When I came to China the process of legally entering the country, with the intention of working there, went like this –
1. An invitation letter/working permit from your employer was to be delivered to you (at the 11th hour I received mine and drove straight to the Chinese embassy for same day visa processing).
2. A medical check-up to the standard the Chinese Government wanted has to be performed (even though you are to have another one when you land in China anyway).
3. An up to date passport.
4. $200 NZD.
The first visa was relatively easy to acquire. You enter China with an ‘L’ visa, this is the tourist visa, and you have one month to change it to the resident visa or ‘Z’ visa. Your employer should help you with this and should pay for it (my school asked us to front the money which would then be added back to your pay at the end of the month, slightly annoying process but it meant less paperwork for them and in China that can mean a lot of time saved).
One small annoyance was that the new ‘Z’ visa expired after six month, whereas my contract was for a year. The official reason I was given was that Hebei, the province I work in, has very strict visa rules (especially pertaining to foreigners). My guess is that it’s easier for your employer to have a lot of leverage over you if your visa is so short and requires continuous renewing.
This leads onto my second (well, third) visa acquisition, the reason for this post, and what has been a huge headache for the past month.
Your visa is aligned with your employer, which makes sense, as they are the ones who employ you and house you in China. My first and second visa was with my former employer, Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School/43 Middle School. At the conclusion of one years work they offered us another contract. Before signing it I explicitly told the Foreign Affairs office that I had been looking for other work and that the visa paperwork should be a more open process so that, if the situation arose, I could pay for the current processing and transfer it to a new employer should it be needed.
Well I did get another job, at Kede College Art Institute in Beijing (and quite frankly one of the coolest employment opportunities I have ever had). Did my soon-to-be ex employer follow up with my initial requests? Hahaha, nope.
‘Apparently’ there is no paperwork that allows transference of ‘Z’ visas between different employers in China. Your visa is important for another reason, it’s the dates that you are legally allowed to be in China. My plane tickets had already been bought and paid for so 43 Middle School knew my leaving date (24th June) and knew my visa date expiration (15th June).
In a perfect world the scenario would’ve gone like this –
1. Erin gets a new kick-ass job.
2. 43 Middle School extend the working visa for eight days to cover my legality of leaving China/give me time to pack my things.
3. Z visa transference to kick-ass job in Beijing.
4. Sweet mental bliss.
In reality here’s how it went –
1. Erin gets a new kick-ass job.
2. 43 Middle School outright pulls my passport from the visa paperwork.
3. 43 Middle School says you have until the 15th of June to acquire an ‘L’ visa or you cannot live at the school anymore (huge hassle as I finished work on the 14th, not a lot of time to pack).
4. Kede College need me to sign the contract asap (travel to Beijing, sign four contracts, ask what paperwork is needed for them to start the ‘Z’ visa, siphon it via multiple emails).
5. Travel to Shijiazhuang police station to start ‘L’ visa process.
6. Need photocopies of my passport.
7. Travel back to school for it.
8. Need photocopies of my working permit.
9. Travel back to school for it.
10. Need bank statements.
11. Travel back to school area for it.
12. Need a release letter from 43 Middle School.
13. Travel back to school for it. (I love how the school neglected to tell me this part for the entire process).
14. Need photographs at a specific size of 48x33mm.
15. Collect all my strengths and deliver it to the police at the nth hour of processing application delivery.
16. Have a friend collect it for me the next day as I had to work.
However all is well now, and I can stay in China for another eight days before I vamoose back to New Zealand on the 24th June. Getting back in should be relatively easy, but I said that once before. Hope this information helps some of you who are considering moving to another country and need visa work for it.