How to transfer from work to family reunion residence permit?

How to transfer from work to family reunion residence permit?

In this article, we will cover the step required to transfer from work to family reunion residence permit in China.

Many foreigners have found themselves either laid off or left their jobs voluntarily in these tough economic times.

As a result, one has to have the work permit canceled by the employer and have to apply for a humanitarian visa or change the purpose of the residence permit within ten calendar days from the date of the release letter or face a fine and a bad record at immigration.

For those who are married to Chinese nationals, it is possible to change the residence permit from work (工作) to family reunion (团聚) without leaving China.

When issued based on your spouse, then it is considered for the purpose of family reunion but when based on an immediate family member then this is referred to as a dependence visa.

If your spouse is a foreign national and working in China legally, then similar procedures would apply. Usually this requires their documentation and assistance from their employer. However, pay attention if you are caught working illegally it could affect their status too. 

If your spouse is a foreigner with another type of visa that does not give a residence permit such as a tourist or business visa then such a family reunion cannot be obtained. It is for those with a long term status only.

Please see our related prior article on this subject as well [How to apply for a dependent visa]

Please note that:

  • This is a Shanghai-specific procedure for foreigners married with Chinese nationals who have the local Shanghai Hukou, so double-check with the local Exit-Entry bureau on specific documents
  • If the Chinese spouse’s Hukou is not Shanghai then the procedures need to be completed in the city or town of their Hukou. You may want to use this article as a guide, but procedures may be slightly different
  • The family reunion residence permit is valid for two years
  • A family reunion residence permit does NOT allow you to work, so if you found another job in China, you would need to switch back to a work residence permit, which usually can be done without leaving China

Documents required to transfer from work to family reunion residence permit:

  • Passport, a copy of the ID page, and the current residence permit
  • Four 2-inch photos to be taken at the Exit-Entry bureau and print out a visa application form
  • Release letter from the employer and a copy
  • Police registration form (from the local police station where you live)
  • Marriage Certificate (If it is not issued in China, you need to have the marriage certificate translated to Chinese and legalized (notarized and authenticated in the country it was issued)) and a copy.
  • Chinese spouse’s ID card and the Hukou Booklet, and a copy of each.
  • Invitation letter written by the Chinese spouse


  1. Go the 3rd floor to have your picture taken and have a visa application form printed.
  2. Submit the list of documents to the immigration officer
  3. After the first check, the immigration officer will ask you to sign the visa application form.
  4. You will be handed a residence permit application receipt to sign, and a copy will be provided to you.
  5. After eight working days, return to the local exit-entry bureau to pick up your passport and pay the application fee (800 RMB)

Et voilà! You now have a residence permit in China that allows you to stay two years and is renewable!