The visa issue is one of the thorniest and most talked-about in the expat community. The luckier laowai are those whose companies complete the visa process for them. Freelancers and consultants who have enough cash can use agencies to help them out, but is it possible to get a Z or an F visa by your own means? The answer is, simply, no. You need to have the backing of a company to issue you an invitation letter (in the case of the F) and sponsorship (in the case of the Z). However, if your company doesn’t want to do the actual application for you, here is our guide to going to the embassy or consulate yourself.
F or Z visas – What’s the difference?
According to the website of the UK’s Chinese Embassy, the F (Business) visa is “issued to a foreign citizen who is invited to China for visit, research, lecture, business, exchanges in the fields of science, technology, education, culture and sports, or attending various kinds of trade fairs or exhibitions, or short-term study, intern practice for a period of less than 6 months.” The F visa comes in single-entry, double-entry, and multiple-entry forms, with each stay lasting from 30 to 90 days (meaning that you have to leave the country before that time is up – but then you can come straight back). The F visa is popular among consultants, freelancers, and jacks-of-all-trades who don’t have contracted employment. It’s important to remember that accepting payment for services on an F visa is illegal. Only the Z validates you to work in China.
The Z (Work) visa is issued to foreigners who come to China to take up employment, and to their accompanying family members. Certain companies only offer single-entry Z visas, so make sure you check what you’re validated for. Likewise, duration of each stay varies from company to company.
If you come into China on an L (Tourist) or X (Student) visa, there is a very high chance that you will have to leave the country to convert it to a Z. Before 2008 it was possible to swap without exiting China, but regulations changed after the Olympics. Going through an agency to secure an F visa does not always require a trip out of China, but since one-year F visas start from your last entry, it’s a good idea to leave and come back to maximise the length of your visa (for example, if your last entry was on October 12th and it’s now December 23rd, your one-year F visa will run until October 12th next year, even if the agent processes it tomorrow).
How to apply
Applying for an F visa is a simpler process than a Z. At the time of writing this article, 12-month F visas were available in Hong Kong, but since regulations change so frequently and seemingly randomly, it’s best to check before you start the process. It may be necessary to go back to your home country (but don’t panic – this can often be cheaper than using an agency). Here is what you’ll need:
1. A valid passport with at least six months validity remaining and at least one blank visa page in it, plus a photocopy of the photo page.
2. A completed application form, available to download from the Chinese Embassy website of your home country.
3. One recent passport photo.
4. An invitation letter from your host company on headed notepaper.
Once you’ve gotten all that together, submit your passport and papers to your nearest embassy or consulate, pay the fee, and your new visa will be ready in around four working days. Express services are available, and costs vary from country to country.
For a Z visa, the process is a little more time consuming. First you’ll need to get a work licence. For this you’ll need:
1. Your C.V. in Chinese and English stamped with the company seal.
2. A copy of your passport’s photo page.
3. A copy of your employer’s business license with the company seal.
4. A copy of your employer’s code certificate, also with the company seal.
5. If the company you’re working for is a WFOE, you’ll need a copy of their permit for foreign investment enterprise.
6. A copy of your degree certificate or college diploma.
Your company will provide you with the documents for points 3, 4 and 5, and will make the application to the government at the Shanghai Administrative Center for Employment of Foreigners (4/F, 77 Meiyuan Lu, Metro Line 1 Hanzhong Lu).
After five days you will be issued with a laminated green booklet, which is your work permit. Once that’s all sorted, you’ll need to apply for an official invitation letter. This requires
1. Your work licence plus a copy of each side.
2. A copy of your employer’s business license with the company seal.
3. A copy of your passport’s photo page.
4. A completed application form stamped with your company’s seal.
Different types of jobs require different sorts of invitation letters, but your company ought to know which is the relevant department to apply to.
Within three days, you will be issued with an invitation notice that you will submit to the Chinese Embassy or Consulate where you apply for your visa. The process costs 20 RMB.
When it comes to applying for your actual Z visa, you’ll need:
1. A valid passport with at least six months validity remaining, and at least one blank visa page in it, plus a photocopy of the photo page.
2. Your invitation letter plus a copy.
3. Three passport photos.
4. A completed visa application form (available to download on your embassy or consulate’s website)
5. Your work license.
6. Your health certificate.
Although a health certificate isn’t always required unless you are applying for a resident’s permit, it’s a good idea to get it done before you leave China to apply for your visa, just in case the embassy asks you for it. The government-approved clinic is at 15 Jingbang Lu, near Hami Lu, Changning District and is open between 9:00 and 16:00 from Monday to Friday). Call 62686171 or 62688851 to make an appointment. When you go, make sure you have:
1. Your passport and a copy of the photo page.
2. A copy of your employer’s business license stamped with the company seal.
3. Three passport photos.
4. A completed application form, which is available at the clinic.
The medical costs 702 RMB (plus an extra 25 RMB to have the report delivered by courier) and takes about an hour. It covers X-rays, blood tests, blood pressure tests and ultrasounds. Your report and health certificate will be complete in around four working days.
