Police Clearance Letters Required for Foreign Workers: Beijing, Qingdao, Hangzhou (Updated)

police Beijing, Qingdao, and Hangzhou have announced that certain foreign workers will need to submit a “certificate of no criminal conviction” (CNCC), also known as 无犯罪记录证明 or police clearance letter.

The 1996 Rules for the Administration of Employment of Foreign Nationals in China require that foreigners seeking to work in China have “no criminal record” (art. 7). However, neither those rules nor the country’s new Exit-Entry Administration Law specifically require a CNCC. 

Some cities, such as Suzhou, Nanjing, Chengdu, Wuhan, and Changsha, as well as the province of Yunan, previously put CNCC requirements in place. Shanghai has not. But other cities may be developing such requirements.

Employers should plan ahead to apply for such certificates because timing for issuance may vary. Our law firm can assist with this matter.

Beijing

Here’s a translation of the announcement circulated by email:

Per the requirements of the Regulations on the Administration of Employment of Foreigners in China, the Regulations on Foreign Experts’ Applications for Employment Permits, etc., foreigners applying to work in China should submit a certificate of no criminal conviction. In order to strictly enforce the rules and regulations related to examination and approval of employment licenses, effective July 1, 2013, a work unit applying for a foreigner’s employment license should submit with the application materials a certificate of no criminal conviction from the applicant’s place of residence. Specifically:

I. Scope of Persons Covered:
1. Persons applying for a “foreigner’s employment license” (就业许可) or “foreign expert work permit” (专家来华工作许可);
2. Persons applying for a representative office’s  “foreigner’s employment permit” (就业证); and
3. Persons who hold a “foreigner’s work permit”  (就业证) or “foreign expert certificate” (专家证) issued in another city seeking to transfer employment to our city.

II. Requirements for the Certificate:
1. A certificate of no criminal conviction should be issued by the public security or justice authorities (司法机关) in the applicant’s place of residence (with a translation by an official translation company); or
2. A certificate of no criminal conviction authenticated by a Chinese Consulate.

Beijing Municipal Bureau of Human Resources and Social Security
June 4, 2013

Essentially the same information is included in the Bureau’s 企业办理外国人就业许可相关事宜 (Matters Concerning Enterprises’ Applications for Employment Licenses for Foreign Nationals), also updated June 4. Note that no new CNCC is required to renew or amend a work permit.

For applicants from the U.S., any of the types of CNCCs listed below in Q2 should suffice.

Qingdao

Qingdao Municipal Bureau of Human Resources and Social Security

(QMBHRSS) has announced in its Guide to Service for Foreigners Coming to Work in Qingdao (外国人来青就业服务指南) that what is required is an “original certificate of no criminal conviction notarized by one’s own country and authenticated by a PRC consulate abroad (with an attached Chinese translation, including the translation company’s official seal).” This must be submitted at the employment license (就业许可) application stage or, for a person seeking to work at a representative office, at the work permit (就业证) application stage. A certificate is needed for individuals who have previously worked in other cities in China. But no certificate is needed for changing work units within Qingdao.

For applicants from the U.S., QMBHRSS has stated orally that the only acceptable format for a CNCC is an FBI Criminal History Check.

Foreign Experts

Qingdao’s Foreign Expert Bureau doesn’t require applicants for a foreign expert certificate to submit a CNCC. However, a signed statement that the applicant has no criminal conviction is required. Further, when a foreign expert in the field of culture or education applies for the first time to the Public Security Bureau for a residence permit for work, a CNCC authenticated by a PRC embassy or consulate will be required. (In addition, an applicant for seeking to extend his or her residence permit who has not previously submitted a CNCC will be required to do so.)

For applicants from the U.S., the Public Security Bureau does not require any specific format for the CNCC, although they have recommended orally that it be nationwide in scope rather than covering just one state. (An FBI Criminal History Check is acceptable).

Hangzhou

Hangzhou’s Municipal Bureau of Human Resources and Social Security announced on Oct. 14 that:

We have received notice from higher-level authorities that, effective today, foreign nationals applying to our Bureau for employment licenses (就业许可)–including persons already holding Z visas but applying for work permits (就业证) for the first time in Hangzhou, and including people coming from abroad–should submit a certificate of no criminal conviction.

According to the “Rules on Management of Foreign Nationals Working in China,” foreign nationals applying for employment licenses should submit a certificate of no criminal conviction. Our Bureau will be strict on this point in examining and approving applications. Inconvenience or business needs of a work units or individual will not be grounds for waiving this requirement.

