China Z Visas are Z Best

China visas

Got a worried call the other day from a China based foreign businessperson complaining about being forced to return to his home country because his China tourist visa was about to run out. Not only was he mad about being unable to renew his visa from within China or even by jumping over to Hong Kong, but he knew his chances of getting a new multiple entry visa were very low.

Our conversation from this point went something like this:

I have a $5 million a year business to run in Shanghai.

I understand your concern.

Doesn’t China care about foreign businesses any more? How can they expect me to run my business from Chicago.There is no way that is going to work.

Are you familiar with China’s Z visas for employees?


Have you tried to secure a Z visa?


Why not?

I’ve only been in China for three years. When I first came to China, things were different. We started out with only three Chinese employees. Back then, there were no laws in China. We’ve thought about setting up ourselves up in China as a Rep Office and we have started to look into that.

There is no way you can be a Rep Office in China with what you are doing. Not even close. But what you are saying then is that you do not have a company in China at all. Is that right?

That’s right.

Well, if you want anything approaching certainty regarding your visa, we are going to have to form a China WFOE for you.

Can you get that up and running within a month?

Not possible. Figure on it taking 3-5 months.

Well then that is just not going to work.

Do you have something in mind that will work?

Not yet, but I will keep looking. I’ve been here for three years doing this and I just cannot believe that is just going to change like that.

But wouldn’t you agree that it already has?

Him: Maybe.

If you end up wanting to go the WFOE route, let me know. Because that really is your only option and the sooner you start on forming your WFOE in China, the sooner you will have a WFOE in China.
This conversation is fairly typical as China continues cracking down hard on those there illegally and as it begins tightening its standards for receiving visas. The interesting thing about all this is that the foreigners who complain about being unable to get a good China visa are almost always in China illegally.

The Bottom Line
: If it is important to your company that you be in China, your only real solution is to secure an employee Z visa and the only way you as a foreigner can be an employee under Chinese law is for you to be an actual employee of a real Chinese company. be it a Chinese domestic company or a China WFOE or a China Joint Venture. In other words, you must get legal and though that cannot be done instantly, delay only breeds more delay.

For the latest on what is happening in China with visas because of the Olympics, check out the following:

19 responses to “China Z Visas are Z Best”

  1. Would a letter of recommendation from a Chinese supplier help in securing a visa for more then 60 days? The reason I’m asking this is my friend had to fly home unexpectedly because of a death in the family without finishing his business trip. He was here on an F visa but it will expire this month. What are his chances with the recommendation letter?

  2. “There are no laws in China” is a refrain one hears again and again from otherwise reliable sources. Yet demonstrably, as your caller found out, there are indeed laws in China and they can be enforced whenever the government feels like it. That’s why it’s important for foreign investors to find out and then follow, to the maximum extent possible, the laws.
    Anyway, having a business without a registered form is a recipe for disaster unless all (and I do mean ALL) of the business’ value is locked up solely in that guy’s head — where his business exists.

  3. We are also hearing from foreign teachers who have just been hired by a school or training center and need to get a visa extension for 30 days while their company secures their work visa. Some teachers have had to return to their home countries to apply for a new visa; others have had to apply for business visas. Is it just Hong Kong or is this happening everywhere?

  4. @Robert Vance – It’s not just teachers, the foreign engineers at my old company similarly had to use ‘L’ visas to gain entry so that they could pick up their work visas in-country. Having to return to your country of origin would be a real pain in the neck for them.

  5. Found out, there are indeed laws in China and they can be enforced whenever the government wants to do so.

  6. I agree with you 100%. I think all this furor is simply the result of China deciding to boot out all the thousands of people doing business or working without the proper visa status. Why are people surprised when a government decides to get rid of people working illegally? After all, when the shoe is on the other foot and the issue is people working illegally in the USA, we aren’t surprised when the INS deports people?

  7. Actually I am not really sure if the Foreign Ministry is aware that with the new visa regulations they also start some kind of “clean-up” regarding the businessmen really DOING illegal business in China. Actually it is not too difficult to set-up at least a Rep Office – I have done this several times for my employers before I started my own business here in HK. But – the new regulations should be somewhat alittle bit more flexible, as for example we people here in HK who placing orders to our China suppliers – sorry we are not DOING illegal business when we need to go there to control our order out put and to conduct quality control. We need to go there sometime 10 – 12 times a months: Morning take the train to Lowu – train to Dongguan – back to HK in late evening.
    Take a look at my blog if you like:
    Thanks Juergen

  8. China Visa Update
    The One Eyed Panda attended AmCham’s very recent seminar on China visas and he left with a whole slew of good notes. So if you are wondering about the latest regarding China visas, I urge you to go his post, China Visa Update as it is very helpful. Not…

  9. The new regulations are making it extremely difficult for young people, like myself, who have been hired by Chinese companies. Six months ago they changed the regulations on Z visas to have an “age limit.” Since I am too young–I graduated very early–I have been rejected twice already. Since my company wants to do everything legally, I have been working under an F visa. With the Olympics just ahead, it seems that I will have to leave the country or work illegally under a tourist visa. Chinese Bureaucracy isn’t a good environment for us young minds.

