Z Visa Update: The Bigger Picture

Sunday, June 8, 2008 7:04
Posted in category Red Tape, The Big Picture

6 months after I started reporting on the clampdown on visas, it is now a full blown party with major newspapers and blogs all reporting pretty thoroughly on the issue.

A new piece of information that I have to add at what I have already seen at the other sites, that no one else has covered, is that I recently was sitting in a clients office when their HR person gave us some bad news

Anyone born after 1983 can no longer get a Z visa.

What struck me about this was that if true this would represent the first real change in policy. After all, working on an F visa was always outside the rules, and even extending a Z visa to rep office employees was a poorly enforced rule… but but restricting Z visas to those older than 25… THAT IS NEW

Surely, if true, we are going to see a bunc of China bashing, but where I would like to frame this is that when there were economic downturns in Asia circa 1997 and the US circa 2000, there was almost an immediate visa restriction that came along with it. Leadership looked to save jobs for citizens, and those firms who wanted to import labor had to jump a lot of hurdles to prove that doing so was a last report… .that they could not find someone locally.

I myself was caught up in this as I had a bank in Singapore tell me they would like to have me join the team, but could get no visa for me as I was a recent graduate and they would not be able to defend the hire…. and that sucked for me.

Right now, there are a lot of rumors circulating about people having visas canceled, about new hires finding it difficult to get a visa, and others who are having their visas checked… and there is some truth to all these rumors. And people should be aware that the situation will only tighten as we get closer to the Olympics.

but, I would like to put forward another possibility.

China doesn’t need foreign talent in the same way it did before, and China is going to start asking companies to begin proving that a Fudan student is not as good as a University of Ohio graduate with 1 year of experience before hiring the University of Ohio student.

That, China is more worried about graduate placement rates, and that part of the issues with visas get down tot the fact that there is a large population of foreigners who are in China working in restaurants, bars, in entry level sales positions, and who in the eyes of some are taking good jobs away from local talent.

In the end, proving one’s value is something that China will ask more and more. this is something we have seen at a business level, and it is something that is now occuring at the individual level. .. and I am not sure that is suck a bad thing.

Sure it sucks for some right now, but policies like this actually have a way of separating those who rally will bring value to China vs. those who are simply here riding the wave into the beach.

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50 Responses to “Z Visa Update: The Bigger Picture”

  1. Dan Harris says:

    June 8th, 2008 at 12:15 pm


    There is Ohio State University and there is Ohio University, and there is even a University of Toledo, in Ohio, but there is no “University of Ohio,” at least as far as I know.

  2. thisguy says:

    June 8th, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    how can you defend this policy. your weak rationalisation sucks as much as this law. you disappoint everyone especially since you get into this “what is good for the nation” bullshit argumentation. First China SEEKS the outside world’s help to build their country, now they are kicking those out first who are interested in China as a culture unlike the big trust who just want to suck out cheap labor to sell their products at 1000% the price back home. Well thanks for letting 100.000 students pay ridiculous amounts of cash to study at crappy language courses just to tell them that they can’t WORK in China. You want to defend that? Go ahead. Next time somebody steals your wallet you probably start sitting down and draw a picture of the thief’s poor childhood. You should be in furious anger by now.

  3. Tritone says:

    June 8th, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    I’ve been planning my move to China for almost a year, and if all goes well, I will be moving there next month. But I was born in 1984. So it’s possible that all those countless hours of planning, studying Chinese, searching for a job overseas, etc, were all wasted. In my opinion, the reasonable thing for the government to have done would have been to announce this change well in advance of implementing the policy, thereby giving people like me adequate warning. I hope this remains simply a rumor.

    Well, if worst comes to worst, there’s always Taiwan, right?

  4. pirx says:

    June 8th, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Free movement of talent is a must. It is bad enough, that there are parents of students bribing lecturers and teachers to make the kids pass examinations.

    Often enough I had Chinese job applicants sitting in front of me, clearly unable to do anything of what their universities had certified them of learned and examined.

    Without ongoing foreign competition, the quality of Chinese graduates is certain to drop – with predictable overall economic results.

    The whole point of China opening itself to a massive influx of foreigners was the realization, that – apart from bringing in much-needed capital – only competition on a business or individual scale, can produce more qualified enterprises and better human capital.