While the visa process may seem time-consuming and tedious, it’s actually relatively straightforward if you get everything done in time and have the support of your employers. If all else fails, you can always use an agency, but it’s almost always cheaper to apply yourself.
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soulestuff, there is no better way. Just pay 5000 RMB fine at the local public security bureau with some good reason, that is, to claim guilty with reason. Your next step will then be to obtain the resident permit through legitimate process.
Jan 02, 2011 07:51 Report Abuse
Thanks 4 ur advice sir. In case I succeed in pleading guilty n paying this fine,do u hve any idea on the preceeding steps I'm going to undertake. If yes, how much is the entire process going to cost, n am I gonna still obtain d resident permit visa type or a different one.
Jan 05, 2011 20:15 Report Abuse
deportation means for a minimum five years no option to return, an international blackmark on your record and in effect, the chinese authorities shall be reluctant to ever let one return after five years have passed...
jail or not, one pays one's own deportation flight, poliocy changed recently
Jan 15, 2011 01:08 Report Abuse
Hi man, Its best for you to Leave China through Shenzhen, No flight, No Jail time, no problem, just pay the Y5000 fine and walk into Hong Kong and get a new Visa, Oh yeah the excuse, right> Well the best thing you can do is Scan a real visa, use Photo shop and edit the scanned copy of the visa, change the dates and print it out on sticker A4 sheet paper or thick paper and glue it or stick into your passport, tell the PSB an visa Agency cheated you and you had no idea the visa was fake. My filipino friend was here for 6 years as an OS (Over Stayed). That tricked worked well. Its your only hope.
Apr 06, 2012 22:10 Report Abuse
im a filipino with F visa in china. i want to convert it to z visa with a company sponsor. i asked an agency to help me. they said it is possible but need to process it in Hongkong. however, no one will go with me in HongKong and the agency doesn't even know anybody from the Chinese Embassy to help me process my paper. I'm wondering if it's possible now to process my request in Hong Kong considering my nationality and multiple visa extensions... please help
Jan 08, 2011 04:56 Report Abuse
A Z-Visa is NOT a working Visa, A Z-visa is an invitational Visa that invites you to work in a legal company that can hire you, its only good for 30 days, once you have a resident permit from the PSB and Expert cert book from the labor department than you have yourself a working visa, Working visa in China means= Resident Permit.
Apr 06, 2012 22:02 Report Abuse
'Z' viza is a working visa, that allows you to work.
If you are going to work in the public sector your future employer will provide you with the paperwork required to apply for the 'Z' visa.
If you are applying from outside China you will get a single entry visa. Do not be alarmed, as once you have taken up your post with the school or university, and you have your foreign experts certificate, your visa will be converted to a form of residence permit. This allows you come and go across the Chinese border as many times as you like.
Jan 14, 2011 22:36 Report Abuse
Thanks for the answers.One more thing,i just want to know if i still need to go back to my country once i renew my working visa?i have a working visa but there's no "z" indicated there.I also have a foreign experts book which is blue and not green,does it make any difference?The School provided everything that I need to fix it.They told me as well that Yes I can go in and out of China as many times as I want.But still kinda worried for my working visa renewal this coming September 2011.
Jan 15, 2011 00:05 Report Abuse
It sounds like you have the residence permit. You will need a new contract in order to renew this.
When the res permit expires you will be expected to convert this into a 30 day 'L' tourist visa. It is normal that you pay for this yourself. You then have 30 days to find a new job and get your visa application in.
It is unlikely that you will be expected to leave the country. I never have.
Be aware, try and find a new job first. If employers know you need the job for the visa, they may offer you a lesser deal; as they can leverage you.
Jan 15, 2011 10:07 Report Abuse
Thanks Dan!that really encourages me!The school is willing to renew my contract this 2011 and since I have the foreign expert permit, it does not necessarily mean that i still have to go back to my country origin,right?all i have to do is to renew my visa and foreign expert?And ohh, one more my mother is here with me China,i carried over her visa so she can stay here until my contract expires.Can i still carry over her visa so she can still stay here with me until my next contract expires?
Jan 15, 2011 20:49 Report Abuse
Your will need to get the FEC (expert certificate) renewed (there is a small space for stamp and date in renewal section) via the school, then sign a new contract with school (renew your medical if you have not already) then off your passport goes for 5 working days for a new resident perm at the PSB office. I would do, Medical, F.E.C and then go to PSB with school and school office stamp.
Jan 16, 2011 08:24 Report Abuse
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