Visas to China are getting harder to attain

Over the past two months, I have been working hard to attain the Z-visa — basically, a long-term work permit. Even with an established company on my side providing all necessary paperwork, my application has yet to be submitted. Every time we go to the Labor Bureau, a new rule appears to delay and deny us.

Now back in the states without a visa, I’m going for the F-visa — the basic business visa that allows you a few months’ stay, but can be potentially renewed with a trip to Hong Kong. What was so easy for my friends to get in the past is suddenly mystifying. A call from my visa agent informed me of a new rule: that my authorized invitation letter needs to specifically state my gender and nationality (and other things), even though that is 1. on the application, 2. clear from both my picture and the fact that I’m applying from my home country. Rules are rules, even if they don’t appear on the Chinese consulate’s website.

I’m going to dare say that this is not just my personal issue, resultant of blogging about China for years, as I have yet to submit the actual paperwork. I haven’t even been able to get that far. My friend who works in the admissions department of a well-established American university with a campus in China said that this is the first year their students have run into trouble with visas. “The consulate sent back a ton of visa applications, saying that they didn’t sound like students,” she told me. This is coming from a school that has been established in China for 25 years.

When another friend recently attained his Z-visa within 5 days of submission (Shanghai), I started to wonder if Beijing city (whose labor bureau has our administrative assistant running around town for this and that) is tightening its clamps for reasons of its own, something having to do with a certain political transition this December.

If rock concerts and film fests in Beijing can be canceled and unplugged at will (as they were this summer), seemingly for the sake of “maintaining stability” for the upcoming leadership transition, then it should come as no surprise that foreigners are being barred from establishing themselves — especially in the capital.

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6 Responses to Visas to China are getting harder to attain

  1. Chopstik says:

    I would find that to be a worrying sign, at least in the short term. Hopefully it is nothing too serious and will be resolved once the aforementioned transition is complete. But considering how this transition has gone to this point, it may still be a tricky situation for a while until the govt is certain that there are no sparks left that can come up to start a conflagration.

  2. Joel says:

    We just *finally* submitted our visa application (work visa), but there were many extra requirements this time… and of course we weren’t informed about them all at once up front. New this time is getting a recent official copy of our marriage license authenticated by the Secretary of State of the state we were married in *and* the Chinese consulate, and getting our kids’ birth certificates authenticated in the provincial capital *and* by the Chinese consulate. There were other things, too, but my wife handled those details. Definitely more hoops to jump through this time… I assume it’s because of the upcoming leadership change? We’re headed for Qingdao.

  3. Claire says:

    I am looking to apply for a visa late November/early December and was also surprised at what has to be included in the invitation letter like date of birth and gender… I have only needed an invitation letter when the Olympics were in China, other times they couldn’t wait to give them away!

  4. Hannah says:

    A comment from Marian that was caught by the Great Firewall:

    The Visiting Family Visa is for visiting Chinese family members and,
    in terms of visas you can get, it’s so rare that it isn’t even listed
    on the forms at the consulate. To further complicate matters, the
    Chinese family member my parents came to visit last year was their
    daughter’s Chinese company.

    I sent them to the consulate with copies of everything I imagined
    could possibly be useful. Copies of my business license, my tax
    license, my lease, my residency registration with the police, my
    health certificate, my employment certificate, my passport info page,
    my most recent entry stamp, my visa, my permission to register a
    Wholly Foreign Owned Entity… everything… basically, if I had it
    and it had a red stamp on it anywhere, I sent them a copy to print out
    and take with them to the consulate. They added my birth certificate,
    their birth certificates, and their marriage certificate to the mix.

    They went into the visa office in DC, filled out as much of the form
    as could possibly be filled out under the circumstances of asking for
    something that isn’t on the form, and went up to the counter.
    According to my Dad the woman looked very unhappy when he said they
    were applying for a visiting family visa and spoke to a supervisor in
    Chinese who also looked annoyed at them.

    They gave her the giant folder of enormousness and she started cherry
    picking through it determining which documents the consulate needed
    their own photocopies of (which means I still don’t know which
    documents ended up being needed) and handed the folder back to my
    parents with a smile.

    According to my parents, the consular official then told them it was
    unheard of to have an applicant for the Visiting Family Visa show up
    at the visa office with all of the necessary paperwork already in
    hand. One week later, the two of them received a one year multi-entry
    L visa with 100 days per entry.

    On the China-side of things, I basically stopped having problems with
    my visa paperwork when I stopped having people-that-weren’t-me go to
    the various offices. While renewing a visa is easier than getting a
    visa in the first place, it’s also completely different (especially if
    you are changing companies at the time), and my next visa is going to
    be the first time since 2003 that I’ve had a job last long enough to
    renew my visa with the same employer (two company closures, two
    incidents of breach of contract, one departmental reorganization, one
    decision to become a student).

    I apply for my paperwork the same way I sent my parents to apply for
    their paperwork, with a folder in hand that has photocopies (and if
    possible originals) of every document practically dating back to my
    kindergarten report card. If an official letter of any kind needs to
    be written, rather than ask the lady at the desk “what __kind__ of
    letter needs to be written”, I ask to be told word-for-word exactly
    what needs to be in the letter. In some offices (company registration
    related) they have sample letters they will print off and give you for
    you to edit, or, for a fee, will write for you.

    Haikou isn’t even Qingdao let alone Beijing and I know people in
    Haikou who have had mystery visa problems despite having all the
    correct paperwork (at least two of the current crop of Hainan
    Unviersity students were given short visas that expire in the middle
    of the term) __but__ while a great deal of the problem with getting a
    visa in China is the officials who give you a visa, it helps to
    realize that a great deal of the problem with getting a visa in China
    is the company inviting you either having no clue what they are doing
    or just not caring*.

    (*Witness new foreign pilots at a certain airline in Hainan being sent
    to the Public Security Bureau and other places to do their visas on
    their own because it’s easier for the airline to pay them their pilot
    wages while they run around in confusion than it is for the airline to
    send a Chinese staff member to do it for them.)

  5. Edwin Wisse says:

    Last year i got a 2 entry tourist visa without problem even though i could only show a single plane ticket. I used the second entry for a next visit. Last month my dual entry visa was request was refused because of “new rules”. I could get a single entry visa without problem though. China is definitely making it harder to get in, even for tourists.

  6. lostnchina says:

    There was a piece on NPR just today about the difficulties that American businessmen are having in getting visas to do business long term in China. The man they interviewed said that he was always able to get a long-term visa to work in China till this time, when they only extended his visa for 3 months, claiming that they (suddenly) had to check whether the company he’s been working at all this time is, in fact, legit.

    According to the NPR piece, China’s now so well off that they don’t feel they need all these foreigners trampling around their country. Initially, when China was still growing, they wanted all the foreign investment they can get. Now, they’re becoming a bit more protectionist. Wonder if anyone else caught any news of this?

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