  5. Joe says:

    June 8th, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    What China does not need is the self involved, facebook generation that pretend to know business. It needs real leadership with tried and tested business models that can pay out over time. The economy has suffered as a whole, though not through what is normal. Shoddy construction, shakier deals, wealth gap that for the most part is undeserved.

  6. ChinaMatt says:

    June 8th, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    Could this be China’s way of enforcing the rule of having at least 2 years of working experience to get a z visa (which I’ve heard as being a standard set in a few provinces)? Fortunately, this doesn’t affect me, but I do know some people trying to come back to China who would be affected if it’s true.

  7. ChinaFubar says:

    June 8th, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    I pretty much have to agree with you that I think China’s starting to get protectionist of its labor force. Sure, there’s labor shortages in Guangdong, but that’s basically unskilled factory labor. The college graduates are having a tough time finding reasonable employment at decent wages.

    Sure, there’s jobs available, but really the pay is way below what the company would pay for say a Philippine or Brazilian doing the same job. For example, my wife’s a local Chinese, has a degree in English Language, lived and worked in U.S., but when she applies for a job here, sure, the employer, a foreign company, is real impressed, and really wants to hire her, but only wants to pay very small amount, not enough even to pay decent rent. Let’s just say the salary offered isn’t enough to cover transportation to and from the job and lunches.

    I’m really wondering if this whole “Beijing Olympics” deal is just an excuse for a general sea change in the way China does business and sees the “foreigner’s” role in China.

  8. Rich says:

    June 8th, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    @ Dan – Thanks for adding that, but that was part of my point.. kinda.. We are not hearing about problems with people from top notch schools, with 8 years of big 4 consulting. It is the people with less experience where the government begins asking the questions.

    @ thisguy – I am trying to put forward another idea as to why these visa policies are being changed. This is a defense of a policy that does make sense for China in some ways, and as far as I can tell, they are not wrong is asking why a Chinese person should not have the bar tender job, or the entry level sales positions, etc. We are not talking about midlevel professionals… yet

    @ pirx – I would agree, and I hope in those cases that it will be possible to show that the Chinese candidates are just not up to snuff and that your only option was foreign.

    @ ChinaMatt – I didn’t know that this was already a rule, but at the age of 25, I guess this could be a way to that.

  9. Dan Harris says:

    June 8th, 2008 at 9:48 pm


    I know, I just felt like giving you some grief…..You are right though that this is happening. We had a company where the government was very suspicious of their hiring someone without a graduate degree to oversee their software development. There is definitely something afoot in China these days against expats.

  10. h gao says:

    June 8th, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    I am interested to see so many so-called western expats in Beijing are going so far as to bribing the cops for a visa, during this great thorough cleaning in Beijing where 125,000 foreign resident are livng willingly, under “communist rule and killing smog”. It must be not a good feeling to go back to their ‘Land of Free’ where nobody will give them a second glance. You dont know how much I love these guys who complain daily about ‘commies’ like a survivor complex but simply don’t like to leave the booming city, lol!

  11. Nru says:

    June 8th, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    When I got my Z visa a few months ago the govt. officials came to meet the company no less than 5 times to hear the company’s case as to why they should hire me instead of a local chinese graduate. But I can imagine the govt. putting this kind of restrictions on Z visas to get more jobs locally.

  12. Joe Gariplerden says:

    June 9th, 2008 at 1:23 am

    China since opening had a visa policy which was free of any discrimination.
    The easy visa approval of visitors of every nationality was beneficial for Chinese economy.
    The number of people who benefited from this policy is astronomical.
    The number of issuing points of those easy to get visa is also very big.
    China will welcome people and sportsmen from all over the world and some countries sportsmen can be victim of terrorists who can easily pass the border from easy obtention of visas.
    That was the intention last year when l new measures were announced.

    China was a place, where foreigners were welcomed by the people and administration.
    They think a guest must receive hospitality.All foreigners felt how hospitable people are here.
    They will never lecture a foreign national in China about his country government and policy.

    Many Chinese also travel nowadays
    They compare how they are treated as individual with or without Olympic Flame.

    And they think:
    How we treat them?
    How we are treated?

    In every relation reciprocity is a rule.
    Respect me if I need to respect you.

    It is not the government it is the people from every walk of life in China were offended by the way their country is treated.
    Those who live in China can witness it.

