We Need an Update on the Chinese Visa Situation

We here at TeachAbroadChina.com are hearing that the Chinese government has begun to ease its restrictions on visas now that the Olympics and Paralympics are well behind us. While we have had a few foreigners verify this, we need to hear from more foreigners. Have you had any success recently obtaining a Chinese visa for any purpose? How long did it take? Were there any problems? Any information that you can share with us and the hundreds of ESL teachers who visit our site every day would be great.

Simply scroll down to the end of the page, enter your name, comment, and email address (this will be kept private) and push submit. Thank you in advance for any information you can give us on getting visas in China.

24 Responses to We Need an Update on the Chinese Visa Situation

  1. Gwen says:

    i need advice now


  2. Kaibo says:

    Foreigners are finding the Chinese Embassy in Hong Kong are being increasingly difficult. Statements such as: “we don’t want you coming here to change/renew your visa” & “you will have to return to the USA to change your visa from X to Z” have been reported. A friend of mine also had the 2-papers required to convert from L to Z but was rejected because the paper stated ‘proceed to the nearest Chinese embassy.’ The official employee stated that he would need to go to the USA because it did not state proceed to Hong Kong to change the visa. In my 7-years of being here I have never heard of a rejection on that basis. It seems like they really don’t want foreigners doing the work in H.K.

    What can you do to minimize this risk – I suggest absolutely nothing if they want to be bureaucratic they will be – it might just be the luck of the draw on the day – but make sure your paperwork is correct and states Hong Kong!


  3. andi says:

    I can verify that in Sichuan the compulsary retirement age is 60 years of age. I have been at the same school for many years where I have a great relationship with teachers, students and staff. The school wants me to stay after having winners and runner ups in the CCTV English speaking competition every year that I have been China. The school is having great difficulties finding a way to keep me so it looks like I maybe heading home to the dole que for a while.
    Love you China but I am not old.
    60 years young.


    Kenneth Casper Reply:

    You´re right. You´re on your way home. In 2009 they did a total cleaning job on anyone over 65. And now I hear it is 55. And China is not the only one. Nobody is willing to say why this is so. Everybody says that it is the law, but why is the other question. And it´s not only esl jobs that are that way. In the U.S. the older worker is swept out totally. Maybe it´s time for older people to take revenge and quit supporting anything having to do with youth. This thing is a two-way street. If you usurp one group in favor of another group, you are really committing a crime against humanity. Age warfare is the next logical step if it hasn´t already started.


  4. steven says:

    concerning visa s,
    there is only one way legally, and that is,
    one. obtain letter of offer form the school
    2.work permit from local government.
    3, apply with travel agent to embassy for visa, in Canada or usa.
    then embassy will contact travel agent/professional visa company


  5. Robert Vance says:


    Thanks for the update. That is good news! Did your wife have anything to do with the process or was it just you…?


  6. Bjorn says:

    Obtained a 2-years F visa (multi entrance – 90 days each) in 1 (one) day. Applied yesterday (18th. Nov) and picked i up this lunch time.
    You have the option to pay an extra fee for “urgent” issue, doing so, it is more likely that they do not go into to many details.
    However, I am an European married to a Chinese and have had issued quite a few visa’s before, the last one was a 1-year multi “L”.


  7. Robert Vance says:


    That is certainly bad news. I have always been aware of this law but I never thought that it was enforced very much. So what can you do? What did you do? Go home? Or can you get another type of Visa???


  8. Jerri says:

    I am a 63 year old American woman and I have had a work permit and residence visa for 6 years. I am a business woman with many years of experience in major multi-nationals. A year ago I started working for a small WFOE which sponsored by visa. This year, the PSB is refusing to renew my work permit and residence visa, citing my age and saying that they are being to enforce the legal requirement that foreigner comply with Chinese retirement regulations which require that women retire at 55 years of age and men at 60 years of age!

    So this is more than a rumor! It is absolutely TRUE.


    I Kebir Reply:

    There is NO Chinese law that REQUIRES any citizen to retire at 55 or 60. The law says a Chinese citizen has the RIGHT to retire at these ages, women and men respectively. All Chinese citizens have the RIGHT to work at any age.

    I know this as FACT, since my husband is Chinese, retired form one university and now works as a professor at another university–all LEGALLY.
    There are NO age restrictions for Chinese citizens and I would dearly love to see –in writing–the law that restricts foreigners from working past the age of 60+. The rumors persist but thus far nobody–including the international school I work for, that claims this restriction–has coughed up the document.


