Getting a PU Letter for China – Guide to Invitation Letters

With the Coronavirus pandemic causing so many travel restrictions globally, most countries are keen to keep movement across their borders to a minimum. Although China made quick progress in returning life to a state close to normality, they have introduced strict measures for incoming passengers. Here we look at what this new documentation is, and how you get it.

What We’ll Cover

  • What the new PU Letter is for entering China

  • Why it’s been introduced

  • How to get a PU Invitation letter

  • When you will need to obtain the letter

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UPDATE on PU Letter requirements

For those who have been fully vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccines produced in China, and can provide an official certificate, a PU Letter will no longer be required in some circumstances. Unfortunately, the circumstances have been described as "necessary business activities in various fields", so you will have to check your situation individually.

The need to provide 2 negative IgM test results, as well as complete standard quarantine in China is still required, even if you have been fully vaccinated. This is designed to make it easier for those looking to return, or relocate to China as per the pre-pandemic.

The changes in Visa application document requirements

Previous to the Coronavirus pandemic, anyone wishing to apply for a Z-Visa to work in China could apply for a position and then deal directly with their employer to organise the paperwork. Further requirements have now been re-introduced which sees additional steps added to the application process which must be completed before you are even able to apply for the visa itself.

The PU Letter for China, also sometimes called an Invitation Letter, is a government issued document which you must possess before you are able to attend the Visa Application Service Centre and apply for a Z-Visa. They are also required for M or Q1/Q2 Visas.

These were a standard part of the application process up until around 5 years ago, when the Chinese government sought to streamline the procedure and scrapped the PU Letter requirement. It was re-introduced at the start of the pandemic to enable tighter controls on the borders.

You may also hear the term “TU Letter”, which is essentially the same process as a PU Letter but are specifically required for anyone wishing to apply for an F Visa (business visa).

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What does PU Letter mean?

The PU refers to "pŭtōng" or "普通" in Simplified Chinese, which translates to "ordinary" as they are applied to ordinary passport holders.

Why do I need to be invited to apply for a visa?

Originally, you would present your legalised documents (usually at least a Police Clearance Certificate and a Degree) directly to your employer who would issue you with a work permit. This permit would then be enough for you to submit your Z-Visa application at the Chinese Visa Centre alongside supporting documentation such as the completed application form and your passport.

As China is determined to control the numbers of COVID cases to prevent a further spread throughout the country, they are only allowing individuals to enter the country for government-approved reasons. These include:

  • Work reasons – those who hold higher or integral positions in the company within China
  • Senior technical experts and support staff who are key to operations

These are the official cases issued by the government, but other reasons for entering the country will be considered if there is a valid and compelling reason for you going to China at this time. If you do not meet the above criteria, you may still be able to have your visa granted if your employer can successfully have the PU Letter issued for you.

pu invitation letter for china

There are some exceptions as to whether you will require this document, including foreigners who currently hold a valid residence permit. You will be able to enter China freely if you currently hold valid residency. If you have any other type of visa, including a multi-entry tourist or business visa you will not currently be able to use these to enter China.

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How do I get a PU Invitation letter for China?

Only employers are able to apply to the government for a PU Letter; they must do this on your behalf, as you are unable to do so personally. If you come across any agents suggesting they are able to supply this PU letter for you, beware. This will not be a legitimate service and could result in you losing money.

Before an employer can issue PU Letters, they themselves must submit an approval application to their local government office for permission. Their application will be reviewed by government officials who will decide whether their requirements for overseas staffing are valid. If they are approved, they will be then be registered and be given the right to submit PU Letter applications to bring foreign nationals into the country.

Therefore it’s wise to bear in mind that not all employers automatically have the ability to get a PU Letter for you.

Your employer will submit an application to their local Foreign Affairs Office for the invitation, before forwarding it on to you if it has been successfully issued. The letter will be valid for 3 months, in which time you must apply for and complete your visa application before it expires.

When will I receive the PU letter?

Previously, new employees were required to present a copy of their work permit alongside their visa application. This is still the case, as the invitation letter is an addition to the process, rather than a replacement for this document. The work permit is for your Z-Visa application and the PU letter is simply a pass to be allowed to enter the country.