    Chinese people must also get used to idea that a Big Country who can project
    its economic power in the world will not be necessarly liked by all.
    In global Economy when you get something more it is at the expense of others.
    And Others will not like you and will find many reason to blame you for lost competitive edge.
    In a changing world all should think to adjust their mind set, to adapt to new reality.

  13. Rich says:

    June 9th, 2008 at 3:28 am

    @ Dan – I am glad that you feel you need to give me grief. Makes my day complete…

    @ Nru – We are glad you made the cut!

  14. BB says:

    June 9th, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    Amazing to see people complaining about his policy. I’m a foreign business owner employing people from all over the wold. In my experience of nearly 13 years of business in China I’ve found that a 25 year old foreigner is not any better then a 25 year old local. In fact if given a choice I will almost always choose the local. The only exception would be if the foreigner has exceptional experience. Just graduation from an overseas university doesn’t mean they have any decent experience. Also just because a foreigner can speak some Chinese doesn’t mean that they are effective here. My company has wasted huge amounts of time and energy on young Westerners who, in the end, couldn’t deliver nearly as effectively as my local staff.

    Grow up and get some experience… when you have that experience apply for your Z visa. If you’re not approved after you have a good base of experience then you have room to complain.

    China doesn’t need you as much as you think it needs you.


  15. Pete says:

    June 10th, 2008 at 12:56 am

    There’s a lot of smugness coming from well-fed expats sent here by their Western companies. They are happy to see the riff-raff getting flushed away.

    But this rule, if true, would definitely squeeze out a lot of hard-working fluent Chinese speakers (including this writer). We came here to study, graduated and stayed to work, making use of our skills, obeying the laws and contributing to the economy.

    Now in what is either an attempt to prevent hippie unrest at the Olympics or protect the domestic job market (or both), we are being forced to make some painful choices. We have lives here, make decent money, and don’t ask for special treatment. We don’t want 9-5 jobs or a house in Pudong, but we do want a chance to use our skills in a fair, safe environment.

    It’s a shame we all have to scrounge around for rumors and hearsay. The government should really issue a comprehensive directive and put this issue to bed.

  16. Doris Muhammad says:

    June 10th, 2008 at 1:06 am

    just wondering, what is happening in Macau now as of June 10th, for the visas for USA passport holders? I heard everyone can get only a 3 day visa now, but what documents are needed, with the application? Is a hotel or airline ticket voucher needed? or what? Are the costs the same as in Hong Kong?

  17. Rich says:

    June 10th, 2008 at 1:50 am

    @ BB – An interesting perspective, and I know it is one that is shared in china. to be honest, when I was going through my interviews in S’pore and HK right after graduation, what I heard was very similar to what you have posted… that stung… and it took me another 5 years to make it back. Once here, I still had to prove I was worth anything, and I am sure I am still doing that.

    @ Pete – I think clarity would do everyone some good. I have spoken to several friends from India who say their friends are being hit harder than anyone, and I agree that these new policies are going to hurt some very talented people (entrepreneurs like my me).

    BB is right at some level, and where I would tend to agree most with him is that there are a number of areas like logistics sales, restaurants, entry level, etc where Chinese talent should be developed. some of the best real estate people I know in China are Chinese, but quite often the big houses lean towards a foreign candidate because of look rather than substance… and I think this is where the crosshairs line up. I am not saying I agree with the policies, but I can see where they are coming from. The issue will be can they weed out the riff raft, without spoiling the cream.


  18. David Berger says:

    June 10th, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    When I was in HR working for a MNC, I have to go through the hoops to prove to the INS that the foreign applicant is not taking away the job of a US citizen or perment resident. I had to advertise the opening in the newspaper for 3 days and vet the applicants’s skills vis-a-vis the foreign applicant’s. So what the Chinese government is doing is a natural progression in fine-tuning its visa rules.

    20-30 years ago, the opportunites were in North America and you hear of all the complaints about US immigration policies. Now you are beginning to hear the same on Chinese policies. NOT that the US immigration policies are lax now but the opportunites are greater in China/Asia so the influx to China is greater.

    So stop complaining about all the newer Chinese policies, albeit it can be implemented better. It is still much tougher to apply for the US work permits.