    Gwen Reply:

    Pls share where you find that statement in the law. I am 54, female with US citizenship. The company I worked for assigned me to work in the company’s office in Shanghai for 3 years. A consultant firm said I cannot have China work permit, due to my age, turning to 55 in Aug 2012, even if I am 54 now.
    any advice?


  9. Kaibo says:

    It is possibly a move from your school to get rid of older foreigners.
    The easiest way is to ask a Chinese friend to contact the Labour Bureau.
    I personally don’t recall seeing any old age restrictions in the government policy but that is not to say that there is not one. There is a minimum age restriction of 18yrs old but that is for a work permit not for teaching.
    That will be sad for the older generation as at least they have the chance to earn an income here and contribute to society in a meaningful manner.


  10. Kai Charlton says:

    I am trying to find information about the latest visa “rumor”. Around my school, I’ve learned of several professors and English lecturers who are 60 and older receiving an official letter stating that their visas can not be renewed because of an age restriction now in place.

    Any truth to this and what are the specifics?


  11. Robert Vance says:


    Thanks! That is great news. I have also been hearing that the restrictions have eased up on Visas. Hopefully things will get completely back to normal soon and teachers won’t have to worry so much about all of this…it’s been a headache for many…


  12. Kaibo says:

    Hi Ryan
    I know people, actually close colleagues and associates, who have just been to HKSAR and changed from L to Z visa, so yes, it certainly is possible and is business as usual.
    There are generally no problems for next day processing but I am not sure about the 33 nations that were restricted prior to the Olympics.
    They were not mainstream western nations but mainly African and middle eastern nations and some Asian nations as well.

    I must clarify a point I made previously; that an F Visa was not permissable to teach on.


    1. Foreign educational, scientific, cultural and medical experts.
    These refer to those experts who are employed by the Chinese schools and other educational establishments in such fields as publication, medicine, scientific research, culture and art, and sports. They should hold bachelor’s degrees and have more than two years of experience.

    4. Visa F is issued to those who come to China to visit, teach, do business, or for cultural, scientific or technological exchanges for less than six months.

    I think that problems might arise when some foreigners use this 2002 guideline as a license to freely conduct a business that is not permissable longer term but once again that may depend on local tolerances of the authorities or relationships with local authorities.
    Some orgs hiring foreigners definitely take advantage of this loophole and even encourage this practice longer term. I think in the long term it is definitely not advisable, especially when the cyclic cleansing occurs with periodic visits of the national authorities.

    L to Z – mei guanxi. I know a guy who even did the changeover during the Olympics.


  13. Ryan Bradeen says:

    Sorry, I should say, is the transfer from L-visa to Z-visa still a valid path?


  14. Ryan Bradeen says:

    Can anyone confirm that going to Hong Kong to transfer from an F-visa to a Z-visa is still a valid method of securing a Z-visa? The Chinese Foreign Ministry website in Hong Kong has a big notice on their visa page that if you do not live permanently in Hong Kong than you must apply for a visa in your home country. http://www.fmcoprc.gov.hk/eng/zgqz/bgfwxx/
    The notice is dated 4/13/08. Many thanks!


  15. Kaibo says:

    The practice of working/being employed on an F visa, especially for ESL purposes is illegal – period! If you conduct business on F – you can’t teach; if you teach on a Z – you can’t conduct business.
    The changes that took place under normal PSB and Labour Bureau relations meant that all F visa changeovers, under normal departmental relations, had to take place from the foreigner’s country of PR status. They even forbade the granting of changed visas from F to Z in other countries or jurisdictions from the Chinese Embassy, such as Korea, Japan, Philipines, HKSAR, etc. unless of course that was if the individual did not have PR or citizenship in that country.

    I do want to strengthen another statement I made about Shanghai.
    It appears; Shanghai will keep doors closed to maintain and in fact strengthen control of visas and issuing of visas, in the run-up to the 2010 Expo.
    I am not an authority on this, particularly in Shanghai, so if any other ESL centres, foreigners or recruiters are having similar problems it would be good to hear of your current experiences.
    The following scenario happened the week of the 12th Oct 2008:
    A colleague of mine from Australia has a Level three Teach International TESOL Certificate, BA of German Studies Major from Macquarie University, Graduate Diploma of Information Management for University of Technology., ten years work experience; including law offices, university librabries as a student informations facilitator for research purposes (2 yrs), information management in London at a major International bank, etc. etc. – This candidate has been refused a legal Foreign Expert Certificate on the grounds he has no prior teaching experience.

