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Chinese Visa's
Z Visa or Work Permit Processing (September 2010)
We have just received news that some Chinese employers are failing to process the Z visa application paperwork within 30-days.

Please ensure you have a current and valid visa at all times, regardless of Z visa processing!

This loophole came to our attention on 20th September 2010, when a friend of ours was stopped in Guangzhou for a routine visa check by Police. Guangzhou has a serious problem with illegal immigrants, so do not expect this elsewhere in China.


Our friend, let's call him John Wayne, was hired for the academic year 2010/2011 by a leading Guangdong University. He started his Z visa application in the USA, and arrived in China with an interim Z visa, equivalent to a 30-day tourist visa, which is a special temporary travel document allowing him to enter China. The 30-day limit is regarded as being enough time to process the application paperwork to completion. He entered China 1-week early to settle his affairs and move into university provided accommodation. He had already lived in China and worked for a different University previously, so already had one Z visa in his passport. His contract details were suitably honoured, and he began teaching at the start of September.

He attended the Entry and Exit department office and handed over his paperwork, which was all in order. The issue of a z visa is quite complicated for those involved, as many government departments have checks and input. The employer also has to be licensed to employ foreigners, and this is one of the numerous checks.

From the applicants point of view the work visa application process is carried out on their behalf as seemingly one smooth paperwork exercise. One aspect of this is the issuance of the 'Foreign Experts Certificate', which is required to qualify for the work permit. Another aspect is the submission of a recent and official Chinese medical check. However, to John Wayne this was all being handled by the University once his paperwork was processed and accepted - basically it all just needed checking, certificates issued, and he was done.

This was being overseen by the Foreign Affairs Department, who were not going to take any action until there was a problem. Note; future tense. Knowing that there was going to be a problem was not sufficient incentive for the person concerned to start taking action before the problem became a reality!

Everything was moving smoothly, so what can go wrong?

Stop and Check

John had a lot of new things to deal with, teaching schedules, new university, Chinese girlfriend, moving into his new digs, etc .Therefore one day whilst he was out in Guangzhou with his Chinese girlfriend, he was not bothered when stopped by the local Police and asked to show his passport - it was a routine visa check.

Well, he only had a copy of his passport and visa, because the real article was back at his home. A teacher from Zhuhai had told him this would be fine. Apparently it was not fine with Guangzhou Police!

Neither had he registered with the local police for a Certificate of Temporary Residency (CRT), as this is not required as a separate item when processing/obtaining a Z visa - it is all a part of the whole package. Our information is that the original CTR Form is the only acceptable alternative to carrying your passport with you at all time - but we may be proved wrong?

Guangzhou PSB detained him on the street for 30 minutes for further investigation, as to them he did not have the proper documents on him, or any appropriate receipts. The Police action is quite justified in this case, and they acted properly throughout their investigation - which John Wayne concurs with. They were just doing their job, and rightly so.

When Things Go Wrong

Now our story takes an unexpected twist, because when the administrators concerned are contacted by PSB to confirm John's credentials, they have no record of John's Z visa application!

The main Foreign Affairs liaison is then contacted, who confirms that John is bona fide visitor to China, and that his paperwork is duly in process. Unfortunately, it appears that the junior administrator processing his paperwork - simply lost his file!

This in turn means that his Z visa application has to be re-started from scratch. Consequently, John finds himself as a guest of Guangzhou Police, 5-days over his 30-day temporary visa stay allowance, and liable for immediate incarceration, hefty fine, or deportation that day.

However, the PSB do not have a heavy hand, but do stick to their rules. It became apparent that John's 'Foreign Experts Certificate' would be issued the next day, and this would allow him to stay (Probably via local PSB visa extension). But this was not the next day, so the situation required a different solution.


Mr Wayne was given an official warning only, fined Y50 on the spot (For not carrying his passport with him), and required to get a tourist visa - which was immediately actioned by the PSB. This would be backdated to the expiry of his old visa. During the process he was reunited with his passport (His girlfriend went and got it), and arrangements were made for a temporary L or tourist visa to be ready for collection in Guangzhou 5 (working) days time = 26th September. He has no idea what conditions will be attached to this visa = length of stay, number of entries, etc.

However, they cannot restart the Z visa application process in Guangzhou, so John will then have to travel to Hong Kong to apply for a new and temporary Z visa, so as to re-initiate proceeding. This time he will be asking for copies of all forms and receipts!

Important Points:

1. A warning for visa overstay does count as an official overstay - but there were many extenuating circumstances in this stupid litany. 

2. It remains your personal responsibility to check whether you have a valid Chinese visa, and take appropriate action before the visa expires. This is your call!

3. Get an official receipt whenever you officially hand over your passport, or initiate visa processing within China.

4. Do not presume that your visa application will not be mislaid!

5. It is Chinese law that you must carry a valid ID on you at all times.


This was a minor thing, and Guangzhou PSB did their job well. Remember Guangzhou is hosting a world-wide event this month (The Asia Games), so security is being tightened ahead of it, and rightly so. Also note that most of the venues are actually within Foshan City, so expect similar checks there also.

We will of course update you on John Wayne's story as soon as we know the final outcome - hopefully the proper processing of his Z visa.

Meanwhile rest assured that your home country's Embassy or Consulate will have absolutely no interest in your predicament - they can't even be bothered to offer you appropriate visa advice, so why bother to interrupt their inner-circle club of tax-funded gratuities and what amounts to an extended Chinese holiday.

We leave this with John Wayne to sum this up the fiasco in his own words:

" I was blamed, by the government, for this problem.... The school remained quiet about it. The fine I had to pay (50 RMB) was for carrying a photocopy of my passport and visa, and not the actual passport. The overstay is a different matter.

I am confused about this process. I am hoping there will be clarity once I get through this.... "


You may wish to note that John was penalised for overstaying his visa, by being given an official warning only. Normally this is a Y5K fine. He was fined for not carrying his passport (or valid ID).

You have 30 days grace when working as a teacher before you have to have a Z visa or other work permit. We conclude that John was still within this time-frame, and that having a Z visa in due process will not leave you liable to later prosecution for tax evasion or working illegally? However, we do not know.
We are also very interested to hear from others who apply for this new visa.
Please bear in mind, that keeping all your legal documentation up to date should be a priority wherever you plan to travel outside the country. No one wants their dream trip to Disneyland in California to end with a call to a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer or immigration attorney to resolve a legal problem.
This information is as supplied by China Expats and friends as dated 20th September 2010. Please check this information yourself as it may alter without notice, and whilst we try our best to ensure it is correct, please do not hold us responsible for any errors - this is intended as a simple guide only
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