China Business

China: First Let’s Clear out the Long Time Foreigners Without Proper Visas

China visas

A couple weeks ago, I got what for my law firm is a fairly typical phone call. This was from the owner of a “company” that had been operating in a second tier Chinese city for seven years, all without having registered the business and without having secured a long term Z (employee) visa for himself.
Seems the local authorities had sent him packing and he essentially had to turn over his fairly profitable business to his five Chinese employees. He was calling us to see if there was anything we could do. My response was something along the lines of the following:

Let me get this straight. You have been operating this business in China for seven years, yet you never registered it and you never paid any taxes on it. You built it up to five employees, none of whom are legal. What is it you think we can help you with?

He very wisely chose not to hire us. We get calls like this just about every month and I have written about many of them. This post is a little different, based on something this person told me at the end of the call. He said something along the lines of the following, though I have to admit by that point I was thinking more about getting off to my lunch appointment so I didn’t question him any further:

The local official told me they are going after everyone who has been in China for more than five years without a Z visa (employment visas) and making sure they are in China completely legally and, if they are not, they are making them leave the country immediately.

I thought absolutely nothing of this until today when I read this James Fallows article that talked of something similar happening to veteran English teachers in China. Fallows’ post contained the following quote from a “young Westerner who has taught in China but is now in Europe as a graduate student:”

I am just hearing from two of my expat friends who have been teaching in Chengdu for 3 and 4 years each, that a new visa regulation is being enforced, which will force all but a very select group of people to leave the country for at least one year after having been there for 5 years more or less continuously. Whats that all about? Great teachers who like their jobs and would be happy to stay are forced to leave the country for a year? I don’t want to know how many of them will find a job some place else in that year off and never come back.

We have for quite some time been writing about how China’s attitude towards foreign investment was becoming more rigid and less welcoming as the government becomes more convinced China’s economy will be fine. So certainly a Chinese government call to crack down on China expat veterans without proper visas would fit in perfectly with that.
I know plenty of people who have been living in China for more than ten years on business or tourist visas. Are their days numbered? What are you hearing/seeing out there?