Legal News

China is Making Visas Interesting.

China visas

Visas have always bored me.  Not that I have been immune to visa problems. Not long ago, I was en route to Qingdao via Seoul (and when I say en route, I mean in the air half-way between the two places) when I noticed for the first time that though the date on my visa was still plenty good, I had already maxed out on the number of visits.

My sweet talking the Chinese customs guy did no good and I had to return to Seoul and spend the weekend chillin’ at the Westin Chosun until the Chinese Embassy in Seoul opened back up on Monday. Or the time I was held by the police in Vladivostok, Russia, until 2:00 a.m. because I had failed to get a visa for that particular city. So I agree visas matter, but they are still not very interesting.
Until now.

China is cracking down on entries into China every which way it can and it is doing so to such an extent that it is affecting business. It is impacting business because businesspeople are getting stuck in Hong Kong where they had gone to get visas to re-enter China and are now being told they must return to their “resident country” to get any such visas. It is impacting business because companies that were hoping to delay having to form Chinese entities to do business in China are now having to register a WFOE or Representative Office to ensure their people have a basis for coming into China — another case of lawyers’ benefitting from others’ bad fortune. And it is impacting business because it is creating massive uncertainties.

Rather than explaining what is going on, I am just going to link you over to the newly (and timely) formed China Visa Blog, which is valiantly trying to keep up with the constant changes in China’s visa situation.

Me? Thanks for asking. I have a one year multiple entry visa, secured just in time to skirt this mess.

Would love to hear any and all China visa stories in the comments below. Let’s try to build up a “database” on what is happening with China’s ever-changing visa situation, with you-all helping with the grunt work.

You in?

13 responses to “China is Making Visas Interesting.”

  1. Here’s one: colleague visiting our Beijing office next week, coming from the UK. Routine for us – invitation letter goes out, colleague’s assistant does the legwork, done. We’re an mnc with business in 72 countries and we probably average one international visitor to our office per week. Never a single problem (except for the Iranians who wanted to attend an energy conference in China last year, who got refused – but that was kinda unusual).
    So back to my UK colleague. Invite letter – standard fool-proof issue – was sent weeks ago: his uber-efficient assistant got on it right away. Two days ago, the fun started: she called me in a panic saying the embassy now wants a “company number” to process the visa showing that we are a “real company in China. No prob – we emailed over a business license scan. Today, another call: embassy now wants a “government letter” proving that “the govt approves the invitation from the company.” What the heck is that? Not sure what this might be, where to get it, etc. We’ll be getting creative about this and if anyone has any suggestions on the govt entity or an agent we could call it’ be much appreciated.

  2. The visa blocking started around January and has slowly been tightened as the big thing at 08.08.08 gets closer.
    Qinghua has a good overview of the Chinese VISA rules. Article 7 (4) is not confirmed, but I am looking into it.
    Visa blocking is the best way to close down and it would seem China is now using it to clean up in some of the many unregistered foreigners that live there (not all a bad thing).
    If anyone has been in Beijing within the last 6 months they would know that local gongan are doing door to door to check both visa and the sign up at the local gonganju. They even made a solid English pamflet.

  3. There are a lot of foreigners working as minor exporters or just doing business in China who can in no way afford to setup a real company in China and get a work visa.
    Some of them have been here for many years – this is really a sharp jab in the gut. I guess you disapprove of small scale entrepreneurs and business people, Anders?

  4. Here’s a somewhat interesting fact to add to the “database”.
    I’m studying in Beijing, and just like almost everyone else at the school, I applied for a one year visa in September, but was issued a residence permit that didn’t appear in the visa brochure – it’s good until the 31st of July. I’d say about 90% of the foreign students at Bei-yu are in a similar situation.

