Updates on the new Chinese visa policy

An L-visa for tourism in China

Recently Maxxelli Consulting wrote a blog post about the new visa policy. On July 22 the State Council published new regulations implementing the Exit-Entry Administration Law which includes foreign visas, residence permits and measures taken for the breaching of regulations. The new version of regulations, effective September 1st, contains more detailed information and significant changes compared to the first draft (published July 1st for public comment and available in our previous post).  

In this post we will discuss frequently asked questions by foreign students, foreign employers and employees and foreigners with relations to Chinese citizens (marriage, divorce and offspring)

Why are there new changes to the policies that came out on July 1st?

Answer: Chinese immigration laws, namely the “Exit-Entry Administration Law of the People’s Republic of China”, are initially brought forth by the National People’s Congress. However, the National People’s Congress only provides general guidelines of the law; the specifics are made by the State Council and further implemented by various local government agencies such as The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Public Security and other departments of the State Council. Therefore, it is not that Chinese immigration laws are susceptible to frequent changes; it is merely that Chinese immigration laws are formulated in a “general-to-specific” process.

What are the specific changes to Chinese visas?

For First Draft changes to previous policies comparisons(before July 1st 2013), please see: http://maxxelli-blog.com/2013/07/the-new-chinese-visa-policy-6/

Recent Changes: [1]

First draft, Effective July 1st New Visa Classifications, published effective September 1
F visa: Business visa, issued to persons invited to give lectures or for official visits; for purposes of business, scientific, technological, or cultural exchanges; or for short-term studies or internships lasting less than six months. F visa: will be issued to persons engaged in exchanges, visits, inspections, etc. The draft State Council regulations would have instead issued F visas to persons invited to China on a noncommercial exchange or visit for scientific-technological, education, cultural exchanges, health or sports activities. See also M visas below.
J visa: Journalist visa, issued to foreign journalists. J1/J2 visas: J-1 visas will be issued to resident foreign correspondents of foreign news organizations resident in China; J-2 visas will be issued to foreign correspondents who make short trips to China to gather and report news.
L visa: Tourist visa, issued to persons entering China for tourism, to visit relatives, or for other private purposes. L visa: for persons coming to China for tourism. The requirement of the draft State Council regulations that round-airlines tickets and hotel reservations be provided in every case has been dropped. (See Draft State Council regs at art. 9(6)). Nevertheless, visa agencies may require such evidence on a case-by-case basis. See also Q and S visas for those visiting relatives.
M visa: will be issued to persons who come for business or commercial activities.
Q1/Q2 visas: Q1 visas will be issued to the relatives of Chinese citizens applying to enter and reside in China for purposes of family reunion, to the relatives of persons who have qualified for permanent residence in China, and to persons applying to enter and reside in China for purposes such as adoption. Q2 visas will be issued to the relatives of Chinese citizens and of persons qualified for permanent residence in China who are applying to enter and stay for a short period to visit relatives.
R visa: Will be issued to foreign high-level talents that China needs and to specialized talents that are urgently needed due to short supply. (Note that the final regulations don’t adopt separate R1 and R2 classifications as proposed in the draft).
S1/S2 visas: S1 visas will be issued for purposes of entry and long-term family visits with foreigners residing in China for work, study, etc. by a spouse, parents, children under age 18, parents-in-law, and other persons who need to reside in China for private purposes; S2 visas will be issued to persons applying for entry and short-term visits with foreigners staying or residing in China for work, study, etc. by relatives and other persons who need to stay in China for private purposes.
X visa: Student visa, issued to students and others coming to China for training or internship for a period of six months or more. X1/X2 visas: X1 visas will be issued to persons applying for long-term study in China; X2 visas will be issued to persons applying for short-term study in China. Part-time work and internships off campus may be authorized. See new S1/S2 visas for accompanying family members.
Z visa: work visa, issued to foreign workers and their accompanying family members. Z visa: will be issued to persons applying to work in China. The final regulations don’t adopt the separate classifications for long-term Z1 and short-term Z2 visas proposed in the draft regulations. See new S1/S2 visas for accompanying family members.