    ESL outside of Teaching Universities or schools is not just teaching, that is where this problem lies, it is facilitation of International Communication for Specific purposes and knowlege for youths, graduates and budding Chinese internationals, can be greatly enhanced by candidates like the aforementioned.

    Can you imagine the knowlege and applicative information, relevant to business information research & services, that this 30+ yr old man can provide for second language learners and business class Chinese people based in Shanghai.

    This sends out a huge message that under normal processing, if this is going to be a precedental forerunner to the future, then it is going to be extremely tough to get a job in the ESL industry in the future and a major hindrance to legal facilitation of International Communication for Business or Specific Purposes.

    Shanghai – too tough!


  16. Robert Vance says:

    @Kaibo and David,

    Thanks for the information. Every bit helps.

    Kaibo, I was especially interested in your information. I know plenty of foreigners who were working at least temporarily on an F visa until they could get a Z visa. Getting a Z visa seemed nearly impossible during the Olympics. However, my understanding is that legally, if one wants to obtain a Z visa, one should get it OUTSIDE of China. Is this true or is it legal to obtain one inside China?


  17. Kaibo says:

    Things are definitely flowing more naturally than before, but the rumours are still abounding and causing confusion if you don’t have the facts.
    One thing that I have no clarity on, is whether or not they have relaxed restrictions on changing from an F business visa to a Z visa without having to return to your own country of origin.
    It is of course illegal to teach from an F visa unless you are foreign business, financial or econonic consultant and it is a specific invitational event and only for a restricted specified time as determined by local labour bureau authorities and the university or institute or business corporation. there is a specific visa for this usually but sometimes local authorities permit legal functioning on an F visa for these kinds of scenarios.
    Don’t expect teaching is permissable from an F visa because it is not and lots of sharks around can cut you into a corner and then rip you off under no uncertain terms. To boot, you have no avenue for justifiable restitution under local labour relations policies.
    Do it legally or not at all.
    For those of you who got caught functioning on F visas, then that was the price you had to pay once you got caught in the cyclic shift that hits all provincial authorities when the crackdown comes as a result of the national PRC security officials visiting town.
    Cyclic cleansing, as far as I can ascertain from 4 yrs experience in China and access to information from previous years, can happen at anytime. Cyclic cleansing and tightening of visa control and local labour relations practices, can occur not just as a result of special events like the Olympics, but also as a matter of recourse with official visits from national officials.
    We should all expect regional security to remain reasonably tight in Shanghai as well from now on, because Shanghai 2010 Expo is not that far away. It is far more expedient to control the flow of foreigners on visas from now on, than to relax visa policy measures and then try and sort the bigger problems out later.

    If anyone has information on F to Z from within the PRC – I will be most grateful.

    I have adopted the policy that it is more expedient to process foreigners from outside of China, than send them to HK on an L visa for a changeover. However, there are several disadvantages of this policy:
    Double medical – one from origin – one locally. ( If employed 12 months)
    Difficult to determine the quality and direct personality of the prospective employee
    Prospective employee can’t see all the details of the job and ascertain preferences
    Processed from a Z visa as a Foreign Expert means if the school does not like you then you may have your residency status annulled and have to go through the whole process again, even changing back to an L and going back to HK .

    I do extensive interviewing and make sure of the quality and character of the individual.
    Same with the individual, you need to ascertain the credibility of the company or school or agency that seeks your services before they lock you in on a Z visa for Foreign Experts, because they can control the document, particularly if they have considerable influence in their favour with Labour Bureau officers. Beware, because they have considerably more influence than most foreigners will ever have.

    If venturing here with unknown quantities, like conditions in the school or accomodation and housing, then if you have a good bankroll and money is not your idol; I still advocate the L visa, have a good look around, line up one or more companies and then make a firm decision once here. Then it is a simple, permissable and standard practice to venture down to HKSAR and do a changeover. One night in Hong Kong should not break the bank and some orgs even pay the flight down there and back.

    Any foreigner venturing here on a shoe-string budget is really setting themselves up for potential problems and heartache, should anything really turn sour.
    No money – no backup plan; you are on the ropes with no where to go.


  18. I cannot say much about the change of the rules compared to last year because I just arrived this year.

    I don’t know whether what I am going to say comes in handy or not, but things appear to be easier now.

    For the record, I don’t mean to brag or anything but I just obtained my residence permit in CHINA. I didn’t need to go to Hong Kong or anything like that. However, I have to say that the company where I work did the whole thing for me.