  5. Dear Jeremy
    Do they pay taxes on the work and profits they make in China? Not easy to do on a L Visa
    (hint you are not allowed to work on it)
    You only need a F or L VISA to check your factories, vist people or survey your supply chain, so get it in your country of orgin instead of visa shopping in Hong Kong. No Chinese passport holder can skip in and out of Europa or the US on a turist Visa and still work there (not without breaking the law anyway).
    I have no beef with people who run a company in China, but if you run your “company” on a L visa and have not returned to your own country in years, then maybe its time to start thinking about doing something else. It does not take that much to get started in legal way in China or correct me if I am wrong Dan?
    It would also seem that all Visas run out just before 08.01.08 or even earlier so it might not be a permanent thing.
    If you really need a long stay visa give the visa offices i wudaokou (beijings university district) a call, they have been useful to me in the past
    Call your local entry and exit bureau (hope you are in Beijing) or send a Chinese employee down to talk with them, if you can get them to sign a letter of approval that might work.
    Or call the embassy again and ask them if they mean exit and entry bureau?

  6. Very timely post Dan. Sent my passport and requisite paperwork to SFO consulate earlier this week for visa renewal…multiple entry F class as I have had previously. The invitation letter requirements have apparently changed significantly. I was told that letter must now come directly from Municipal/Provincial/Central official (not from a business, etc) to qualify for a multiple entry F class of one or two year duration…I consider myself fortunate to be getting my passport back with a multiple entry L class for the coming 12 months.

  7. Dan and all others:
    Me, a Taiwan citizen, and my friend (Mexican citizen) both got to Hong Kong with the plan of getting a longer visa to enter Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijin, and other cities in China. Unfortunately the visa office in HK charges 3 times more the real amount than in China guangzhou. Our visas were 3 months 1 entry and we both went to the visa office in Guangzhou afterwards to extend it for 1 year. My friend was unsuccessful with his request; they would only allow a 1 month extension, so i helped him extend his airplane ticket to the last date available and used that as a hardship for getting a longer extension. they only gave him 3 months more. My request was also denied since i left my original Foreigners Registration Residence at home and only had a copy and they don’t accept any copies without the original! I had to go back home to get the original and then they requested me to make copies of my Taiwan passport, 8 registered pictures taken in their for 30RMB (in which they only used 1!),and copies of my chinese permit and residence registration…a total hassle and troublemakers, paid 160 and turned in every single piece of paper they wanted, finally i got successful and i got my 1 year extension multiple entry for family reason. My friend (MExico)unfortunately has to leave before the Olympics. The visa office is packed all day now, and when it gets crowded, it stinks badly, i had to cover up my nose when i was waiting in the offices! Visas in China is hard to get right now.

  8. Word on the street (don’t know if true or not) is that even multiple entry visas will not be honored past July and that students can forget foreign exchange programs this summer (until after games are over). (So Dan, if these rumors are true you won’t necessarily count on being able to use your L visa during July – August. I’d recommend not scheduling regular business meetings during that time. Not to mention that prices have been jacked up 3x in some places already.) The idea, IMO, is not to share a sporting event with the world but to showcase how big and great we are, and anything that interferes with that goal will be stopped including any possible interference by foreign tourists or protesters. There’s definitely an added element of using the opportunity to weed out people who are actually longer term residents who make “visa runs”. And racial profiling is not illegal here! I always try not to get behind Africans in the immigration line because half the time they get questioned and take a lot longer to process. Finally, while it’s true that working illegally here is no more “right” than anywhere else, recent events have really rubbed in that this is definitely not a free country and the West needs always to remember who/what it is that they are dealing with. Economically, the baby is being exported along with the outsourced business, and the West is going to wake up one morning and wonder where the economy has gone!

  9. “racial profiling is not illegal here!” – I’d like to see the country in which it is illegal. There is nothing to stop immigration and customs officials anywhere in the world looking particularly carefully and questioning in detail people with third-world passports – be they black, white, red or brown. It’s just that in your own country you can always walk into the native citizen’s line and get processed quickly – and thus don’t get stuck behind them.
    As for our economy ‘disappearing’ – how exactly is this supposed to happen? You see, the curious thing about Chinese people is that they insist on being paid for the products they sell to us – weird, huh? The fact that we have managed to export so much of our manufacturing to China means that more people may work in the tertiary and creative industries, and may use the money earn from doing so to buy products from China and other countries. Unless people in the west make money the Chinese cannot export to us – so there is no way in which our economy can disappear over night in the way you describe.

  10. hey guys, visa has always been an issue, but one thing we should know is that every country needs to protect their own.

  11. say my visa s expired and now i get caught by the cops,
    wat should b my next action and who can help me out????

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