While the Bureau doesn’t specify which agency must issue the certificate, the Bureau has confirmed orally that it must list any convicitons nationwide (not just within a state or province) and it must be  authenticated by a Chinese consulate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What if the place abroad where the applicant “resides” is not his or her country of nationality?

The Beijing announcement asks for the certificate from the individual’s “place of residence,” not country of nationality. The announcement doesn’t define “place of residence,” and are unclear about whether a China CNCC could be acceptable. I’ve been told orally that a China CNCC is acceptable instead of a foreign CNCC if the applicant has lived in China for 9 months each of the most recent 3 years preceding the application. In such cases, the China CNCC must be accompanied by (a) a declaration from the applicant that he or she has not been convicted of a crime and won’t commit a crime in the future, and (b) a letter from the sponsoring work unit, if the applicant already works there, stating that to their knowledge the applicant has no convictions. Since there is no written rule, the best practice is to confirm directly with the Beijing HRSS whether this would be acceptable in your particular circumstances.

Qingdao’s  Municipal Bureau of Human Resources and Social Security more ambiguously requires that the notarization be done by one’s “own country.” Qingdao will not accept a China CNCC.

Q2. What forms of the certificate of no criminal conviction are issued in the United States?

Various forms of CNCCs are issued in the U.S.:

  • FBI: An FBI criminal history summary check (“rap sheet”) requires submission of fingerprints. Fingerprinting options include, but are not limited to, being fingerprinted abroad or by a “channeler” in the U.S. Typically, U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad don’t assist with fingerprinting for purposes of obtaining a CNCC. But the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the U.S. Consulates in  Shanghai and Chengdu have posted instructions for how to get fingerprinted by local PRC agencies. A completed fingerprint card can then be submitted to the FBI (processing takes 5-6 weeks) or to a channeler (processing takes 1-2 days).

  • State and local law enforcement authorities: Each has its own procedures for requesting a certificate of criminal conviction. Some require fingerprints, and some require the applicant to apply in person. For state-level contact information, see the FBI’s list of State identification bureaus.
  • Court: Courts can issue a letter stating that a search of their records shows no conviction.
  • Prosecutor
  • Private agency certificates based on queries of public databases

Q3. What forms of certificate of no criminal conviction do other countries besides the U.S. issue?

Here’s a list of methods for getting a CNCC from various countries. It’s published by the U.S. State Department. It’s not all-inclusive.

Q4: When does a CNCC need to be authenticated? What’s the procedure?

Authenticating a foreign document simply means confirming that a signature, seal or stamp appearing on the document is genuine. Authentication in no way attests to the truthfulness of the contents of a document.

Qingdao requires that all CNCCs be authenticated. Beijing requires authentication only if the CNCC isn’t from a public security agency (i.e., local or state police or the FBI) or a justice authority (i.e., a court or prosecutor).

To authenticate an FBI criminal history summary check, it must be submitted to the State Department and then to the PRC Embassy in Washington, DC.

Basic information about authenticating other types of documents is outlined in the PRC Consulate in Los Angeles’ instructions for authentication.

Q5: Will any conviction–or just certain convictions–render a person ineligible for an employment license?

Unclear.

The Ministry of Labor’s Rules for the Administration of Employment of Foreign Nationals (1996) specifically say that an employment license applicant must have “no criminal record” (无犯罪记录). (Art. 7). That makes it sound like any criminal conviction will make a foreign national ineligible for an employment license.  Revised Ministry of Labor rules touching consistent with the new Law may be released, perhaps in the near future.

(The 2012 Exit-Entry Administration Law doesn’t specify that persons with convictions are ineligible for visas, admission, or residence permits. Instead, the Law focuses on whether the applicant is likely to be “engaged in … criminal activities” in China and whether there are “other reasons” for ineligibility. (Art. 21). The State Council rules implementing the Law are silent on the matter. China’s new visa application form asks, “Do you have any criminal record in China or any other country?”)

Another question is whether all foreign convictions–or only convictions that fall within the PRC Criminal Law’s definition of “crime”–render a person ineligible for an employment license under the Ministry of Labor’s rules. The PRC Criminal Law defines crime as any act that endangers society and is subject to punishment. An act is not a crime, however, if it is “obviously minor and the harm done is not serious.” (Art. 13). Unlawful acts that don’t amount to crime are defined by administrative laws and regulations, punished by administrative organs according to administrative procedures, and subject to administrative penalties.

For example, PRC law distinguishes between the “crime” of driving with a blood alcohol content at or above 0.08% versus driving with a BAC of at least 0.02% but under 0.08%, which may subject a person to administrative penalties. In contrast, in California, a person under age 21 or a commercial driver can be convicted of DUI with a BAC under .08%. So is that person ineligible for an employment license in Beijing on the basis of having committed a “crime” in California, or eligible on the basis that the activity doesn’t constitute a “crime” in China?

