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Gareth is an Australian who has lived in JiangSu, SuZhou (Heaven on Earth) for a few years - he is a keen observer of the Chinese people, Chinese culture and the changes that are occurring in China at break-neck speed. He can often be found on his a nightly 'perch' in front of his bar in the famous Bar Street in Suzhou, talking to the locals in his bad Mandarin, teaching the 'flower-selling girls' English, eating street food and smiling at the local chengguan (neighbourhood police). Gareth also has several other businesses in China around Business and English training. His experiences have been varied and interesting and his years in China have taught him to be wary of promises but excited about prospects, not a bad situation to be in!
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How not to come to China!!! (or Tourist Visa Conversion traps)    

By Garreth Humphris
3203 Views | 4 Comments | 3/27/2011 1:07:25 AM

Working illegally in China... Could this be you?

Some readers of the blogs may have noticed a fairly vitriolic interchange between one blog-writer and the forum owner, John Abbott versus two other blog writers (myself included) about the rights and wrongs of transferring from a Tourist Visa in China to a Working Visa in China.

While I don't want to link to this blog and cause further discomfort to the blogger involved, I did feel that it is necessary to canvas the issues in this forum because many people are under the false impression that this path is 'easy' and 'trouble free' but this is far from the case - in fact, the blogger concerned was an 'unsafe' person when they thought they were 'safe'!!!

Nor was this unprovoked, the blogger was informed of many options and much advice on how not to fall into that trap, but somehow managed it, by believing others that suggested he could 'bend the immigration rules' of China a little...

One of the outcomes of that exchange was John Abbott's challenge to preface comments with 'the best method is...' or the 'preferred method is...' and this is my response to that...

Firstly, the only way to work 'legally' in China is with an official 'Z visa' and 'foreign Work Permit'. Period. Without this endorsement you are not allowed to work... it's akin to the American Green Card!

Now before you all go soppy on me and howl 'I know XXX and they do YYY', it is true that in most countries there is an illegal black-market in jobs that pay cash and ask no questions... And that suits some people... but I temper this with - you can do this only if you remain 'off the radar', but in China this is difficult to do!!!

For example, every hotel you stay in checks your ID credentials with the local Public Security Bureau, your landlord must list you with the local authorities to rent a house to you, your mobile phone needs you ID to purchase it, so do your bank accounts, and if you get serious about marrying a young lady, the paperwork puts you 'front and central'.

Of course, the entry requirements for China differ slightly for country to country, depending on your citizenship... Amazingly, this is the best place to start your inquiries!!!... Contact your country's embassy or consulate in China and get their advice...after all, they are the ones who process all the paperwork for their nationals every day, as well as all the ones who default and are deported... they can tell you the most up to date information as well.

Of course, if you are like some bloggers and believe it is just 'fear-mongering' by evil Governments around the world, just ignore this bit of advice... Just fly in on the seat of your pants and see how you fare!!

By far, the best/safest/official/most justifiable method of working in China is to obtain a Working Visa by patiently wait in line in your country and apply through the correct channels - this gives you the opportunity to collect the correct paperwork and qualifications before you enter the Chinese Mainland.

Of course, there are some minimum requirements usually, not least of the hurdles is that you must have a 'position' in China and that you have an 'invitation' from your employer (sometimes with local government endorsement). Usually this gives you a temporary visa, that needs to be endorsed with the company's official 'chop', a red stamp that identifies the company, like an approved signature, within a short time limit (usually around 1 month...but check this). Warning: This is not a full visa, it hasnt been endorsed in China- it will allow entry into the country, but you must get it endorsed to work...

In general, like other countries, China usually requires foreign workers that offer unique skills to the workforce that Chinese workers cannot contribute - in short, you need to be offering some skills or knowledge that is not readily available in China. This is not unique to China, many countries limit immigration and working permissions to 'professionals' or 'skilled workers'.

Depending on the industry, the requirements will vary - for some, there is no education pre-requisite, but for others there may be. In addition, some industries may have age restrictions as well. This isn't to say that it isn't possible to come to China and get the legal paperwork requirements for working without these requirements but it potentially opens you to issues such as 'exploitation' because you are desperate for a job and/or remain in China - entering the 'job black-market', often inadvertently..

Now, getting down to the Subject at Hand - coming to China on a Tourist Visa and 'Teaching English' to get a 'Z visa' to stay in China. The general consensus is that to be a 'teacher' or 'trainer' in China, the minimum requirement is a university degree, and (certainly in my little part of China) there appears to me a maximum age requirement of 50 years old. I say this because I have asked a number of training companies I work with and they have said that 'at the moment' getting a visa for 'teachers over 50' is almost impossible, and most will not consider a person without a degree, because of the 'issues' they have with the enforcement officials.

It is true that 'a few years ago' almost anyone with pale skin and a backpack could teach in China, but like other Asian Countries recently, China has tightened it's criteria for 'Professional Teachers'.

It may be possible to find work in the Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities in China, but more difficult to get the support of an employer - and get that 'working permit'. The reputable establishments will usually require evidence of a degree and/or TESOL/CELTA/TEFL certificate and (usually) an extensive work history. The reason, they usually must show evidence for each teacher at each inspection and renewal of the person's visa.
Recently in Suzhou, the 'degree' requirement has been enforced so long-standing teachers were being asked for their credentials before getting their visas renewed this year. Unsurprisingly, many don't have the requirements and have scrambled to get methods of enhancing their credentials underway!

If you are going to Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities, then the local officials may be a little more lax and allow a bit of latitude on this, but there is no guarantee. An associate of mine was 'deported' from a small village in Central China going to a job-interview and doing a demo-class. The local authorities saw that he had listed 'teacher' in one city but there was no record of him having a 'visa or work permit' there. For every 'semi-success' story there is a failure one to match!!!

If you are coming to teach, I'd recommend you do a TESOL course in your home country, try to rack-up some hours teaching English in a community college/migrant centre and organize some cash so you can come, leave and re-enter China if you need to... as well as live for a few months while you are looking for work and getting the paperwork finalized.

So, to put it in perspective, what can 'working illegally' cost you?

Well, potentially you could get caught and deported, with a possible fine of 500 rmb per day and 5 years of non-reentry into China... and this will play havoc with potential relationships with Chinese women. Worse still, many countries ask if you have been rejected entry from other countries, and if you are honest, you'll have to say 'yes'! If you want to risk it, you could see if it's recorded as a black mark on your passport... once you've started down the slippery slope of illegal immigration you may as well continue it, right!!!

This may restrict you from opportunities to work/travel/play in other locations around the world.

As a followup entry, I will highlight some of the common 'scams' that training centers and 'schools' employ to get around the rules in another blog later... So they are things to watch for!!!


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I reviewed this information Dec 2011 and it still is 'reasonable' for my part of China....if you are reading this at other times, message me and I'll update it with the latest.
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Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
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(Showing 1 to 4 of 4) 1
#2011-03-27 01:42:43 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

First, let me say that this is one of the best and the most useful blog posts we've published on our blogs. Any of you with any thoughts of coming to China to work should study this carefully, and if at all possible you should try to follow the course that Garreth has laid out for you. Even if it is not possible, or seems impossible, to fully follow what is prescribed here and you decide to "go cowboy" and come over without going entirely by the rules, clearly you should do your best to be as close to clean as possible.

I've really enjoyed this blog, and been educated by it. Having said that though, I have some questions of Garreth and they are sincere questions. I am in no way trying to spark another free for all. And these questions are without reference to any specific circumstances of the other blogger of whom Garreth refers to as having sparked considerable controversy.

Garreth, you state the following: "Firstly, the only way to work 'legally' in China is with an official 'Z visa' and 'foreign Work Permit'. Period. Without this endorsement you are not allowed to work... it's akin to the American Green Card!" No doubt this is true and a good comparison, but in fact there are literally millions of illegal immigrants living (and mostly working) in the USA. This source suggests between 12 and 20 million: http://www.usimmigrationsupport.org/illegal-immigration.html.

Virtually all of them, in doing so have taken low paying jobs for crap wages in order to be there. And virtually all of them have dramatically improved their own lives and likely also the lives of family back home. Virtually none of them wishes to go home? It's a pretty small percentage that get caught.

I'm asking you, not from the point of view (POV) of the US Govt., nor from the POV of the Republican Party, but from the POV of the illegal immigrants themselves, are you suggesting they were wrong to take the risk they did and that they should not have come to America?

And to expand on that, are you saying that there are zero circumstances in which a person is justified in taking the risk of coming to China without having first followed the rules to the letter?

