The Best Way to Hire Employees in China without a Local Company

In this article, we provide clear insight on how to hire employees in China without a legal entity established in the country.


The Chinese market is booming, and many foreign companies are interested in this exciting market. Whether you’re a company that just wants to get a foot in the door or are quickly moving towards full expansion, hiring in China is a smart choice. Speaking the language, knowing the culture, having local knowledge, all are reasons why Chinese employees can be an asset to your company.

With the advancement of technology and the internet over the past few years, it has become much easier to find the kinds of employees you need for your company with a few taps and clicks on your computer. However, despite all these advancements in technology, there are rules and regulations that still apply whenever a company would like to hire employees in China.

Requirements to Hire Employees in China

The People’s Republic of China Government requires all employees to be hired by a legal entity.

Filing staff employment records

These, along with staff dismissal records must be filed with the appropriate government bureaus.

Maintaining employees’ “personnel files”

These are unique Chinese documents that record the complete academic and employment history of an employee, which transfers from employer to employer when the employee changes jobs.

Compensating Employees

This can be divided into four parts:

  • Base Pay – Paid monthly. In China, it is common to have a 13-month scheme, with the additional month being issued during the Spring Festival. There is a shortage of managerial ability in China, and so competitive salaries are required to attract and retain good employees
  • Incentives – Performance-based payment is widely welcomed across China, especially in cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Beijing. Companies often get creative with how to incentivize employees, and team performance plans, sales bonus plans, and special recognition awards are common
  • Allowances – The ways Chinese employees prefer to be compensated often vary from western employees. Many Chinese prefer to receive cash allowances for transportation, meals, clothing, and childcare over a higher salary
  • Benefits – Mandatory benefits contribution by both employees and employers are required by Chinese Labor Law and make up a significant portion of an employee’s total compensation. For more information on the mandatory benefits requirements, visit this article

Paying employees’ individual income tax

Local Chinese employees are taxed based on the balance of their monthly income once three items have been subtracted: the employee’s social benefits contribution, a standard RMB 5,000 deduction, and any special additional deductions in income allowed under Chinese law.

Then, a seven-grade progressive rate is applied. Here is a table listing the tax brackets, listed in terms of year-long income.

The employer withholds the full tax amount and submits it to the appropriate Chinese authorities on the employees’ behalf.

The above requirements for legal entities in China are further complicated because the company must work with several different government bureaus and deal with difficult paperwork. Instead of going through this tedious process, foreign companies often chose to use local HR providers such as HROne to outsource all HR and administrative requirements.

Best Way to Hire Employees in China Without a Company

In general, the Chinese government has strict rules when it comes to foreign companies employing workers based in China.

If you are a foreign company wishing to hire people in China for certain projects or even as a regular employee for your company, it is illegal to directly hire the employee yourself.

As per Chinese law, only companies based in China may be employers. In the eyes of Chinese law, when a person provides professional services for you or your company and performs employment-like services, that person is your employee. You must comply with everything that is required to fulfill the employment relationship.

The best option is to hire Chinese employees from a China-based staffing agency.

There are companies based in China that can provide Employment Solutions / PEO (Professional Employment Organization) to foreign companies in need of hiring for specific types of short and long-term projects, tasks, and jobs.

Employment solutions enable foreign employers to hire Chinese employees in China without a company established; and, therefore, outsourcing all employer liabilities; from the signature of a local compliant employment contract to monthly payroll, income taxation, mandatory benefits (social security), and visa procedures (applicable to foreign employees).


One example of this type of company is HROne. We are a Chinese PEO that provides employee leasing services such as HR and accounting-related services to clients without a legal entity established in China. HROne is a fully licensed employment services or employee leasing provider in China.

As of today, using PEO / employment solutions represent the best option to hire employees in China without a local company, whether it be in terms of legality, convenience, or financially wise.

Other Alternatives

There are a few other options available to work around the legalities, but they all come with their pros and cons. Here are some of them:

Hiring Through a Chinese Partner Company

If you already have an employee in China but your employment relationship is not legally recognized by the government one option is to have the employee hired by a Chinese company. Your company can pay the Chinese company the equivalent of the Chinese employee’s wages, taxes, and administrative fees.

