One of the biggest problems you’ll face as an expat in China is getting a long-term visa. In fact, that’s also one of the things that brings expats together. When I’m around other foreigners, it’s common to hear someone venting about the difficulties they’re facing renewing their F visa, or how they have to go back to their home country to get a Z visa (like me), or “visa runs” to Hong Kong or Mongolia. You hear this only in foreigner circles because only foreigners understand just how hard it is to stay in this country. While there are different types of visas, this post is meant to advise you specifically on how to get an employment (or Z) visa. Your end goal is to get a Residence Permit in your passport, but I’ll explain that later. For now, here is a list of what you need to get a Z visa.
1) Work Permit for Aliens
2) Invitation Letter
3) Medical Exam
4) Temporary Residence Form
5) Work License
6) Residence Permit
Work Permit for Aliens (done by company)
Your company is responsible for getting you the work license. However, you will need to provide the following documents:
1. Copy of your passport
2. Copy of your diploma (as of this post in 2011, you can only get your Z visa if you’ve been out of college for two years, or are at least 24 years old)
3. Reference letter from previous employer translated into Chinese (you need
reference letters to represent at least two years of work experience in a
4. Your resume or CV in both English and Chinese (with company seal)
5. Your company should provide the company business license and any other enterprise certificates
Invitation Letter (done by company)
Your company will help you to apply for an invitation letter from the government using the work permit you received above, the company business license, and a copy of your passport.
Medical Exam (done by you)
It’s best to do this before you return home to get your Z visa. I went to the Beijing International Travel Healthcare Center, Haidian Clinic. To get there, take the subway Line 4 to Xiyuan Station. Find the exit where the bus terminal is, and take Bus 333内 (make sure it has “内” at the end, otherwise it might be the wrong 333) several stops to “中海枫涟山庄南门.” You can also take buses 438 or 384 to “百望新城.” You’ll see a big gray building.
The Haidian Branch of Beijing International Travel Healthcare Center
No.10 Dezhenglu, Haidian District, Beijing
Hours: 8:30am – 11am for exams
Make sure you bring your passport with a valid visa, 2 passport photos, 630RMB cash (600 for exam, 30 if you want the results delivered to you), and most importantly, don’t eat for at least 12 hours before your check-up. Once you’re there, it’s a very simple and quick process. I was there for less than an hour. They deliver the results to you in about a day or two.
Here’s another tip: Make sure you get a fapiao, or an invoice. Your company might be able to reimburse you for the medical exam. Think of how many skewers you could buy with the 600 you save!
At this point, you will have to book a ticket home. As in, the country you’re a citizen of, the country where you hold a passport. Unfortunately, this is the only way to get a Z visa. When I went home, I just went to the Chinese embassy in my city. Make sure to bring these with you:
2. 2 passport photos (2*2in.)
3. Copy of Invitation Letter
4. Original Invitation letter
5. Copy of Work Permit for Aliens
6. Original Work Permit for Aliens
7. Completed visa application
It took about 3-4 days to process the visa, and within the week I picked up my Z visa! You can also pay more to get it on the same day or the next day.
Here’s where it might be tricky. If you get your working visa, you’ll see that it’s only valid for about 30 days. “What??” you may think, “I thought the Z visa was good for a year!” Actually, the purpose of the Z visa is just to be an interim to get you back into China, and give you 30 days to get your Residence Permit, which I mentioned earlier is the end goal. Continuing on.
Temporary Residence Form (done by you)
As soon as you can, go to the nearest police station to where you live. Bring:
1. Housing contract
2. Copy of landlord’s ID (shenfenzhen) and phone number
3. Passport with Z visa
The police officer will give you a small rectangular slip of paper. Don’t lose this! It’s your temporary residence form. You’ll need it for the end goal.
Work License (done by your company)
Your company should apply for this for you. You should give the Temporary Residence Form to whoever is helping you take care of this process. At the end, you can go pick up your red Alien Employment Permit. It’s lovely. When I received mine, I just stood there with the sun shining down on me as I stared at this little booklet that meant I had one more step to go before I could legally live and work in China for a year without worrying about leaving the country every two months for a stamp and then coming back in. My visa worries were almost over.
Residence Permit (done by you and your company)
THIS is what you’re working for. The end goal. The Residence Permit that will be stuck in your passport (looks like a visa) and give you one year of financial and nomadic freedom. Although if you’re too nomadic, I guess that defeats the purpose of getting a one-year visa to stay in China. I digress. I’m a bit fuzzy about the details since it was several months ago, but I remember this part was carried out by both me and my company. The documents that the HR girl helping me needed were basically my passport, 2 passport photos, the Work Permit for Aliens, the Health Certificate, the red Work License, the Temporary Residence Form, and whatever business licenses needed.
Depending on the company, they should take care of all visa expenses (except for the flight home and paying for my Z visa, $140). But you should double-check with your company because it can vary. I left my passport at the Entry Exit Bureau, and about 5 working days later, I went to pick it up! Inside was my new Residence Permit, good for one year.
To those just starting out on their visa journey, I wish you all the best. I understand what it’s like for visa issues to affect expats financially and emotionally, because it’s the difficulties that can make us feel most alone in a foreign country. Just know that you’re not alone, and if you have any questions at all, please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer your questions!