Visa: Never Enter China Without It

Saturday, March 10, 2007 10:41

Hopefully the title above caught your attention, and will not anger AMEX too much as I pervert their slogan “Never leave home without it”.

for many Americans last summer, immigration was a hot topic. In cities around the U.S. protesters against Bush’s immigration policy came out en mass.

In China though, it is much the opposite as Chinese authorities are taking a much more aggressive step to crack down on foreigners in China who are in China working but do not hold a working permit or visa.

For years foreigners in China would come to China on the standard one month visa, extend that a couple of times, and then upgrade to the 6 month multiple entry visa. Everyone knew a consultant who could make this happen for about 300USD (one week turnaround), and somehow this included your passport receiving both exit and entry stamps at one of the southern borders (kind of scary when you think about that).

It was a system that everyone used at one time or another.. lawyers, doctors, teachers, tourists, consultants, freelancers, and their families were all partaking in it, and it was almost a right of passage before going legit.

Recently though, Chinese authorities have assigned over 2000 officers to the case, and there are now stories of where authorities are going building by building to check residents and their visa status. to date, I have not heard of anyone being arrested, fined, or deported, but it is just a mater of time before a friend of a friend hears third hand about that poor man or woman who is the chicken to scare all monkeys.

As I have previously overstayed a visa, and written a self criticism to be proud of, I can attest to the fact that punishments can be severe. Two years ago, and I believe the same is true today, the cost is 500RMB PER DAY. or 15,000RMB for a month overstayed. For those staying on an invalid visa, I am sure the costs will only go up.

So for those of you in the grey, I suggest you contact you local visa professional (or lawyer) and take the plunge. In many ways, China has shown steps of maturity through its regulations, and this is just another one that will eventually be enforced once the grace period is up.

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8 Responses to “Visa: Never Enter China Without It”

  1. Eric Joiner says:

    March 11th, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    This is an interesting and timely article. For years I traveled to China from the US and always got a tourist visa, even though i was going for business. This always worked fine too! The formal business visa took a letter of invitation and a lot more crap. However with the multi-entry tourist visa, I was always fine.

    Are you saying this loop hole is closed too or just the one for those who would be expats?

    This is great info!


  2. rbrubaker says:

    March 11th, 2007 at 8:10 pm

    hi Eric,

    I am not sure the loophole is closed, nor the game over. However, whereas a few years ago the various departments were completely disconnected, they are now integrating systems and as a result the loopholes will definitely get smaller.

    This really only applies to those who are living in China (not business travelers), and for those expats that have spent 10 years in China on a tourist visa (I know several) the time has come for them to get either on a work visa … or move to HK.

    Besides getting fined for being on the wrong visa, I am sure that China’s finest will figure out the appropriate level of back taxes that need to be paid as well.

    Anyone in Beijing hearing about this? Or is this just a Shanghai thing?

  3. Kevin says:

    March 11th, 2007 at 11:27 pm

    Yikes. I’m dealing with visa issues myself right now. Right now I plan to go back Stateside and get a new business visa. Hopefully, that should cover me.
    I was about to use a service like — I’ve heard of people using that. I’m also curious to see if they’re really serious about this, or if this is just one of those periodic shakedowns, and then it’s business as usual…

  4. China Law Blog says:

    March 13th, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Great post. I know of someone who has been living in China for 14 years on tourist visas.

    I once went to Papua New Guinea on business (not a lot of business there, let me tell you) The visas when I landed were about $35 for tourists and about $400 for business. I got the business visa. Next morning, I met wtih the other side regarding gettting him to return my client’s helicopters. Turns out this guy was the Governer of the province in which we were in and the first thing he did was check my passport. A look of shock came over his face when he saw I had a business visa and from that point on, he treated me completely differently. I am absolutely convinced that if I had come in on a tourist visa, he would have had me booted out instantly. This and a few other stories (including getting arrested in Vladivostok, Russia for failing to remember to have the police stamp my passport when I arrived) make me always want to follow visa laws to the letter.

    China, though, can be different. I once needed a China visa really quickly. I was in South Korea and my business invite was to have been faxed to the Chinese consulate there. It didn’t make it on time for my flight, but the people at the consulate instructed me to just use a tourist visa, saying it would be completely okay. Very unusual consulate behavior and it gave me the sense they just wanted me to be able to go and go quickly.

    I have heard of the plan to start a crackdown, but have no evidence it is happening. In the end though, it is better to be safe than sorry.

  5. rbrubaker says:

    March 13th, 2007 at 3:49 pm


    Sorry.. I had to.

    If you are an ordinary business person coming in for the guangdong fair, I would not expect you will have any issues at all. What they are trying to do is get the friend’s that Dan and I have who have been in country for 15 years.

    I am not sure they even care about the visa issue. I think it is more related to tax, and I think that is where violators will get into trouble. Of course, if you fail to play nice, they could levy 500RMB per day for 14 years if they really wanted.

    But, I would expect a warning on the visa followed by a friend;y call from the local IRS rep who has your entire history is his briefcase.

  6. kenzhu says:

    March 13th, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    I’m an English teacher in China and as one of the perks of that job, I had a free round-trip ticket at the end of my contract. I was leaving my job and planned to come back to Beijing on a tourist visa and look for work. A week before I was going to leave Ireland for England, I showed up at the Chinese embassy in Dublin to get my visa. The official flicks through my passport and notices that I had a bunch of Z (working visas) in my passport. He demanded to see my ticket and noticed that I didn’t have a ticket leaving China. He started asking me why that was. I hemmed and hawed that I was meeting up with some friends and I was planning on leaving China through Guanxi or Xingjiang. Finally, he agreed to give me a visa, warning me to never do this again. I thanked him and then asked him to speed it up so I could get in three days. He refused saying because I had an American passport I couldn’t get that service. Not wanting to push my luck, I agreed even though this meant I had to book a new ticket to England.

    I show in a week, still wondering if I would get my visa. While I was sanding in line to pick up a passport, a young women asks the same official if he would process her colleague’s passport in a few hours because he was leaving for the US. He stares at the passport for a few moments and then agrees. So I guess a lot still depends on who’s looking at your passport.

  7. China Law Blog says:

    March 15th, 2007 at 6:37 am

    Rich —

    I agree, at this point the concern is more with taxes than with visas, yet kenzhu’s comment does show that one just never knows becuase it does still depend on who you get.

  8. Shasta Navy says:

    June 6th, 2010 at 4:50 am

    If you actually are having immigration issues in that case it is definitely best for you to get hold of an immigration lawyer who will be qualified to respond to an individual’s inquiries. We would advise against acquiring legal guidance on line, mainly because this may mean that a person end up getting taken out of the country in case the advice obtained had been bad.