Cons: There can still be a problem in the legality of this method because if the employee isn’t doing any work for the Chinese employer, this can raise legal questions with the Chinese government. Many of those who have used this method have failed in the long run and it is often deemed too risky on the side of the Chinese employer as this can put their own company’s reputation and legal standing at risk.

Hiring Someone Tied to a Local Company

Another common practice that many do from a few years ago is to hire someone who is already tied to a local company in China. However, this practice is becoming less popular these days as it still has its loopholes.

Cons: One problem with this method is when the foreign employer makes its payments to the local Chinese employer the government might question why the Chinese employer is receiving monthly deposits in foreign currency in their bank account and why no taxes are being paid in relation to this.

Employees Forming their Own Domestic Company

The third alternative is also recommended from a legal standpoint. You can request your potential employee or employees to form their own domestic Chinese company. Once created, you can simply contract out to the company they created for the services that you need.

Cons: This option requires a lot of work on the employee’s side. Because of this, despite it being a great option in terms of legality, it is not a very popular method with most companies. Also, another downside is that there is now an independent Chinese company out there that can directly offer business to your company’s clients instead of them going through you.

Things You Need to Know Before Hiring Employees in China

Understand employment and hiring costs in China

In China, different cities, and provinces have different policies of employee tax, mandatory benefits contribution. And these kinds of policies are kept on changing. In this way, it becomes difficult for foreign investors to ensure the legal compliance of their employee’s payroll calculation, and mandatory benefits, and tax contributions. Check out this article to know more about how an employees’ salary is calculated in China.

Holidays and leaves your employee can take in China

Understand the holidays and leaves your employee can take is very important for foreign investors. If you would like to arrange for employees to work during the national holidays, you might need to pay extra to compensate the employees. In this article about annual leaves in China, you can find a more detailed explanation.

Choose a licensed HR service provider in China

In China, only licensed service providers can provide PEO service/employment service/talent dispatch, and payroll service in China. When foreign investors are looking for service providers in China, it is extremely important to check if the vendor holds two special licenses to legally provide this service in China.

The first license is called Talent Dispatch License, which allows the agency to legally provide PEO service/employment service/talent dispatch in China.

The second license is called HR Agency Service Provider License, which allows the agency to legally provide recruitment, payroll, benefits administration service in China.

Understanding termination practices in China

Before hiring employees, it is also essential to understand the termination practices in China, so that foreign investors shall aware of the notice periods they need to give when they want to terminate the employment relationship. Check out this article about employment termination in China to have an idea regarding notice periods, in what kind of situation the employer is able to terminate employees, severance payment, etc.

Cities Where You Can Hire Employees

In China, there are many cities where you can hire employees for your company. Below we list some of them, divided by the different tiers (please keep in mind that these are some of the cities, contact us for more information about cities not listed here):

  • Tier 1 Cities
    • Shanghai
    • Beijing
    • Guangzhou
    • Shenzhen
  • Tier 2 Cities
    • Chengdu
    • Hangzhou
    • Wuhan
    • Chongqing
    • Nanjing
    • Tianjin
    • Suzhou
    • Xian
    • Changsha
    • Shenyang
    • Qingdao
    • Zhengzhou
    • Dalian
    • Dongguan
    • Ningbo
  • Tier 3 Cities
    • Wuxi
    • Hefei
    • Kunming
    • Harbin
    • Jinan
    • Foshan
    • Wenzhou
    • Guiyang
    • Lanzhou
    • Nanning
    • Urumqi
    • Zhuhai
    • Nantong
    • Xiamen
    • Fuzhou
    • Huizhou
    • Taizhou
    • Shijiazhuang
    • Yantai
    • Changzhou
    • Changchun

What is HROne?

HROne is a non-state-owned foreign enterprise service firm located in Shanghai, China. HROne enables foreign companies to take their business to further heights in China through employment solutions. We are the one-stop shop for Human Resources for foreign companies and businesses looking to establish and operate business activities in China.

Why wait? Reach out to us today to begin your entry into the booming Chinese market and start to hire employees in China!


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