  19. Mickie G says:

    June 10th, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    I have been trying to find out exactly what is required to apply for and acquire a “Z” entry visa for China. Does anyone have a definitive answer? I am in China again on an “L” visa. I am an English teacher and I have a training company, with proper licenses, which wants to hire me. I might add, that I have lived and worked in China for the past 5 years. Twice before I held the “Residence Permit” and “Foreign Expert Certificate”. Months ago, I gave all the proper paperwork (Signed Contract, University Diploma, Passport, Photos, Resume,etc.) to my latest employer , who said they were in the process of aquiring the “RP” and “FEC” for me again. I also completed and passed the Physical Exam and had 3 interviews with the local government office. Despite all this, 4 other foreign teachers and myself were collected by the local police in April. We were told we were working illegally. We spent 2 days in the local police station, had our visas cancelled, had to sign a paper written in Chinese that stated we had all broken the laws of China. We were fingerprinted, paid a fine (1,000 rmb each), and were given an exit visa with a star or asterisk in it. I was told by many travel agencies that this meant I couldn’t come back to China for at least 6 months. To make a long story short, I am back in China. I had to change passports, among other things, and spent several thousand dollars in the meantime. Now I am trying to be very careful and I don’t trust Chinese employers. I am always told, “don’t worry, no problem!” So, does anyone know? What exactly is needed for a “Z” entry visa?

  20. Rebekah says:

    June 10th, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    @ Mickie, here are the requirements for getting a Z visa from within China. The main thing is not to leave it to the last minute. Either your company can get you one or they can send you to Hong Kong with all the proper paperwork, a copy of their company license, etc. I found this article on ChinaTravel.net quite useful when I was trying to figure out the new visa rules:

    Rules for getting a Z visa

    If you are working in China without a work (Z) visa, it’s time to get one. To get a Z visa, you must be employed by a registered company, undergo medical tests, be graduated for two years, provide letters that you and have worked for several companies before working in China. The main thing they are looking for in granting Z visas is that you are a specialist in your field and very much needed by your company for a position that could not be filled locally. Getting a Z visa generally takes 4-6 weeks. Many companies will apply for working visas on an employee’s behalf.

  21. yu888 says:

    June 11th, 2008 at 2:40 am

    Mickie- Try this link, its a step-by-step guide to your work permit and residence permit. And yes, unless you are hired as GM or Vice GM, or are goig to a lareg 3Million USD captalised company, you WILL need to exit to get a Z visa these days,.

  22. Rich says:

    June 11th, 2008 at 10:07 am

    Rebekah/ yu888 – thank you for posting your links. I think a lot of people will appreciate the information,and find it useful

  23. Mickie G says:

    June 11th, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    Thanks for the info Rebekah and Yu, but I am still confused. If I must go back to America to apply, as Shanghaiexpat.com suggested, then it just isn’t worth it! I just returned from America last week to find a new school to work for. It seems that some training centers don’t know how to deal with this problem. They want me to work on an “L” visa, which I won’t do or they want me to return home and apply. Other schools say they can get me the “Res. Permit” and “For. Expert” certificate without leaving China, but I think they are relying on old information. Perhaps they have more than 3 million invested? A colleague went to Hong Kong a few days ago and was told it is now impossible to get the “Z” entry visa in HK. A govt. website sent me this reply – “You can have a try in our office, and please view our website for document preparation.
    “You can have a try” does not seem very definitive.
    I have also read, for example, that “CTS (H.K.) can obtain tourist visa type only.” on the China Travel Service website.

  24. kcpooh says:

    June 13th, 2008 at 7:53 am

    Chane in policies? Again? What’s next? Shoot the foreigners? It’s such a bad thing isn’i it? I”ve been working in China for almost 4 years now as a teacher of Spoken English (with working visa). And this change of policy is the worst ever that I’ve heard..if it’s true. Let’s just say that the Chinese government have good reasons to aplly such change, but is it fair to us, legal foreign workers to suffer from such change? Not to mention, we are not liabilities of such country but merely assets in the field of bringing or should I say helping students reach the 21st century in the world of communication using English with confidence and fluency.

    To all the non-native speakers like me who are presently working legally in China, I am appealing to all of you that let us not lose hope that we will be given proper or appropriate consideration that we truly deserve. Best of luck to us all.God bless!

  25. skorn says:

    June 13th, 2008 at 9:14 am

    Dear Mickie G:
    You might want to have a look at a website called “VisainChina.com”.
    They have a faqs section on their site and some advice along with updates about visa regulation changes.They claim they can help people who are in the process of getting a Z- visa.By the way their office is located in Shanghai.
    Hopefully they can help you.