  10. How To Start Your Silicon Valleyesque Startup In China
    Cn Reviews, has a very informative post entitled, “AAMA Panel on ‘Silicon Valley-Style’ Startups in China: The Next Wave,” on getting a startup going in China. The post is on a recent Asia American MultiTechnology Association dinner where a number of c…

  11. hello fr USA…I have friends who are currently working in China as entertainers (singers & musicians) for quite sometime now. Unfortunately, the resort/rest. who employed them didn’t secure a working visa for them, i guess for the simple reason that they can always get visa fr HK, needless to say that it has always been easy before the new restrictions. Just like a lot of people staying in china, they also suffered the same fate of having to leave to go back to their country of orig. (on their case, Philippines)
    the resort needed them so badly espc for the summer but has no idea on how they can help them, they (mgt) suggested that if they can find a way they will be willing to do whatever it takes so they can come back & continue working with them.
    Can you suggest of a possible way on how they can apply for a Z visa, can they apply fr the phils? what are the requirements? I know i can search the net but after reading your column i felt that i can get the most accurate & reliable answer fr you. Any help or information will really be appreciated. You can respond here or my email shown above. Thank u so much!!!!

  12. China’s F-Visas — Put A Fork In Those Babies
    The Wall Street Journals’ China Blog just did a post on China’s current visa situation, entitled, “Visa Saga.” The gist of it is that securing F-visas and tourist visas has gotten much more difficult and that multiple entry visas are becoming nearly ex…

  13. If I know of a company that is illegally employing foreigners in China, can I report them and if so, how?

  14. hi everybody!just simply call me maria.ammarried to a mainlander and having the wedding rites here in china,as of the moment am still holding the L visa multiple one but nearly to expires this coming month,due to visa restriction basis am just wondering if am freely to get another visa to stay in china legally with my husband holding legal visa on my passport,amjust bit confused of the imposing law of visa processing here in china nowadays eventhough am legally married to a mainlander here in china!looking forward for your great response!am so grateful to have it then!

  15. Hi,I once overstayed my visa.t was no fault of mine,i was robbed.I wanted to renew my visa through an agency,but they couldn’t renew it resulting into my overstaying for almost 2 months.When i finally got my passport,i reported to the PSB and i paid 5000 rmb after which i left china,i came back and was able to get a new visa F [1year] I now want a working visa,i want to know how my previous record of overstaying will affect my working visa application. Thanks

  16. I have heard it might be possible to process a work visa in HK, through the wan chai visa office, rather than returning to the home country.. does anyone know if this is possible?
    I am currently on F visa, have all paperwork to apply for a Z visa but prefer not to fly back to USA to process.
    also, have heard a rumor that no visas (L, F, or Z) will be given to any foreigners of any nationality, regardless of country of application, after july 1.. does anyone have news about this or know if this is true?
    thanks for any replies!!

  17. just googled your site – nice to know communication outside exists. Just a thought – ive been working in china (z-visa) for over two years now (SAFEA) and just finished lecturing at a temp uni who wanted me then to sign a year contract. My last position sent them my recommendation letter (glowing obviously) but now they have withheld this (quite adamantly actually, they snatched it physically from my hand when I said I can get it scanned for them as I’d prefer to keep the original)as I was taking a position elsewhere. Is this legal for them to do this? After all, it’s my letter – I even offered to pay the postage to hand it over but they refused and threatened me with eviction from the apartment they supplied while I taught their students and covered their examinations.
    Any help on the legalities would be nice
    All the best

  18. I’m one who has been developing here on a business visa. Is it illegal to source parts and labour (planning for production)and converse with a possible production patner? I am not making money or making sales, just prototypes and strategic planning. It bites that this country just isn’t interested in at least leaving me alone while I attempt to create wealth and employment for them.
    I am getting a Z visa now (I am in China). I have been told that I will only need to take my work permit to HK and wait 2 days for it to be processed there rather than return to Australia – that is a big money saving for me.
    Also be warned, L visa’s issued now have a requirement to leave the country every 30 days, don’t get cought out like many are now thinking that you are in for 2 0r 3 months and you just have 2 exit availabilitys, this isnt the case and if you or someone gets a 5000 yuan maximum fine, it is written in law that there can be a warning administered (doubtful) or a smaller fine imposed. As most Police will pocket at least some of the money you don’t have a great chance of it being lowered though.
    Hope it helps someone

  19. Dell My Chinese Wife who is a “famous” Lawyer with her own law firm, says 100% the reference that your old Co sent belongs to your new Co, not you.

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