In order for your employer’s local Foreign Affairs office to issue your PU Letter, they will first need to receive the application for your work permit. Once this has been passed, they can then decide whether to issue the additional document for you based on your employment. This process takes around 1 month to be completed.

What if I’m not able to get one from my employer?

We’ve heard of some new recruits being told to simply apply for a visit visa to enter the country and start work, with a promise their employer will convert it to a Z-Visa later. This is to circumvent the PU Letter requirement and this isn’t generally a good idea, especially as it’s illegal to work on any visa type other than a Z-Visa in China.

It may seem like a quicker way to travel and start your new position, but be wary of any such practices being recommended by a new employer. If you get caught out, you could end up in hot water, especially if this is your first time in China and you’ve not previously been granted any permits.

In these cases, it’s best to wait and stay in close contact with your employer, as things are starting to ease in terms of PU Letter issuance.

I’ve got my PU Letter, what do I do next?

Once you have your invitation letter and all of your legalised documentation, you can book an appointment online for the Chinese Visa Centre. If any part of your documentation is missing or not valid, you will be turned away; therefore it’s imperative you ensure everything is correct before you travel to your appointment.

If anything is not correct, you will need to re-book an appointment at a different time and this will cause you delays, especially as appointments are strictly limited at this time.

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To find out about the process at the Chinese Visa Centre and what to expect when you attend, see our complete guide here.

If you don’t yet have your documents legalised by the Chinese authorities in their country of issue, you will need to have this process done as soon as possible to avoid your other documents expiring. Police Clearance Documents are also time sensitive, so it’s best to understand the timescales involved and plan the process ahead of time.

If you’d like help with your documents, give us a call directly on +44 (0) 330 088 1142, send us a message via WhatsApp, use our live chat system, or e-mail us at sales@vitalconsular.com.

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Melanie Clarke
Melanie is a Digital Marketer and TEFL Specialist at Vital Consular. Before taking up a Marketing role, she spent 3 years building up a rich knowledge of global legalisation processes on the operations team. When she's not working, Melanie enjoys attending music events and pursuing many creative interests including screen printing and merchandise design.
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49 Comments

  1. Thank yoh for the info. Do you know if it is possible to apply for S visa nowadays? Either S1 or S2. My husband has been granted Z visa, but we dont know how to get PU invitation for myself and child (2 yo). Any help and insight would be much appreciated! Thank you in advance 🙂

    • Hi Teresa, in order to get answers on an S Visa, I’d recommend calling the Visa Centre on +44(0)20 7776 7888 who will be able to advise you on what you can currently apply for. I hope this helps!

  2. Hi, thank you for posting this, it’s really helpful and you have done a great job. What documents are needed for the employer to apply for the pu letter for the employee and which of these documents need to be notarized+authenticated? Also what documents need to be notarized+authenticated for the z visa. Thank you

    • Hi, thanks for your comment. Your employer should advise you if any documents are required to apply for the PU letter, though most of the information required by the district foreign affairs officer (who will issue the letter) will be about your employer themselves. No documents will need to be legalised (authenticated) until you are ready to apply for your Z-Visa. The PU letter is simply an invitation to apply for the Z-Visa itself.

      Again, your employer will need to advise you on which document they want you to provide for the Z-Visa as this entirely depends on what position you are applying for. The basic documents are a Degree Certificate and a recent Police Clearance Certificate. There may be additional paperwork required so always make sure you check this out first! Any document they ask for will need to be legalised before they can be used for your Z-Visa application.

      You can find out more about the legalisation and Z-Visa processes on our guide here: https://blog.vitalconsular.com/chinese-z-visa-legalisation-for-working-in-china/

      I hope this has been of help!

      • Hi Melanie,

        I will get a PU letter to travel to China to work in Chongqing. Will I be able to travel within China with the letter? I have been invited to a wedding. Thank you

        • Hi Ellen, thanks for commenting. Travel within China is possible in general at the moment as the current case rating is Low, but as with most things in China, it is set by area, so this isn’t a clear-cut answer. Each prefecture and local area currently have their own set or regulations for travel in and out, dependent on the local cases. When you reach China, you will need to check the regulations carefully for where you wish to travel to ensure you’re journey is clear and if you need to provide any documentation such as your COVID test results. Hope this information helps!

