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Job Search in China – Information about China Visas
by Till Spurny
It pays to think about your visa early and to inform yourself beforehand
For many graduates the search for an internship spot or employment in China is associated with a lot of questions and organizational challenges. With that being the case applying for the visa for entry into China is often something people like to put off doing. Many people think, “The visa can wait,” until they realize how stressful it can become when you have to apply at the last minute.
“We always wonder about the people who call us on Wednesday and say they need a visa because they are flying to China on Saturday,” says Mr. Spurny from flug-und-visum.de, a German-Chinese start-up that specializes in offering flights and visa services for China. In such cases there is not enough time to receive the visa because the Chinese embassy no longer offers express service (apart from a few exceptions). It always takes at least four days, not counting mailing it there and back.
Especially students and graduates from democratic countries often assume that they can essentially travel to other countries if they’d like to with no problem. It is often forgotten that the Chinese embassy doesn’t exactly have a reputation as a very customer-friendly institution. It is recommended that you don’t treat the application for a visa to China too lightly, and instead prepare the documents with care and inform yourself ahead of time.
One applicant for example put the name of her old elementary school, including the telephone number (!) in the field “Employer/University/School” and had to accept that her application was denied for that reason. A long-planned China trip should not fall through due to such a small thing!
For that reason we would like to summarize some basic information concerning visa regulations and tips for the visa application in the following.
First of all you should know: the Chinese embassy does not issue free tickets to China. There is also no general directory where you could look up visa regulations. The embassy explains and changes their requirements on a case by case basis. Each visa application is checked by an employee. This means that individual names and information can sometimes be looked up, or companies can be scrutinized concerning their business activities or applicants concerning their job functions. Those for example in the fields of journalism, media, design, art or also research will definitely have the reasons for their entry examined more closely.
Those who want to study in China or would like to take up an employment or internship position always require an appropriate invitation letter from the inviting institution or facility in China. Special attention should be paid here to make sure that it is clearly signed and stamped. This often requires long bureaucratic processes on the Chinese side. When an invitation letter first has to pass through multiple levels within a Chinese institution before a chop is issued, four to six weeks of lead time can add up quickly.
For some branches and occupations not only are invitation letters required, but also official documents from Chinese administrative bodies. In such cases you should discuss the approval processes with your employer in China ahead of time. There are stumbling blocks to watch out for, especially with work visas. Early contact with a visa service is therefore always smart, especially when a longer stay in China is planned.
It’s a different situation if you’re traveling to China on your own initiative, for example to check out the local job market or application possibilities. In such cases it is recommended that you apply for a private visitor’s visa. For this it is simply necessary to know someone who lives in China permanently or who has a long-term residence permit. A visa service like flug-und-visum.de would be happy to provide a template for a private invitation letter.
So in general if a person wants to travel to China for a few days just for interest’s sake, they simply apply for a tourist visa and include the required itinerary and uninterrupted hotel reservations. Someone who wants to possibly stay longer in China and be a little more independent should try his luck with a personal invitation letter. There is no blanket answer to the question of which of these two options involves less effort. Like so much concerning Chinese visas, it depends on the individual situation.