How to Change Your China Employer AND Keep Your China Work Permit

Switching Employers in China and Keeping Your Work Permit

China’s faltering economy has led to job losses for Chinese citizens and foreigners alike and my law firm has been seeing an increasing volume of emails from foreign employees seeking legal assistance regarding their China work permits. Navigating employer switches in China requires preparation and — above all else — paperwork organization.

The cornerstone of keeping your China work permit lies in obtaining a release letter from your current or previous employer. If an employee has abided by the terms of their employment contract their employer should furnish this letter. Yet, challenges arise when the departing employee and the employer are not on the best of terms and our China employment lawyers are aware of  instances where companies have improperly retained a foreign employee’s work permit and/or, even more concerning, their passport.

However, if there aren’t any major hiccups, the transition from one Chinese employer to another can and should be a smooth one.

The Key Documents

The below is a checklist of the documents you typically need to ensure a smooth transition in employers:

1. A release letter from your employer. See below for a template release letter.

2. Your original diploma.

3. A concise CV, preferably in Chinese.

4. A certification letter from any former employers proving you have over two years of work experience.

5. Your passport and four 2-inch photos with a white background.

6. Your residence registration.

7. Your prospective (new) employer’s business license and two stamped copies.

8. A stamped application form.

It is generally a goode idea to have all of the above in Chinese as well as in English.

To ensure a hassle-free switch, communicate clearly and relentlessly with your current (or former) employer, understand the requirements, and be prepared. If you encounter issues — such as a recalcitrant former employer — you should consider seeking legal guidance or consulting with an HR expert.

Employee Release Letter Template

Many Chinese employers either do not know what should go into a required release letter, or they simply cannot be bothered with drafting one. The below is a very basic template release letter, which obiously must be written in Chinese. I am providing this for anyone who is experiencing problems in getting such a letter from their Chinese employer.


To Whom It May Concern:

This letter is to confirm that [employee name] has been employed by [company name] from [join date] to [leave date] in the position of [job title].

[Employee name] has complied with the terms of employment as stipulated in the labor contract. Their work performance and conduct during employment met the standards of the company.

As of [leave date], [employee name] has left the employment of [company name]. This letter serves to release [employee name] of any obligations to the company and confirms there are no legal, financial or other outstanding issues between [employee name] and [company name].

[Employee name] is free to seek new employment and their work permit is in good standing with the company. We wish them the best in their future endeavors.

[Authorized Signature]
[Company name]

[Ideally, this should be sealed with the company seal]