  3. Do you have information on how to obtain a PU letter for someone, like myself, who is the owner and operator of a business in China? In other words, I don’t have an employer to do this process for me. TIA

    • Hi Julie. If you are a business yourself, you should be able to apply for a PU letter through your local district foreign affairs officer. If you contact them, they should be able to advise you further.

  4. Hey Melanie! Great article and information. Really appreciate your knowledge on this.

    My wife is a Chinese national. We have been emailing the local embassy here in the US, to try and get an approval for me to go there. I saw you mentioned a PU letter is needed for the Q1/Q2 visas. Do you have any more information regarding that?

    • Hi Chad, thanks for reaching out. It’s really difficult at the moment to get direct answers from the Embassies, so I can understand your frustration. At least here in the UK, where we are based, the Chinese Embassy is being very strict on the issuing of visas. It is necessary for your dependant in China to apply to their local authority to obtain a PU letter for you, but it’s not an easy task. They will need to prove that your entry to China is important enough to have the document issued. It is possible, it may just be a long process!

  5. Hi Melanie,
    I have PU for 90 days now, my company eventually will apply and get work permit once I reach Dalian. But my passport is valid only for next 6 months. I was told it is not possible to get renewed my passport from Dalian. If I renew my pass before visa stamping is my pu approval valid on my new passport, and can visa be stamped on my new passport?
    Siva

    • Hi Siva, thanks for your comment. As your passport number is stated on the PU Letter, this may cause an issue if it doesn’t match the passport you’re entering China with if you have it updated. You may be able to get around this however; for example you may be permitted to present your expired passport alongside you re-issued passport to prove you’re the individual named on the PU Letter. You will need to speak to your employer about this situation as they should be able to advise you more accurately, or you can call the Chinese Visa Processing Centre in India directly for advice: +91-11-30013601 / 30013603

      I hope this helps!

  6. Greetings!

    In line with the on going suspension of visa in the Philippines, will the PU letter and work permit be considered by the embassy here as exception to the current suspension? Thanks!

    • Hi Achilles, you will need to speak to the Embassy there to confirm this, as each country has it’s own regulations. The PU Letter however is essentially granting permission for a visa to be issued, in exceptional circumstances, so if you get one you may be able to have your visa issued. I hope this helps and good luck!

  7. For my “Z” visa application should I use a Police Clearance Certificate or the Basic DBS check , as these are two different things

    • For China, most individuals request an ACRO Police Certificate and have this legalised from the UK for their Z-Visa application.

    • Hello Harry, I have used a Basic DBS check with my PU application. I’m still anxiously awaiting their decision. It’s been 7 weeks already.

  8. Hi Melanie,

    I have a PU letter for 180 days (it says business), but I need to apply for a z-visa, I was told by my recruiter that this is the only type of PU letter being issued in China. So I’m unsure about how that will work.

    • Hi Cassie, after speaking with some recruiters in China who are currently issuing these letters, they have advised that work PU Letters for the Z Visas are actually available for issue at the moment. You may want to check this before you try to apply for yours with a business PU Letter. Hope this helps!

  9. Hello,

    I have been working in China for the last 4 years and I was living there with a business visa as I have few partners there (I do online business). However, I work for my own business and this is why I always applied for a Business Visa M. However, I had to come to France to see my family and I haven’t been able to come back in China since the 20th of April. My partners were not able to get me the PU letter for my business visa M. Is that Normal ? The situation is quite annoying as my little cat is there waiting for me (hopefully I have a friend keeping my little boy for me) and I always pay my rent every month there is SHenzhen. Can you please give me advices ? I would like to specify that I rushed to get 2 shots of Pfizer vaccine to be considered “Safe” but even the vaccine doesn’t give me access to the PU letter.