  19. Robert Vance says:

    @ NaEn Kaibo and Dan,

    Thank you both for your contributions. They are valuable and already many have read them while perusing through this website.

    @NaEn Kaibo,

    While I agree with you that many foreigners are responsible for the trouble that they find themselves in when it comes to obtaining a VISA in China, I do believe that during the Olympics, it was much harder to obtain a visa, especially for people who came from the list of 33 countries. Even for someone like myself, who had a valid 1-year visa and simply had to leave the country every 90 days, there was a strong risk that my visa would be cancelled at the border, according to close friends of mine.

    Nevertheless, now that the Olympics are over, I think that what you have written is spot on.


  20. NaEn Kaibo says:

    There certainly were restrictions but most visa problems were not based on facts but on individual cases. The facts are that efficient visa processing was successful – before, during and after the games. Many individuals who had subsisted on the illegal “F” visa syndrome – got caught out and many were also caught in the 33 restricted nation visa fiasco as well which was a step up of security and rightfully promulgated at an important and justifiable period. Add to this, illegal orgs – that were slipping under the radar and then got shut down for fear of the nationals checking the books and you have a multifaceted quagmire of irrational thinking and reasoning that dragged many into the cesspool of uncertainty.
    The rumours and results of these scenarios contributed greatly to the misunderstandings. Those misunderstandings were and still are causing some angst to foreigners and to inexperienced personnel and recruitment agencies.
    Once the real facts were understood about visa processing in China before, during and after the games; there really were few problems to be concerned with for legal establishments, agencies and legal ESL facilitators. The main problems stemmed from illegal, ill informed, inexperienced orgs and individuals who were operating underneath the radar from legitimate and lawful PRC guidelines. Any lawful establishment had no fear during the games once the real facts were published and issued.
    I praise the PRC for a great job done in the Olympic period.

    The following rules and guidlenes issued in 1996 appear to have no ratified promulgatory notifications from the central Government since the date of publication.

    Please read the following excerpt:

    Rules for the Administration of Employment of Foreigners in China
    (Promulgated jointly by the Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation of the People’s Republic of China on 22 January, 1996)

    Article 35
    The labor administrative authorities of the provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government, may formulate their own rules for implementation of these Rules in conjunction with the public security and relevant authorities in the locality, and report it to the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation for putting on record.

    Article 36
    The Ministry of Labors shall be responsible for the interpretation of these Rules.

    It is clearly stated under this article, that there are national guidelines, but they can be interpreted and administered at Provincial and Regional level according to the individual labour Relations Ministry in that particular region. Therefore, individuals or orgs who expect that a nationally uniform administration is a reality, do not understand the aforementioned document.
    Most provinces do have fairly standard guidelines but this is where the informed skill of regional recruiters becomes paramount for obtaining and applying local policies and directives for efficient visa processing. That applicative understanding is also jointly exacerbated by the fact that in some individual cases, whereby an individual may find a shining moment and slip under the radar from a smiling Labour Ministry worker on a particularly happy day processes the application or where the relationship of a particular individual or org merits favour with the Labour Bureau in a particular region can not be judged as being any exception to any usual rule. That is not to be taken as any generalised exception to any rule and is usually relationship based. The same aforementioned scenario can work in negative fashion if met by a snarling Ministry worker on a particularly bad day, therefore it is always wise to remember the foreigner and personnel worker needs to be polite and congenial in mannerisms as this is no place to demand your rights or protest at findings or you may find yourself facing a particularly hard task master in return. Just smile – be polite and say Yes Sir!
    For effient processing, it is best to stay with proven trusted and nationally recognised organisations that know the score in a particular locality.
    To summarise my research and findings: visa processing was and always is a minefield but only to the ignorant and ill informed who listen to rumours and not facts.
    It becomes to all of us, a year by year proposition. Who knows where or when the next paradigm may be promulgated and for what reason or purpose.
    Visas: they were and are still – “business as usual”
    No apologies intended for my opinions; to those who by reason feel offended due to the fact they got caught out in the quagmire of misunderstandings or the crossfire of having to return to their country of origin.
    Happy days!


  21. Dan says:

    The sense I am getting (based on reports from clients) is that things are easing considerably, but not returning to the way it was a year or so ago. If you have a legitimate basis for securing a legal visa, you should be fine. If you plan on getting in and staying in China through subterfuge, you should be very worried. That’s my overall asssement.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *