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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Keywords: visa rules china work visa china business visa china china visa application china visa
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Hi. .One training school in China hired me and I now have Z visa stamped on my passport. As a Filipino our papers must pass through POEA for our exit clearance. With the new policy my school wasn't permitted to directly hire me. I need to have an agency. But agency processing will take more time and I am mandated to pay the agency one month salary base on my contract. I have decided to look for another school to avoid the agency fee and long processing. Can I use my visa on my passport? Do I need to have it cancelled by my old employer? Will The new school will have a problem when they apply for my resident permit?
Jul 04, 2017 09:29 Report Abuse
Hi, for such questions you could refer to "Answers" page (right on the top of the page). There you can read answers to other people's questions that are related to yours, if not then can ask a new question. I suggest you so, because you will have much higher chances to find a proper answer.
Jul 04, 2017 16:34 Report Abuse
I used to work in China as an English trainer of foreign teachers. I am Filipino, too. Unfortunately, with the new laws in China regarding foreign teachers, Filipinos can no longer teach English in China. Only native speakers of English are allowed to work in China. It also changed for them since they are now required to have a bachelor's and 2 years teaching experience as well as a TEFL certificate. Even agencies in the Philippines are on stand by mode despite getting a lot of job orders from China. I think there is an expiration date for Z visas but I can be wrong. If I am right, it will cancel itself automatically.
Mar 06, 2018 19:14 Report Abuse
hello guys! I need your help! It s urgent! I am a citizen of Kyrgyzstan, in China with L visa, which expires in 8 days. i want to get chinese F visa for 6 mon
ths. Can i go to Macau and get it there? Visa to Macao i can get on arrival. Please could u share contact details of any agencies in Macao.
Jul 31, 2012 23:02 Report Abuse
A Z visa is the visa to enter China. Once you get where you are going, you are your employer get the Residence Permit. It can be renewed in country every year without leaving.
Once, several years ago, I was looking for a job and went to this second tier college in Hangzhou. Went to the Foreign Affairs Office (FAO) and met with some young woman about the job. I had my passport with me for her inspection.
At the time, I had a valid Residence Permit issued in Shanghai, for a Shanghai based school in Hangzhou.
She thumbs through my passport and asks me "Where is your visa?" I pointed out and said "Right there" pointing at my valid Residence Permit." She went "This is a Residence Permit, where is your visa?" Again, "right there, this is what was issued to me by the government."
She got snide and said "I told you before, this is a Residence Permit, where is your visa." We went back and forth on this with her accusing me of being in China illegally "You mean you don't have a visa?" Annoyed, I snatched back my visa and left, with her asking "Where are you going?", with me saying that "Life is too short to work for a b*tch like you."
I went to the Entry/Exit PSB (the visa office for foreigners) and was told that the Z Visa and the RP is now one sticker. The old sticker said Z Visa, plus a green book that was the Residence Permit (and I had these little books when I was first working in 2001.). I was perfectly legal, the stupid b*tch at the college (who worked in the FAO office) did not know what she was talking about. I wanted to go back there and tell her off again, but why bother.
In the end, I met a woman who was my employer at another college for 1.5 years. She started out nice, but ironically was a big of a b*tch as the former person. But at least this b*tch knew the laws. Live and learn.
Apr 18, 2012 19:18 Report Abuse
I am a non native speaker of English language.I got a job in china from my home country.I was sent foreign expert certificate & invitation letter to apply for the z visa.I got my Z visa.Few days for me to fly in to china,my company sent me an email that it is impossible for them to convert z visa to resident permit due to my nationality.They said they've change the law in that province.Please,what do i do?
Apr 17, 2012 23:56 Report Abuse
I just went to Hong Kong to change my visa from student to F visa. The Chinese company that organised my invitation stated in it that they wished to provide me with a 6 month visa with multiple entry but the Hong Kong Visa could only give me one month (this is their policy apparently). Now back in Nanjing where I live- I am hoping to extend it for another 6 months. I have to pay this company 1300rmb. The whole process has cost me about 5000RMB travelling to HK, visa costs in HK, the fee to the company and then the visa costs in Nanjing. Mafansile!
Apr 07, 2012 05:06 Report Abuse
I am a foreign manager of a visa company in Guangzhou. This article is old an inaccurate.
One year business F multiple entry visas are easily obtained without an invitation letter. You just need your passport and 4 photos (at least with our company anyway). The process is simple and takes 1 day to process in HK.
If you are trying to renew a current Z visa, this is also a simple process. Unfortunately, converting from another visa to a Z visa is more complicated, and currently it requires the passport holder to return to his/her home country. Our company is currently trying to find a solution to this problem.
If anyone needs any help with their visa, including overstay issues, please feel free to contact me. We have many visa options available.
Apr 06, 2012 21:36 Report Abuse
Hi, I am looking to apply for a visa to teach English for up to 6 months. I have been told conflicting information about how old a person must be to get a Z visa. Is it true that you have to be at least 24 years old? I am only 22. Is this a country-wide rule or is it only true for certain provinces?
Thanks so much!
Apr 06, 2012 18:16 Report Abuse
You can go to any Philippine consulate. You can find one in Beijing and Shanghai. I don't know where the other one is. I think there are 3 in China.
Please be reminded though that Asian countries have different policies with regards to giving visas to people from other Asian countries. Some need invitation letter, others not.
Apr 06, 2012 18:34 Report Abuse
Hi all, i'm a Bangladeshi. right now i have X visa and get a job in yiwu, and my employer want to give me visa support due to my X visa wil finish 30 april 2012. now i can change my visa X to Z without exit china? I need to know details about Z visa documents and applying rule. Kindly guide me .
Mar 08, 2012 00:25 Report Abuse
Many regulations and policies have just changed this week, everything above is subject to greater restrictions, I have a meeting this Saturday with a the authorities and our company will post the new policies on our website next week feel free to contact us for FREE consultation. myglobeconsulting you just need to add the dot com.
Dec 29, 2011 21:22 Report Abuse