    • Hi Gary. In order for you to get a PU Letter, or for your partners to get one for you, your business has to be pre-approved by the government to be authorised to even request a PU Letter. It’s a long and frustrating process but this is unfortunately the only way of entering China at the moment. There have been letters issued for business reasons, however, so it’s unlikely it’s the visa type that’s the issue. It would be best if one of your partners contacted the Foreign Affairs Office in Shenzhen to ask if there is any avenues open to you currently.

  10. Hi Melanie,
    I have a job lined up at a school in Shenzhen, but the school is not able to get the PU letter for me. I have read that the PU letter can be waived if applicant has China-produced vaccine. That is not available in U.S., but it is in Mexico. Could I get the PU letter waived if I go to Nuevo Laredo and get the vaccine? I already have Moderna, but I can look at the safety of being vaccinated 2nd time if this is possible.
    Thank you!
    Delia

    • Hi Delia, this is correct at least for UK citizens. You must have received both vaccines and be able to produce a vaccination certificate. You must still also return 2 negative test results and the standard quarantine upon entering China still applies.

  11. Hello,

    I got my work permit notice recently but getting the PU letter seems like a bit of a challenge. Has anyone managed to get a PU letter in provinces where there are high covid cases? I’ve heard some stories where some provinces aren’t providing PU letters because of this.

    • Hi David, this is true. Each district is setting their own boundaries on this, so it’s definitely much easier to travel to some areas than others. Even if you’re in China already, there are restrictions on in-country travel. The only option is to persevere with trying to obtain the PU Letter, wait until infections drop in the area you wish to travel to, or look into the new announcement that those who have been fully vaccinated with Chinese produced vaccines can possibly avoid the need for a PU Letter at all. I hope this is of some help to you!

  12. Hi,
    I got a job opportunity in Xiamen, China. I already have my work permit, contract, and my documents are also authenticated by the DFA and embassy here in the Philippines. But my only problem is the Z visa. My employer is having a hard time in applying for a PU letter. What should we do, Miss? Do you have any tips? Thank you!

    • Hi, unfortunately a PU Letter being issued is up to the Chinese government. They are being very strict at the moment unless, of course, you have been vaccinated with Chinese vaccines. Many employers are struggling to get the PU Letter but the only way to proceed is for your employer to contact their local Foreign Affairs Office for advice.

      • Actually, I have been vaccinated with Chinese vaccine. Should we inform the local foreign affairs office about it?

        • Yes it is worth advising them because this could mean you don’t require a PU Letter at all.

  13. Thank you so much for sharing the information. I have different case: my company provided me and my infant daughter the PU letter. But embassy in Russia doesn’t issue visa based on that, arguing that the pandemic situation is difficult. For me it looks they don’t follow their own standard process. Have you ever experienced such cases? Is there anything else I could do – as get higher level PU letter in ministers of international affairs in Beijing for example? Thank you!

    • Hi Anna, this sounds like a difficult and stressful situation for you! Usually, simply the PU Letter alone is enough to have your visa issued, but it does often seem as if some Embassies have their own ideas. You could certainly try to obtain another PU Letter from a different authority, but you may still be able to use your existing PU Letter if you are able to obtain confirmation from China from a relevant body that the visa should be issued. I’d make sure you have any correspondence addressed to the Embassy in Russia directly, of course! I hope this helps and the best of luck.

  14. Hello,
    My province is only issuing PU Letters for M VISA and my employer said that we could convert it to a Z VISA once I arrive and get a residence permit. It seems like I read that was possible somewhere else also. I have worked for them before and they are actually a government-operated public school so I don’t think they would try to pull any shenanigans. I am in the USA. I have been pre-approved and now they are just going over my hardcopy documents. My PU expires in a week, though. Since we are at this stage I hope that doesn’t matter by now. Would like your opinions, though.

    • Hi Bret. The official regulations state that you need to apply for your Z-Visa in your country of residence before you arrive in China. This is mandated by the Chinese Government and we always advise that this is followed to the letter to avoid any issues once you arrive and start work, this especially should not be an issue for your school to issue the correct PU for you if they are government approved. We can’t really advise to take any risks in these instances, only share what we’ve been told officially.

