A couple of words on China’s new work visa regulations

When talking about China or staying in China, one inevitably comes across the issue of visa status. While getting tourist visas is a pretty straight forward matter, things become a little more complicated for the two groups with longer term plans in China:

  1. full time students
  2. expatriate workers

Since the issuance of green cards allowing you to stay in China indefinitely is sparse, one has to make do with these two categories if wanting to stay beyond those standard 30 days on a tourist visa. Your last option would be to get married to a Chinese national but even Elvis knew that only fools rush in.

The King knew all along

Full time X1 visa students

X1 visa invitations can usually only be issued by government run schools and universities welcoming foreign students. If a private institution can get you those fancy pieces of paper that institution has a cooperation with a university and cuts in the person on the other side financially. I have yet to hear of an education institution that can issue X1 invites. The good news is that with such an invitation letter you are usually a shoo in when it comes to getting your visa no matter where you are. China encourages foreigners to come to China to study and the visa regulations do reflect that. So, simply do what the international office is telling you to do and you will be fine.

However, having had the relatively smooth experience of getting an X1 visa, you may quickly become quite depressed visa-wise when finding a job in China after graduation.

Expatriate workers

Getting work visas for foreigners has been a headache for ages for both the foreigner trying to get it and the HR manager helping the foreigner in the process. Unless you get some high level Chinese government support you can expect to have to provide a lot of documentation only to find out that you are actually not yet all that welcome to work in China. See the contrast to student visas?

China has actually just passed a new law regarding work visas. This law took effect on April 1st, 2017 and basically utilizes a point system to determine whether or not a foreigner is welcome to work in China. The only thing that is already clear is that things are not yet that clear. This confusion seems to start with the officials having to execute the law and rolls down to the above mentioned HR managers and hoping-to-be employees in China. Interestingly, even the legal counsel of big firms seems to not yet exactly know what is going on. It will probably still take several months or even years before more or less definitive answers can be had in this regard. So don’t ask your HR rep what your chances are of getting a visa.

Anyhow, the point system basically rewards traits of an individual that is welcomed in China. Among those are your Chinese language skills as measured through the HSK test, work experience, special skills, your educational background etc. If this sounds vague, it is because the law is still vague. After having been assigned a point total you will be grouped into one of three categories: A, B and C. If you are a C, don’t even try. If you are a B, there is some hope. If you are an A (read here Nobel Prize Winner or former head of state: Obama listen up), you are most welcome to contribute to the future of China Inc. So, realistically speaking, if you have the time to read this blog you will at most probably be a B.   

Welcome to China, even if he doesn’t speak Chinese

However, you can also think about it in a different way. If you can convince the Chinese authorities that you are needed and will create economic benefit for China then somehow you will be welcomed. If you have a Fortune 500 company doing your bidding or the HR rep thereof, even better. If you cannot convince those bored visa officials of any of the like perhaps think of doing your master or PhD in China. Or become a language teacher, preferably teaching your own mother tongue. There are special rules for those. However, even if you are a professionally trained English teacher but are not from an English speaking county as defined through your passport you may not get a teacher visa either.

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