In April this year, China began strictly enforcing its visa rules. Up until then, the visa rules had been fairly relaxed, many foreigners had taken up residence and even started businesses by extending their tourist visas.
The party is over. If you are going to China for business, fun or study, you need to be aware of the new rules and standards and plan your trips accordingly. For most business people, this will be little more than a small inconvenience, but for others, it may be more serious.
Visas and Visa policies are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and administered locally by the local municipal Public Security Bureau. Inquiries to the Public Security Bureau (the police) are referred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Calls to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will yield little more than “there are no definite policies at this point.”
You will need at least 10 working days to get your visa, so plan accordingly, contact a larger law firm and ask them which visa service they use. You will pay a fee, but they are more up to date with what is required and you will avoid having to go to the Chinese Consulate in Chicago.
Below is a compilation of the experiences of businesses and travel agents to date, but they are subject to change depending on the circumstances of each application and any changes the government makes. So, get in touch with a reputable visa service as soon as you know your plans.
If you need a continuous presence in China this summer you may want to consider getting a Z visa or finding an agent to act for you.
There are four main kinds of visas:
- F Visa – Business visit.
- L Visa – Tourism.
- Z Visa – Working permit.
- X Visa – Student visa.
If you are going to China between now and October, you need the following:
An official invitation from a registered private or governmental entity with Chop (seal), confirmed hotel reservations covering your entire stay or the address of where you will be staying and your return travel ticket(s). Only single or double entry visas are being issued. If you leave the mainland to go to Hong Kong it will count as a second entry if you return to the mainland, so plan accordingly. Note, if you are staying anywhere other than a hotel, you will need to register with the local police department and you should carry your documentation with you at all times.
As a tourist
From July 1st, no L visas will be issued unless you hold tickets for the Olympic Games, confirmed hotel reservations covering your entire stay and your return travel ticket(s). If no Olympic tickets are provided, you will need to show financial resources of $100 per day either in cash or a financial account in your name.
As a foreign worker
A copy of the employing company’s Business License, a signed letter from the Board of Directors a copy of your Chinese employment contract with the company, a cover letter from the company, a Health Checkup form (issued within the last six months), your resume, a certified university degree/ copy of original degree, and eight pictures (pale blue background). All materials in English must be translated into Chinese.
As a student
Unless you have an invitation from an educational institution or the government with chop (seal) you will probably not be issued a visa or given an extension. Students in China are not being allowed to extend their visas even if they will be attending school in the fall. Students should return to the U.S. and submit their visa applications as soon as possible.
Other factors to consider include:
Renewing a Visa
Existing U.S. visa holders may only renew their visas in the United States. If your visa was renewed while in China you will need to return to the U.S. and apply for a new visa. Once you have a valid F or L visa, your visa may be renewed in China twice for additional 30 day periods. One difficulty is that you may be required to show tickets with a departure date within the period of your visa which will require you to cancel and rebook if you get an extension(s).
Overstaying your visa period
People who overstay their visa will be fined per day, may incur a jail stay and possibly prison and a future inability to get a visa.
The Chinese government has indicated that the visa rules will be reviewed on October 17, 2008 but this does not mean that they will be changed on that date.
There is a lot of speculation as to why the Chinese Government is tightening its visa requirements, ranging from security for the Olympics to aligning its rules to international standards, but it is clear that the days of casual indifference to China’s visa rules are over.