  26. Gibbs says:

    June 13th, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    Hi, Can someone please confirm:
    1) Is it still possible to convert “L” Visa to “Z” in Hong Kong?
    * Passport is USA
    * ALL required “Z” documents have been acquired
    Trying to avoid, trip back to US.

    Any recommendations of visa companies in HK that can assist?

    Thanks for the help! Gibbs

  27. Rich says:

    June 13th, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    Mickie G – unfortunately, I am not confident in “Have a try” either, and would suggest that you consider your ability to return to US. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is a quick trip either. At this point, I would contact a visa consultant (I recommend Magic). Not a recommendation to get something shady done, Magic has a lot of contacts and has helped a number of my friends navigate the mine field. Not all of them got the answers they wanted, but they got clarity

    Magic Cheng
    Meshing Consultancy Service
    No. 485 HeNan bei Rd. YingLi building 4th floor 3B Shanghai,200071,China
    Website: http://www.visainchina.com
    Email: [email protected]

  28. Rich says:

    June 13th, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    kcpooh – unless you plan on letting your current visa expire (i.e. shooting yourself in the foot), I don’t think you need to worry about this, or be particularly bothered by it.

    as for what is next… only a few people know that, but I think if you want to know, you should look at how hard it is for Chinese to go to other countries around the world as a tourist or to work, and then work out the gap. It is huge, and it can be further closed if they want it to.


  29. herbert vasquez says:

    June 14th, 2008 at 6:23 am

    Rich, “look at how hard it is for Chinese to go to other countries around the world as a tourist or to work, and then work out the gap. It is huge, and it can be further closed if they want it to.”

    Sure it can be further closed. Toss the foreigners out of China. And then the foreigner companies and the foreigner money. Then let China sit behind its nice safe wall and rot.

    Bad idea, in my opinion.

  30. Rich says:

    June 14th, 2008 at 9:22 am


    your right… they could do that if they wanted.

    but they haven’t have they? They have asked that those aplying for a work permit prove that their skills cannot be found locally (something the US, EU, HK, S;pore all do). they have begun enforcing the requirements that those working on tourist visas get on a proper work visa (something (something the US, EU, HK, S;pore all do).. right?

    The tourist visa problems are an enigma to me given this is the year of the Olympics and tourists should be flocking here, but the recent changes on the enforcement of F and Z regulations are sensible.

    What do you feel is an acceptable policy?

  31. len says:

    June 16th, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    Hi all,

    Myself and 2 colleauges set up a WFOE last year and by doing that were able to get our visas issued through our own company. In my passport i have a RESIDENCE PERMIT, with the “Purpose of visit” listed as “work” (in Chinse characters). My permit is a multi entry visa and is valid for 2 years. Is this a Z visa? Does this permit allow me to work in my own company? I am doing some part time work at the moment for some school and another also a software company too, am i legal on my current permit or do i need to get more paperwork?

    Also, i will probably getting married to a Chinese citizen sometime in the near future. I’ve heard that if a foreigner marries a Chinese national he or she automatically receives permenant status? Is this true? Does this permit allow me to work in China?


  32. John Kemper says:

    June 16th, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    My friend just obtained a multiple “L” visa last week in Houston. submitted air and hotel reservations.

  33. Elizabeth says:

    June 20th, 2008 at 1:40 am

    I just received my residence permit yesterday and I was born in 1984. It was my third permit with the same company so I don’t know if that makes a difference, just thought I would share for those of you under 25

  34. Michael says:

    June 23rd, 2008 at 7:54 am

    What Rich has to say is quite reasonable, but tough on young people seeking opportunities in China. My work involves assisting PRC nationals to go abroad to study and work, and as tough as it is to obtain a Z visa, it is easy compared to the extraordinary hassles that most young Chinese people go through to obtain a visa to study or work abroad.

    Any country will protect its own labour market and asking that foreigner job seekers meet local labour market requirements that cannot be filled by local job seekers is not unreasonable. The same applies for work visas for just about every western country I can think of. As Rich suggests, this indicates that China is coming of age and confident in its own talent resources.