Another example of activities that don’t constitute crimes in China is activities that result in the administrative penalty of reeducation through labor, which may include instances of drug addition, prostitution, illegal gambling, public indecency, and petty theft.

Finally, expungement and other post-conviction relief in a foreign jurisdiction may allow an individual to state he or she has never been convicted and to obtain a CNCC.  If hypothetically the Chinese government were to learn of the conviction, it’s unclear whether the Chinese government would use the “erased” conviction as a basis to deny a visa or other immigration benefit.

In practice, local labor bureaus and foreign expert bureaus may be willing to approve cases where they perceive a prior criminal conviction to be minor, the applicant to have been rehabilitated, and/or the applicant to be especially talented.

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Our law firm can assist your company’s employees or you individually with CNCC’s Feel free to contact us. And feel free to use the comments below to share your experience.

 

 

 

52 thoughts on “Police Clearance Letters Required for Foreign Workers: Beijing, Qingdao, Hangzhou (Updated)”

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  2. KalanStar: As of today, no word on whether Shanghai, as part of its efforts to implement the Exit-Entry Administration Law becoming effective July 1, will put in place a requirement for a certificate of no criminal conviction.

  3. So, if I am already applying for the permits in Xi’An, but they will not be issued until after 1 July… and they have not asked for a background check… will I still be able to hop over to HK and convert my spouse (L) visa to a Z visa without a notarized background check?

  4. Tiffany,

    This announcement applies only to applicants at Beijing’s labor bureau, so it doesn’t apply to Xi’an. You may want to check whether in Xi’an there will be any new requirements effective July 1 that may affect your pending application.

  5. Hi

    We renewed our resident working permits with our school in Shenzhen, we were NOT asked for another criminal background check as we already gave our FBI record checks back in 2009, we haven’t left china since.

    The new things we had to do:

    1. Fill out a 1 page form that was stapled to 5 other pages with new visa laws and such, the form was a type of swore statement and basically you are swearing that everything is true and if not, you can be punished.

    2. New resident permit Renewing Time table: 5 days out, 3 weeks in, yep, no more 5 days pick ups, you must wait for your visa to be released after 3 weeks. They will give you a voucher and you must carry it in case the police ask for your passport. The voucher will have the pick up time and date, mine says after 5PM July 29th, 2013

    3. Next year we were told to start renewing one month earlier.

    That’s all folks.

  6. Max,

    The Labor Bureau’s announcement says that “A certificate of no criminal conviction should be issued by the public security or judicial authorities in the applicant’s place of residence.” So a New York Police Department (NYPD) letter should be OK if that’s your place of residence.

    The U.S. federalism system poses a challenge to China for getting meaningful police clearance letters. For example, the NYPD may have no records of arrests or convictions in other states or even in federal court in New York. Nevertheless, an NYPD letter fits within the scope of what the Labor Bureau has requested.

  7. I have a “conviction” for driving with BAC of .08 or above dating back 9 years (from 2004). Is this considered a criminal conviction? Thanks.

    1. Keith: I only have questions for you, not answers:

      The first question to ask is whether at the time of the court’s judgement against you in your home country this was a violation of the local “criminal” law, as opposed to merely a civil law violation.

      If yes, the second question is whether this conviction still exists, as opposed to having been overturned by an appeal or erased by an expungement, etc.

      Third, assuming you were convicted and the conviction still exists under local law, then is it equivalent to conduct that is criminal in China. The answer to this is probably yes because, as mentioned above, PRC criminalizes driving with BAC at or above .08%.

      Finally, note that in 2004 when you were convicted, driving with BAC at or above .08% wasn’t yet a crime in China–just a civil violation. The criminal law was amended later to include this offense. So an open question is whether this should count as a crime for purposes of PRC visa law given that, at the time, the conduct was not criminal in China.

  8. From Qingdao – Aug 2013, US expat. I’m having to renew my Chinese Z visa now; some other foreign co-workers and I are discovering how this process works. As per my HR rep, from the local officials, a statement from my previous residence’s PD (needn’t be State BCI) must be notarized by a US notary, translated professionally and/or sent to the Chinese embassy or a consulate to be authenticated (red-stamped). Which documentation must then be sent on directly to the local authorities where i reside in China. From there, the local authorities should process, then issue a new Z visa. If applicants cannot provide proof of criminal-free past, a 3-month extension may be issued instead. The extension is one-time-only, and if the proof cannot be submitted in that time, the visa will not be renewed.
    The Chinese notarization has typically presented a bottle-neck for us, thus far. In my home state (ND), the proof certification is easily obtained. But other US colleagues are finding that personal appearance may be required (NJ, OK, NY). Applicants from UK are having an easier time with the background check, and needn’t appear in person. The entire process costs the applicant about 100 USD.
    Unfortunately, the local authorities (in Qingdao and Beijing, at least) have remained strict that the proof of crime-free past must come from the applicant’s last foreign permanent residence. So, even those who’ve resided in China for many years must provide the background check issued by a foreign body to obtain a fresh Z visa.
    Thanks, too, Mr. Chodorow – your info is gold!

