If you are a foreigner living in China, there are 3 main topics that you will talk about with your friends: Your Chinese level, The air pollution and on which visa you are (Whoever thinks differently raise their hand, or just comment…) This post will address the latter where policies change once (and even twice) a year.
Since there is no “Entrepreneurship” visa in China ( Like in Korea, as example ), which enables a you to stay for a relatively long period of time and work on your startup, there is a need to use different methods to stay in China. Be aware that this post is written from a first hand experience and getting to know the expats community in China and not as a recommendation of what you should do.
So, which solutions people use in order to be able to stay in China long term?
Internship – There are many agencies that find internships for you in China. For AppInchina.co , we use these agencies to find interns as well . The Agency is taking care of the visa and issuing a request letter as well to the candidate. Obviously while people are doing their internship they come to learn more about china and what kind of company they wish to open.
Study in China (Student ‘X’ visa) – Some people are working while studying in China in different jobs. You need to apply to an official school and they will help you get the student visa. Officially, it’s forbidden to work while you study and permitted to work only under a work visa ( Called a ‘z visa’)
Short stay business visa (Business ‘F’ Visa) – Sometimes the way to stay in China is actually not to stay. What I mean to say is that you can get a business visa with a short stay each time of 30-90 days and need to leave China every time and do a ‘visa run’. There is also an option for you to extend your visa a few times after entering , so you can save some on the flights out.
Foreigners living close to the border in places like Shenzhen or Guangzhou can do a short trip to Honk kong and back. After your visa is expired you can request a new visa in Hong Kong as well if needed, this is a very common way.
Also, in the last few months a new long term visa option is now available. Americans can apply for a 10 year Chinese visa with multiple entries, each time for 30 days stay.
Work Visa (Work ‘Z’ visa) – This is the ideal solution. It enables you to stay long term in China for at least a year. All this assuming that the company you work for has the permit to give such a visa to foreigners. Entrepreneurs working on their own startup, can work in a company for the visa and continue to open by themselves their own Chinese company (a whole saga by itself) which can then give them the desirable z visa.
The problem today is that China’s visa policy is becoming stricter and stricter and therefore you should want as an entrepreneur to open a company as fast a possible so you will have the ability for a steady stay without running around your tail for a visa.
Fortunately, the Chinese government these days is easing the requirements for opening new companies in China as they understand that their future is dependant on the innovation of those small companies with their new products in the market.
As example, previously, it was required that the company’s initial capital will be invested in one time in the company while today you can make this investment over a couple of years.
As mentioned there is no current solution for entrepreneurs in China to stay unless they ‘belong’ to a certain company. Therefore foreigners who are looking for ways to stay there long term find creative ways to do that. If you are on your way there, think which kind of China visa application would be the best for you when you apply at your local Chinese embassy.
Photo credit by Kate Harding