    One this that does confuse me is the difficulties English language teachers are experiencing… surely this is one area where native English & other language speakers have a distinct advantage. I would presume those qualified would get Z visa with no great issues, but it doesn’t seem to be the case above. Are the individuals qualifications an issue; Degree / TESOL / work experience?

    For those of you that have taken the long hard route of learning fluent Chinese, don’t despair, the opportunities are enormous. Start in your home country in an enterprise with links to China. Build up your connections, profile and work experience. Learn management & operational skills. It is not easy and will probably not even pay that well for a number of years. That’s the tried and tested career path for young grads just about everywhere in the world. Once you have those skills & experience the opportunities that will open up for you in China are exciting and highly rewarding! And a Z visa will not be a problem.

  35. chengjw says:

    June 23rd, 2008 at 8:35 am

    I prefer to learn Mandarin Chinese, because it is the language which sounds nice, it is the language which is spoken by most people. It is the language, which has potential to influence the future. I learn Mandarin from http://www.hellomandarin.com/

  36. yu888 says:

    June 25th, 2008 at 2:48 am

    LEN- What you have is a Residence Permit which ACTS like a multi entry visa, but is NOT a “Z-Visa”. A “Z-visa” is a short term visa to allow a job candidate to enter China solely to finish processing for a work permit and residence permit. usual validity on a “Z-visa” is 30 days. The term “Z-visa” is often misused by many expats and wannabe expats to describe their Residence permit.

  37. vnums says:

    June 30th, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Just an FYI, I was born in 1984, have only been out of college for a little over a year, and don’t have more than a year and a half of post-graduate work experience. I recently received my Z-visa 3 days after applying for it in the US (after returning home from my 2nd year long stay in China). It was essentially completely hassle-free and a lot easier than I expected it to be, especially after reading articles/comments like these. I think I got my passport/visa back on June 25th or 26th, after mailing it overnight to a visa agency on the 23rd. I’m not in the english-teaching business either, it’s actually a marketing position for a fortune 500 company, which I’m sure had everything to do with my hassle-free experience. I just wanted to let anyone who reads this know that it seems at least to me that there are no overly-rigid rules for the Z visa, at least at this time.

  38. Richard Hughes says:

    July 2nd, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    Just to add to vnums’ point. This whole rule guessing game simply boils down to the fact that there are no hard and fast rules. Each PSB is at its own discretion to award a Z Visa (followed by resident and work permits). Age/Experience doesn’t matter actually. It is simply a question of the connections/registered capital and number of chinese employees in the sponsoring organisation.

  39. Eric Sommer says:

    July 21st, 2008 at 12:12 am

    Hi there, The entire discussion about age restrictions is probably nonsense. It’s based on rumour, not fact. I am 61 years old and had just seen a similar rumour suggesting people *over* 60 can no longer secure a visa. I simply phoned the foreign affairs office of my universitys, which arranges our visas, and asked about it. They immediately told me they know of no such age restrictions and have just now secured two new visa for two new teachers, one over 60 and the other over 70. If you want facts, not ridiculous speculation, simply phone the foreign affairs department of whatever school or university you want to teach in! Eric Somme, Beijing

  40. steve shanks says:

    July 25th, 2008 at 8:34 am


    i mite apply for a z-visa (after receiving the req’d. documentation for it). which visa agency did u use? tks.


  41. Oru Kabir says:

    August 11th, 2008 at 5:45 am

    Hi Rich,

    I’m currently trying to get a Work visa here and am born in ’86. Can you provide any sources for this or is there a chance that this is only a rumor?


  42. Gregory Mavrides says:

    October 25th, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    When Middle Kingdom Life first started out, our primary goal was to provide reliable and valid information to foreign teachers in China. We would spend weeks communicating with our contact people in government agencies through interpreters and personal visits. We were careful in reporting a regulation as true or false only if we could confirm it either way with at least two independent high-level sources.

    Then something very strange started to happen. For every regulation we either confirmed as true or rebutted as myth, we would receive at least one e-mail from a foreign teacher purporting to be at least one exception to that rule. It finally occurred to us that one cannot apply the Western concept and function of law to understanding and reporting what is or isn’t in effect regarding anything, let alone foreign teachers, in China.

    Mainland China is not a land of laws but, rather, an extremely complex network of guanxi , renqing (favor) and bao4 (reciprocity). If an established school or institution wants or needs a foreign expert badly enough, they can and they will find a way to produce an exception (assuming there is such a rule or regulation in effect that even requires one): In fact, the Chinese explicitly pride themselves on that ability.