    1. What about people that are renewing their contracts and residence permits with the same company in Qingdao? Do they also need a CNCC? Should it be from our home country or from the PSB where we live in China?

  9. Great and very informative blog. When I inquired with my government, the Netherlands, they told me they need a “document’ showing the “Certificate of No Criminal Conviction” is needed. Has the Beijing Gov somewhere published online, on a government website such a document–the link in this article results in a MS Word document being downloaded, which I doubt will be accepted. Thanks so much.

  10. Can’t the PSB do the background check themselves? It seems logical to me that since they are going to keep the passport for 15 days, this is what they are going to do anyway, which means the applicant shouldn’t need to do it.

  11. I’ve been legally working in China for 12 years. My present working visa is valid until December 1. My employer asks me to get a “Police Clearance Letter” from my country for renewing my Z visa. I can get the letter at the embassy in Beijing without leaving China. But then he tells me the letter should be stamped or registered (he can’t explain clearly what should be done) at the Chinese embassy in my home country. It sounds very confusing. Do I really need the letter? If I do, where and how can I get the information, because my employer seems helpless.
    Thank you very much,
    Irene

    1. Irene,

      As mentioned above, rules about the certificate of no criminal conviction (CNCC) differ by city. Not all cities require that a CNCC be submitted to renew an employment license or that a CNCC be authenticated. Authenticating a foreign document simply means confirming that a signature, seal or stamp appearing on the document is genuine. Authentication in no way attests to the truthfulness of the contents of a document. Look at the website of the PRC Embassy in your home country to determine the local steps for authenticating a CNCC issued by that country.

  12. I sincerely appreciate your help. The Beijing Labor Bureau says a certificate of no criminal conviction should be issued by the public security or judicial authorities in the applicant’s “place of residence.” If I am from one state, could I get a certificate of no criminal conviction from another which is not technically my place of residence? How would they know what where your place of residence is? Could I even just fly over to Guam or Hawaii shortly and get a local police clearance in person?

    1. Dennis:

      You raise an interesting question: what is the meaning of the term place of residence (“居住地”) for purposes of the where the CNCC should be issued? Can you establish a residence by visiting a place for a day? Unfortunately, the labor bureau provides no definition for this term. The most common meaning in Chinese of this term is one’s long-term residence (or domicile), although it’s possible to establish a “temporary” residence just by visiting a city. On a practical level, your application to the Beijing labor bureau for an employment license will include your foreign residence address and your resume with your employment and education history. If you provide a CNCC which is from a place that doesn’t match, the labor bureau is unlikely to accept it.

  13. I’m an American citizen, but I’ve spent a lot of time living outside the US (left at the age of 16). Will an FBI Criminal History Summary be enough, or will I have to provide information from the police of the other countries I have lived in? The FBI report might not even be relevant since I was a minor the whole time I lived in the states, bar about 6 months. My situation is quite complicated: I lived in China for one year, then HK for two years, then I moved to the UK for two years, spent a year in China, and then returned to the UK for one more year. Now I work in Chengdu and need to turn my business visitor visa into a work permit.

    I need some good advice, and you seem to be really knowledgeable, so please help me out if you can!

    1. Anni: If you follow the above link to the Chengdu Human Resources and Social Security webpage on applying for an employment permit, you’ll see that there are no details about the CNCC (无犯罪记录证明) other than that you need one. When the facts are complex and the law is ambiguous, we often inquire with the Bureau on behalf of our clients. If you’re a do-it-yourself type, call or pay them a visit.

  14. From http://www.eslcafe.com, Qingdao requires CNCC for renewals. This does from a poster there who has been dealing with this issue since this last summer.

    What is the story from Shanghai?

    Also, is Hangzhou requiring CNCC for renewal of Residence Permit/work visa?

    1. Mr. Zheng:

      Qingdao’s rule (see link above) doesn’t mention a CNCC in its list of documents required for an extension.

      Shanghai has no CNCC requirement (so far).

      Hangzhou’s rule–referring to individuals coming from abroad or transferring from other cities–implies that no CNCC is required for an extension.

