Editor's note: Many in the foreign community have been confused and frustrated by recent changes to China's visa and alien residence rules. One set of regulations was issued July 1 only to be replaced by another on September 1.
Below is the best distillation of current policies regarding visa laws we have found online. It is reprinted here in its entirety with permission from news magazine China Briefing (requires proxy). GoKunming would like to thank the original authors and publisher.
The Chinese government released the "Administrative Regulations of the People's Republic of China on the Entry and Exit of Foreigners (Order No.637 of State Council, hereinafter referred to as 'Regulations')" on July 22, which updates the current visa system and introduces several changes to the application of the residence permit.
The Regulations will take effect on September 1, 2013, with the previous administrative regulations on the entry and exit of foreigners scheduled to be abolished concurrently. Detailed information can be found below.
Changes to Current Visa System
The Regulations have increased the number of visa categories from 8 to 12, and have brought the following changes to the current visa system:
Introduction of the R visa
One of the distinct features of the Regulations is the introduction of the R visa, which aims at attracting global talents that the country urgently needs.
The R visa applies to senior-level foreign talents and professionals whose skills are urgently needed in China. Applicants for the R visa need to satisfy the requirements stipulated by the relevant competent authorities and must provide relevant documentation.
Introduction of 'family reunion' visas
Currently, foreigners with an L visa may come to the country for tourism, family reunions or personal affairs. As this visa category doesn't precisely correspond to the purpose of these various types of visits, the Regulations have limited the L visa to tourism purposes only and, at the same time, the Regulations introduce two "family reunion" visas – the Q visa and the S visa.
The Q visa is created in response to calls by overseas Chinese for improved exit and entry procedures, and will be issued to overseas Chinese visiting relatives in the country. The S visa will be issued to the relatives of foreign residents coming to China for family reunions.
Dividing F visa into F visa and M visa
Under the current visa system, the F visa is applicable to foreign citizens who come to China for commercial and non-commercial purposes including business activities, scientific and culture exchanges, short-term study and internships. After the Regulations take effect, the F visa will only be issued to foreign visitors coming to China for non-commercial purposes, such as cultural exchanges and inspections. Meanwhile, a separate M visa will be added and will be issued to foreigners coming for business and trade purposes.
Splitting the X visa
The Regulations have divided the current X student visa into the X-1 visa and the X-2 visa, with the X-1 visa applying to foreigners coming to China for a long-term study period (greater than 180 days) while the X-2 visa applies to foreigners coming to China for a short-term study period (less than or equal to 180 days).
Visa System after September 1, 2013
Based on one's purpose of entry, the Regulations have provided for the following 12 types of visas:
• Applicable to train attendants, air crew members and seamen operating international services, and to their accompanying family members
• Applicable to foreigners who are to reside permanently in China
• Applicable to foreigners who come to China for exchanges, visits and inspections
• Applicable to foreigners who transit through China
• J-1 Visa: Applicable to resident foreign journalists in China (long term stay – more than 180 days)
• J-2 Visa: Applicable to foreign journalists who make short trips to China for reporting tasks (short term stay – less than or equal to 180 days)
• Applicable to overseas tourists (those traveling with tour groups can be issued a group L Visa)
• Applicable to foreigners who come to China for business or commercial activities
• Q-1 Visa: Applicable to foreigners who apply for entry into China for family reunification with Chinese relatives or foreigners with permanent residency in China, as well as to those who need to visit China for adoption issues (long term stay – more than 180 days)
• Q-2 Visa: Applicable to foreigners who come to China for a temporary visit to Chinese citizens or foreigners with permanent residency in China (short term stay – less than or equal to 180 days)
• Applicable to senior-level foreign talents and foreign nationals whose special skills are urgently needed in China
• S-1 Visa: Applicable to spouses, parents, parents-in-law and children under 18 years old of foreigners who stay in China for study or working purposes, and to foreigners who need to reside in China for other personal reasons (long term stay – more than 180 days)
• S-2 Visa: Applicable to family members of foreigners who stay in China for study or working purposes, and to foreigners who need to reside in China for other personal reasons (short term stay – less than or equal to 180 days)
• X-1 visa is applicable to foreigners who come to China for a long-term study period (more than 180 days)
• X-2 visa is applicable to foreigners who come to China for a short-term study period (less than or equal to 180 days)
• Applicable to foreigners who apply to work in China
Changes to the Application of Residence Permits
Types of residence permits
The Regulations have categorized residence permits into the following five types:
• Working residence permits
• Study residence permits
• Journalist residence permits
• Family reunion residence permits
• Personal affair residence permits
Processing time of residence permits
Currently, foreigners holding a D visa, Z visa, X visa and J-1 visa must obtain a residence permit within 30 days upon entry. The processing period for applications of the permit is 5 business days upon the receipt of the application. However, the processing period has been extended to 15 calendar days under the Regulations.
Foreigners who apply for residence permits should submit their passports (or other travel documents) along with photos and other supporting documents to the local exit and entry administration authority above the county level, and shall provide fingerprints and other human biometric information at the same time.
Foreign nationals shall provide a health certificate when applying for a residence permit that is valid for more than one year, and such certificates are valid for six months from the date of issuance.
Strengthening Supervision and Management
According to the Regulations, financial, educational, medical and telecommunications institutions can verify foreigners' identities with the exit-entry administration authorities when necessary.
Obligation to report
The Regulations provide that relevant entities must report to the local entry and exit administrative authorities if the foreign nationals employed by them have left their jobs, changed work locations, or if the overseas students enrolled by them have left.
Restriction over internships and part-time jobs
It has been provided in the Regulations for the first time that if foreigners holding study residence permits need to take part-time jobs or internships outside the campus, they shall obtain approval from their academic institutions and apply for a residence permit with an annotation of location and term of the part-time employment or internship from the entry and exit administrative authorities.
Foreigners whose study residence permits are not annotated with the information mentioned above are not allowed to take part-time jobs or internships outside the campus.
Defining Illegal Residence
The Regulations also address the illegal entry, stay and employment of foreigners and have defined the "illegal stay of foreigners" as the following:
• Foreigners who stay and reside in the country beyond the duration of stay stipulated on the visa, stay or residence permit;
• Foreigners who are admitted into China without a visa and have stayed beyond the allowed stay duration without obtaining a stay or residence permit;
• Foreigners who travel and stay outside of the allowed stay or residence area; and
• Other illegal stay situations.
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