  43. Gregory Mavrides says:

    October 25th, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    When Middle Kingdom Life first started out, our primary goal was to provide reliable and valid information to foreign teachers in China. We would spend weeks communicating with our contact people in government agencies through interpreters and personal visits. We were careful in reporting a regulation as true or false only if we could confirm it either way with at least two independent high-level sources.

    Then something very strange started to happen. For every regulation we either confirmed as true or rebutted as myth, we would receive at least one e-mail from a foreign teacher purporting to be at least one exception to that rule. It finally occurred to us that one cannot apply the Western concept and function of law to understanding and reporting what is or isn’t in effect regarding anything, let alone foreign teachers, in China.

    Mainland China is not a land of laws but, rather, an extremely complex network of guanxi (word that literally means “passing through the gate with a tie or connection”), renqing (favor) and bao (reciprocity). If an established school or institution wants or needs a foreign expert badly enough, they can and they will find a way to produce an exception (assuming there is such a rule or regulation in effect that even requires one): In fact, the Chinese explicitly pride themselves on that ability.

  44. Howard Mark says:

    November 10th, 2008 at 11:45 am

    there seems to be some confusion concerning an age limit for foreigners working China. At the present time my work permit will expire at the end of this year. Reason being given by Labour Department here in Shanghai is an age condition. Applicants must be under the age of 60 and yet I can find no information in the 1996 Labour regulations and subsequent ammendments dealing with age other than a minimum age of 18. If anyone can shed some light on this situation I would be most grateful.

  45. Howard Mark says:

    November 18th, 2008 at 2:32 am

    The Chinese National regulation only stipulates a minimum age of 18 for foreigners to work in China. On the other the Shanghai regulation adds and upper age limit of 60. However the Chinese language version also adds the word normally, leaving the door somewhat open.

  46. Josh says:

    April 13th, 2009 at 2:44 am

    Any idea if i can change a F visa to a Z visa in Hong Kong?
    Anyone with solid examples of being able or not being able to do this?



  47. Josh says:

    April 13th, 2009 at 3:18 am

    Let me be a little more specific about my situation. If anyone can give me a solid and specific answer, i’ll jump out of my skin.

    I am an Australian citizen. I was born in 1982. I have two years work experience. At this moment, I am in Shijiazhuang on a 6 month F visa. I am studying Chinese at a local uni.

    I have been offered teaching work in Xiamen to begin in September.

    In June, I will leave China and go to Denmark to visit my girlfriend’s family. We have tickets back to China for August.

    My questions are –
    1. Can I change my F visa to a Z visa either in Xiamen or if I need to, Hong Kong?
    2. Or can I have Denmark written on my invitation letter and pick up a Z visa in Denmark?
    3. A return ticket to Australia is time consuming and expensive, so instead, can I go to any other countries to get a Z visa?

    ‘[ News ] From 31st Oct 2008, Shanghai Foreign Economic Relation & Trade Commission release the Z visa invitation letter policy. During the Olympic games you can only choose your home country as the Z visa issued place. But now, you can choose any country without offering that country residential card.’

    Any thoughts on this?

    If anyone can help me at all. I will be very thankful.

    Best regards,

  48. Rene Ho says:

    April 21st, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    “Any idea if i can change a F visa to a Z visa in Hong Kong?”

    I just returned from HK with my Z visa. I paid an agency, Forever Bright, to handle this for me. Documents necessary are: passport, work permit, visa invitation letter. On my invitation letter was written that I had to apply for visa in my home country, but the agency confirmed that it could be done in HK as well. Everything went ok, and I recevied my Z visa the next day.

    Hope this helps, and good luck with everything.

  49. Clara Lo says:

    April 26th, 2009 at 7:04 am

    I hold Canadian passport and about to go to HK to apply for Z visa, my company has provided me with all necessary document.

    Do I HAVE to go through an agency? Or this is something you can do on your own?

  50. Rene Ho says:

    April 27th, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Dear Clara,

    You don’t need to go through an agency. Basically, the only thing the agency does is bring your stuff to the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs Office, and retrieve your passport for you. It does save you a lot of time and hassle though (lots of people, long waiting lines, general confusion, unfriendly bureacrats etc).

    Below is the link to the governmental office:


    Good Luck!