  15. Hello Melanie,

    Great article. I am a Hong Kong national living and working in the US. I can’t seem to find any concrete info for my situation as most info are on direct entries into China (i.e. Americans entering China from US, Brits from UK, Spaniards from Spain etc). I’ve also asked some business connections in Hong Kong, and they advised that they don’t require PU Letter if entering from HK using the local “return to China card’. I’m trying to fly direct to China from the US, so I can avoid a 21 day quarantine in HK, then another 14 in China, but I can’t seem to find any direct info on how a Hong Kong national can fly directly to China from the US for work (LAX-Shanghai for example), and if I’d also require the PU letter.

    Not sure if you have any similar cases recently.

    • Hi, thanks for your comment! Yours does seem like an exceptional circumstances and not one we’ve come across since PU Letters were re-introduced. For the clearest answer you should contact the Chinese Embassy in the US directly to get their opinion, to ensure it’s the most up-to-date advice. You can give them a call on: 001-202-4952266

      I hope this helps!

  16. Hi Melanie,

    I am Sri Lankan National lives in UAE with valid residence visa. I obtained a work permit and I visited the Embassy in Abu Dhabi to apply for Z visa. They checked all the documents and requested for TE invitation letter which I was not aware and even my employer was not. I got 3 doses of Chinese made vaccinations. But still they need to have this TE invitation letter. My employer checked with local authorities and they said it’s not necessary but is it depends on each embassy or is there general guidelines.

    Thank you
    Amila

    • Hi Amila. If you have the Chinese vaccines, the general stance is that this should be acceptable. Then again, with bureaucratic process like this, there are always variations dependent on where you are and who you speak to. Maybe see if your employer is able to get a letter of some sort from their local authorities for you to pass to the local Embassy in the UAE, as this may help to get things moving. I hope this helps!

  17. Hi there, I would like to know if I can work in China without a degree. Our future emplyers are going to get the letter from Seul , South Korea , promising us we will get it , we are not sure if this could be a scam , thanks in advance

    • Hi Marta, to work legally in China in most fields you need at least a Degree. This is certainly true for teaching ESL. I would be wary of any company who suggests otherwise, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when the government are currently cracking down on this situation! All the best, Melanie

  18. Hi Dear
    As a professor I was invited to go China to work in CAS. They applied for work permit notice but what about PU letter? May I wait first for work permit notice and then to get PU? May without PU I proceed for work visa?
    Thanks

    • Hi Vahid, the PU Letter usually comes first before the work permit. As long as you work permit has been issued, it shouldn’t be an issue for you to get your visa, but it’s best to check with your local China Visa Centre.

  19. Hi Melanie,
    my husband is supposed to work as an expat in Shanghai. We are aiming for a family visa and since september we have been issuing PU letters for family members again.
    My husband has now received a work permit. But when applying for the PU letter we learned that the company had already received a PU letter for another employee and we cannot apply for it.
    Do you know how to proceed in this situation or how long will we have to wait to submit an application? It is such a shame that only one PU letter is issued for the company.
    We wait and wait and never get an exact answer …

    • Hi Sol, sorry to hear you’re having these issues. When it comes to the processes of PU letters, things are very often complex and it can be hard to get a definite response from officials. However in this situation, either the local government office or the employer are the only ones who are able to answer this, unfortunately. We can’t really help with these details as we only really deal with legalisation and travel visas. I hope you’re able to resolve your issues very soon!

  20. Hello Melanie
    I have an M visa which expires in 2025. Currently I have several suppliers in China who need to meet for renewal contract and audit them, in addition to a supplier who manufactured equipment for us and which must be validated on site. So it’s going to require ,any traveling. Do you think the PU letter is necessary for the allocation of an entry visa? and what type of visa should I apply for. Thank you

    • I would advise you to get in touch with the embassy who issued your current business visa that is still valid and ask them if you can travel on it. If you wish to reapply for a new visa normally you would need to get the current visa cancelled first and then get a PU letter. You can find out more on embassy’s website here: https://www.mfa.gov.cn/ce/ceuk//eng/visa/qzxz/t1021834.htm

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