.

  6. bill says:

    May 1st, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    if you own property in china can you get a visa based on that alone? thanks

  7. Rich says:

    May 1st, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    Sorry Bill. Owning a flat in China does not entitle you to a visa.


  8. Andrew says:

    May 28th, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    I am looking at a job at a WFOE in Beijing. I would be the first foreigner hired in the company of about 10 now, except for the GM. I have 7+yrs experience, so I am not the fresh grad type. Any suggestions / people to contact? Thanks in advance. (email: iwentto AT Gmail DOT com)

  9. Benjamin Knopp says:

    June 11th, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Hi, just thought to share my experience.
    I just got our WFOE Business License yesterday and today went to prepare my visa. The 3 million USD deal as described above seems to apply here (in Hefei). Additionally however, I, as the CEO, first need to get registered with the labour bureau before applying for the visa. With a WFOE of over 3 million USD apparently that is not necessary. However, take this with a grain of salt, since I have already experienced that regulations vary from place to place (and especially Shanghai to fourth-tier city).

  10. Stephen says:

    June 14th, 2009 at 3:54 am

    I have a WOFE with Registered capital of 20K USD (in Suzhou). Including myself we have 7 Z visas now. The last 3 were obtained in (1) first week of April, (2) mid May, and (3) last Friday. We showed need and the only questions we were asked concerned the number of Chinese we would also be hiring. We were told to watch that ratio if we needed more visas. Currently, for us it is 3:1.

  11. Stew says:

    June 22nd, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Stephen, I am hoping to setup a WOFE in Suzhou as well, but I am having trouble finding information about the process. Can you email me at [email protected] so I can get some advice?