Students

What kind of visa do I need for studying? What about an internship?

For studying, the type of visa you need to apply for depends on your study duration in China. If you are going to study in China for more than 180 days (long-term) you need to apply for an X1 visa. An X2 visa is meant for students staying fewer than or equal to 180 days. The X1 visa qualifies you for a residence permit, which is obtainable by submitting standard documentation for a resident certificate (art. 22 of Exit and Entry Law), an admissions offer and documentation showing the studying duration at a Chinese education or training institute.

Can I do an internship during my stay in China? What about a part time job?

In order for you to have an internship or a part time job, you must first obtain a residence certificate. This process includes approval from your educational institution and applying to the local exit-entry authorities to add a notation to the residence certificate (article 22 of the regulations).

Working without implementing the steps mentioned above is qualified as taking part of unauthorized employment. Note that not having a labor contract or not receiving remuneration, in other words getting paid, is irrelevant. It will qualify as illegal work when there is a de facto labor relation, meaning the authorities assess the situation on what is actually happening. For example, if you are working in a bar without a contract or payment, the authorities will still deem your status illegal upon witnessing you bartending. The penalty for both the employer and the employee in the situation of illegal work has soared. Under the new policy, you can be fined up to 20,000RMB or worse, deported or refused entry for a maximum of 5 years.

As of now, the policies are still unclear on cases in which you don’t have a residence certificate. Under the old system, internships less than six months were permissible with an F visa; however the new regulations have not yet specified under which visa internships less than six months are permissible.

Entrepreneurs and visitors for business purposes

I have a business visa, but I am offered a job, can I work under the business visa(F visa) or must I change it to a work visa(Z visa)?

What are the consequences for working under a business visa instead of a work visa?

No, foreign employees working in China cannot work under the business visa. You would need to obtain an employment license or work-type residence permit. Working on an F or M visa (refer to the table from above) qualifies as illegal employment, leading to a fine up to 20,000RMB, deportation or refused entry for a maximum of 5 years.

The new regulations do not mention anything on whether or not foreigners can switch from an F or M visa to a Z visa. However, even with differing local policies, the answer is often no. Therefore, it is highly recommended that your employer sponsors you with a Z visa, or you will have to leave China in order to apply for it

Is my business visa (old F visa) issued before July 1st, 2013, still valid after the new regulations become effective on September 1st, 2013?

This is an issue not only concerning people with business visas, but also many others with visa types that have been affected by the new regulations. The new Exit and Entry law and regulations (effective September 1st, 2013)have not mentioned any impact on business visas issued prior to July 1st, 2013. Additionally, there was no mention of any impact on M visas issued after July 1st, 2013. Generally, in China new laws do not void previously granted rights, which mean visas issued before the enactment of the new law will be valid.

Employees

What are the requirements to qualify for a work visa?

For a work visa, you would need to have a foreign expert certificate, obtained via local authorities. In order to qualify for the foreign expert certificate, you need to prove that you have unique skills and talents that are needed in China by supplying the following documents: resume, university and above diplomas and employment contract. We advise that you work with local visa agencies which will have the necessary government contacts allowing for a smoother work visa application process.

After having obtained the foreign expert certificate, you can apply for a work visa and residence permit. An official medical check will be required as supplementary documentation.

This whole application process will take at least 25 working days.  

I switched to another job, is there anything I need to do?

You will need to go through the procedure described above again. In other words, you will need to apply for a new foreign expert certificate and new work visa. 

I have a Q1 visa, is it allowed to work in China on this visa?

No. You are able to apply for a residence permit for the purpose of family reunion. However, just holding a Q1/Q2 does not qualify you to work. You may apply further for an R or S visa, which will allow you to obtain a necessary work-type permit.

Are there any changes to the R visa for foreign talents with the new regulations?

The only difference between the policies effective September 1st, 2013 and policies which came out on July 1st, 2013, is discard of distinguishing between long term and short term R visas (R1s and R2s). R visas now apply to all special foreign talents, regardless of how long they plan to stay in China.


[1]LawandBorder.com by Gary Chodorow http://lawandborder.com/?p=2707

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