For me, the word “internship” conjures up memories of visiting the university careers advisor and hearing that I needed more work experience before I could actually get a paying job. “Experience” I was told, is the new currency for getting into your dream career. Many graduates and young people nowadays gain experience in the form of paid or unpaid internships, and internships in China are becoming increasingly popular for young expatriates.
This article offers a guide to the benefits, rules and options regarding internships in China. It does not offer any “silver bullet” solutions to getting your ideal job, yet it may help you take the first step towards finding a foothold in a career that suits you.
Many commentators trace the major rise of internships back to the global recession of 2008 which adversely affected graduates’ job prospects across the developed world. An oversupply of graduates meant that simply having a university degree was no longer enough. Even 10 years after the recession, internships remain a popular way for graduates to stand out among the vast academically qualified crowd.
A website entitled Transitions Abroad argues that international internships help graduates to work in an “increasingly globalised economy” and gain an “international perspective.” While those phrases might seem vacuous, imagine what they mean to employers in practice.
One young graduate featured in a post for the Laowai blog described taking up an internship in China. Part of the experience involved staying with a Chinese family and part of it involved working with a big Chinese company.
By the end, he was able to not only to communicate in Mandarin, but also better understand the business landscape in China. Employers who wish to tap into the second-largest economy in the world know the value of these skills all too well.
Internships in China are regulated differently to jobs in China (more on the latter here. The China Law blog provides a useful list of requirements for student internships in China.
There must be a three-party agreement between the school, the hiring entity and the student. Before the internship can legally begin, the parties must agree upon things like working hours, compensation, accommodation and insurance.
Companies that offer internships in China on a category L-visa (for tourism) should be avoided. It’s illegal to work in any capacity, even as an intern, on an L-visa. M-visas (for business) used to be the go-to category for internships in China. As the following quote from China Internship Placements states however:
“As at the beginning of 2016, the only approved visa for an internship is the X category (student). The law is clear on what is required to get interns legally signed on.”
Visa rules constantly change, and while paid work used to be illegal for foreign students in China, internships and part time work are now allowed, as long as the student has permission from their school and local exit and entry authorities.
Less clear is how non-students can legally obtain internships in China. Ultimately, potential interns should check with both their potential employers and visa experts before taking up an internship in China.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, internships in China are mainly offered in the first-tier cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, although larger second-tier cities like Chengdu and Hangzhou also have their fair share. Most roles tend to be in industries like marketing, editing, sales and software development.
Although paying a salary to interns is technically illegal in China, companies do offer compensation in the form of expenses. Some range from RMB50 to RMB150 per week, while others offer pretty healthy monthly stipends, ranging from between RMB5,000 and RMB30,000 per month. Check out these listings for more information.
In a nutshell, internships in China are a great way to get international work experience. It goes without saying that those seeking internships should do some solid research on the company first, as unfortunately there will always be those who try to lure workers to China on the wrong visa.
Nonetheless, if you look hard enough it’s likely there’s a suitable internship opportunity out here for you. And it could be just the ticket you need to get that dream career started.
Have you done an internship in China? Tell us about it below.
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Keywords: internships in China
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