  15. Dear Gary,

    This page has been very helpful! Thank you. My boyfriend and I are planning to work in Harbin, China this upcoming January. We have already received our invitation letters and work permit from our employer to take to the Chinese Embassy so we can apply for our Z-Visa. I was looking through the China Work Visa Application Form and it asks, “Do you have any criminal record in China or any other country?”, check “Yes” or “No”. Unfortunately, my boyfriend has had 2 misdemeanors from back in 2010 in a totally different state from where he was born and raised. They were for resisting arrest and public disturbance. He didn’t have to pay a fine, but stayed in jail overnight. So he did his time. The only way he was even able to get these invitation letters and work permit was by sending a police clearance from his hometown, which shows a clean record. We have worked so hard up to this point to get these letters, and now this Visa Application is worrying us. Is there any hope for him in obtaining a Z-visa now that China’s laws are stricter? Any advice on how we should talk to the consulate about this? Thanks for your help.

    Sincerely,
    Loretta

    1. China’s Exit-Entry law doesn’t bar the admission of all persons with criminal records, but to work in China a foreigner must have no criminal record.

      In representing clients with criminal histories who are seeking authorization to work in China, a few priorities are:

      (1) Avoid making any misrepresentation which could lead to administrative or criminal liability. In your case, was the police clearance just shown to your boyfriend’s proposed employer, or was it submitted to the government? And were any other representations made to the government about his lack of a criminal record?
      (2) Confirm whether the foreign court entered a judgment of conviction (not solely an arrest, indictment, etc.). Does your boyfriend have the actual court judgement?
      (3) Look to see if any appeal or post-conviction relief is available in the home country (e.g., expungement, or pardon).
      (4) Consider whether there’s an argument that the home country judgment doesn’t constitute a conviction for a “crime” within the definition of Chinese law.

  16. Hi Gary,

    Thanks for the very informative post!

    I’m a Malaysian, and I’m applying for an employment license in Beijing. I have a question: What if the certificate of no criminal conviction was issued from a Malaysian consulate in China? (which can be done by Malaysians abroad) I have both the English and Chinese version, signed and stamped by the Malaysian consulate. Do I still need to legalize it?
    Thanks in advance!

    Best regards,
    Yong

  17. Yong: I haven’t dealt with a case in Beijing where an applicant wanted to submit a no conviction certificate from his embassy or consulate.

    My reading of the Beijing Municipal Human Resources and Social Security Bureau rule is that the certificate must either (a) be issued by a public security or justice (司法机关) authority, or (b) be authenticated by a PRC consulate. To my knowledge, a country’s consular affairs department’s certificate doesn’t count as either.

    This is just my own interpretation of the BMHRSS rules, but it’s the Bureau’s own interpretation that counts. You may want to ask them.

  18. Gary,

    I’ve received the FBI criminal record check, but it says in BOLD letters right on the document (and I noticed now on the example you provided) that the document is not to be used for employment or licensing purposes.

    I am trying to get hired in Chengdu, but the company I am working with felt that this document was not sufficient because of that bolded sentence.

    Thanks for you thoughts!

    1. In the U.S., there are separate procedures for verifying a criminal record for purposes of employment (e.g., getting a professional license) and for applying for a foreign visa. The FBI rap sheet is for the latter, not the former. It’s not surprising that your PRC employer is confused, but the Chengdu visa-related authorities should be familiar with this annotation on FBI rap sheets.

  19. If my “place of residence” is and has been Beijing since August 2011, as per what I read above, should I not be able to get this certificate locally, that is, here in Beijing? I am not trying to be clever.

  20. Hi, Imagine a foreign national is picked up for teaching illegally and paid a 5000 RMB fine.

    (a) Is that a crime?
    (b) Will an administrative fine affect my ability to get my resident permit renewed if there is no other issue?

  21. Hi, I have a few questions:

    Does Shanghai still not require a CNCC?

    I have a caution which would not show up on such a check, but would show up on a PNC check.

    Do the Chinese Embassy have access to your criminal record during the visa process?

    1. Robert,

      Shanghai’s human resources and social security bureau doesn’t require a CNCC as part of the employment license or work permit application process.

      As to Chinese Embassies’ methods for investigating visa applicants’ eligibility, this is something they don’t disclose.

  22. Gary,
    I am currently working in Chengdu. I went back to the States past August and obtained a copy of the CNCC from my local police department. Unfortunately it was lost in the mail to my employer.
    Will the Chinese Embassy accept a copy? If not, Can you recommend a private agency that provides such service of getting a CNCC either in the States or in Chengdu?
    Thanks.

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