Or are you just generalizing that most of the time and whenever possible a person should follow the rules to the letter?

#2011-03-28 07:48:49 by aussieghump @aussieghump

John, You answer your own question!!!! - the illegal immigrants who come to the USA and get shitty jobs on crap pay, many risking their lives in the deserts of New Mexico to get there... most are 'on the run', jumping jobs to stay ahead of well-armed US Government officials. They worry they will be deported (and many were a few years ago, after a lifetime living in the USA!!) and what happens to their children if they get caught.

But China is not America - it ain't a democracy and there aren't too many 'liberals' in the government that can help a law-breaker...no bleeding hearts here!!!!

Try it as you like...there are many that do ... but I put it to ladies who might be dating you...if he isn't legal in your country, and he isn't honest in disclosing his visa situation, then what can you trust him on??...
I contemplated calling the article 'Don't date foreign teachers' - but decided against this because it is painting a too broad a brushstroke...but I wouldn't mind betting that the biggest percentage of foreign Caucasian illegals in China is that group - sometimes deliberately 'bending the rules', sometimes inadvertantly (see my next blog for the scams that do this!)!

I have no problems with people wanting to 'do better' - that is not the argument here....the argument is that to come to China, you should try to stay above the Chinese laws, rules and regulations...as a good guest!!!

It is difficult to be squeaky clean on everything (I have broken many laws in China!!)...but immigration and customs law are pretty clear to everyone (in your own language, and supported by your Government) and you shouldn't be flouting those without some type of recourse if you get caught!!!

#2011-03-29 00:02:35 by aussieghump @aussieghump

Let's also put the English Teacher job into perspective in China as well... If you work for a English Language Training Centre full time, you take home between 8000-10000rmb. Given your rent is somewhere around 2000rmb, you are effectively earning 200rmb per day!!! Now, a cup of Starbucks coffee is 30rmb, a Western Meal is cheapest 50rmb and if you are out drinking and partying like it's 1999, then you don't have much money left!!!

Now, most teachers in Chinese Schools (Government schools) get around 6000-7000 rmb... So you are not 'rich' by any means...

I see this at both ends - I pay teacher wages, and I serve them beer in a bar!!!

To be getting an 'expat' job in China you now have to have a lot of experience and contacts in China, preferably with Mandarin, if the international MNCs are hiring at all! I also do executive search for companies as a job, so I see these requirements too!!

Seriously, teaching is a way to get a feel of the country and see if you can fit in, but I would hazard that it is not the panacea of your ills, just a stopgap to somewhere else unless you are a 'dedicated teacher'... And if you are only looking at this as an avenue to get a Visa, and haven't had much experience in teaching then you will be a very lucky person to have 'instant dedication'!!!!

Notice that I am not 'just a teacher'...there is a sound financial reason for this!!!

It is a job of 'love' and 'adventure' but if you are coming to 'support' a lady on this wage, then you are in for a shock!!! It will bfe very difficult to achieve this!!!

#2011-03-29 00:24:04 by aussieghump @aussieghump

Risk is a personal preference - success is subjective!!!!

In this bloggers case, he is coming to China to pursue a serious relationship, get married and live as a ShaoLin warrior with a few baby disciples for the rest of his life!!! Best of luck to him...it is his stated aim.

But the issue is, as soon as he goes to do any paperwork to get married, live in a house with his partner, visit any place or do anything 'above the radar' he is a target of the authorities, because he has chosen to 'bend the rules' based on listening to others who 'don't know' the current situation!

For his own safety and ability to achieve his 'stated aim', he must get this part of his China life sorted quickly otherwise he is asking for trouble... John Abbott seems to think that I am trying to discourage the guy and berate him...on the contrary, I have only ever given him the most correct and accurate advice I have been able to muster, how that fits to his situation is up to him to solve... This is how I read the other blogger buying into the argument too - read his blogs and see the 'visa issues' has has been having recently!!! This is personal experience, not theoretical 'hopefulness' by a lovesick Chinese woman who wants her knight to come and see her immediately and 'teach English' to stay in China; or the forum owner who is married to a local and probably has other more secure methods of staying in China and has stated before he knows little about the topic!!!

Yes, TIC and things are not the same everywhere; but one thing I am certain of, if a local policeman can get his hands on a 'defaulting foreigner' his is more likely to throw the book at him - lots of kudos ridding China of the 'white devils' these days!!!!!

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