Monday, 16 December 2013

Updates to Immigration Regulations and Practices, May 2013

There have been a number of changes to immigration regulations and practices this year and more are being introduced on July 1st 2013, including the new Entry-Exit Law. The new law will replace the existing regulations, which have been in effect since 1986. It covers every aspect of the visa system, including residency for foreigners and liabilities for immigration violations. 


In Beijing, there is a new requirement that the company HR must visit the Labor Bureau when applying for an Employment License for the potential foreign employee. This cannot be handled by an immigration agent alone. This requirement may be only an interim requirement and subject to change. Up till now, we haven’t been advised that this regulation also applies in Shanghai or other cities. 
There is now a provision for visa free entry (72 hours) into Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou for citizens of certain countries, although please note that it is wise to have an onward booking to a third country, not back to one’s home country. 
In terms of the new regulations, apart from filling some gaps or inconsistencies in processes and relaxing restrictions on de facto and same sex applicants, going forward, we can expect far greater scrutiny of foreigners coming to China on F Visas (Business visas), with the government attempting to ensure that people on F visas are not working but simply making a business visit. 
Citizens of some "sensitive" countries (such as Pakistan, India, some Middle Eastern countries and perhaps even the Philippines) may have increasing difficulty in obtaining F visas. 


Please see the following information taken from a seminar regarding the new immigration regulations, that was given recently by the Head of the Visa Section of the Public Security Bureau (PSB) in Beijing: 
The final rules regarding implementation are currently still under discussion, and so whilst the Beijing PSB has worked out a draft, it will still take time to officially publish all the new regulations. Please see below for the current draft as laid out at the seminar in April. While it is likely that all these regulations will be applied nationally, at this stage, until we see the implementing regulations, we can only be certain that they apply to Beijing and in Shanghai, except where indicated in this document. 

1. The definitions and differences between the two visa categories 
A visa for a period of less than 180 days is a “stay”, e.g. an L or F visa 
A visa for a period of more than 180 days is “Residence”, e.g. a Residence Permit (RP) 
2. Duration for applying for an extension to a visa 
L or F visa extensions should be applied for 7 days (at the latest) before the expiration date. Applications within the final week before expiration cannot be guaranteed. 
Similarly, RP extensions should be applied for 30 days before the expiration date at the very latest. 

3. Changes of the format and information on the visa page 
The duration of the short term “Z” visa, formally written as “000” on the visa page, will be changed to “30 days”. 

4. L and F Visa Extensions 
The validity for an F or L visa extension will be less, in total, than the validity of the original F or L visa. For example, taking an original multi-entry F visa valid for one year, with each entry valid for a maximum stay duration of 30 days: an extension for this visa can only be issued for no more than30 days, but there is no limit on the number of times it can be extended within that year. 

The PSB would consider keeping the original F or L visa on the passport as well as the extension, whereby the applicant can still use the original F visa to enter China later. This differs from the previous regulation, where an original F Visa is usually cancelled once the applicant has an extension. This regulation however is still under discussion. 

5. Visa validity 
(1) The new rule will provide the minimum validity for a visa: 
For work purposes: 90 days to 5 years 
For non-work purposes (such as visiting family): 180 days to 5 years 
Under the old rule, the PSB would only issue an RP for 60 days for an applicant who would be considered as an “ineligible” employee (an employee who the PSB believes would be ineligible to apply for a one year RP, and so would issue a 60-day RP which could be extended). Under the new rule however, the PSB will issue an RP valid for a minimum of 90 days for an applicant who would be considered as an “ineligible” employee 

Long length visas 
A: The person legally responsible for the company (the ‘legal person’) will be entitled to an RP valid for 2 years 
B: RPs valid for up to 5 years can be obtained by the following people: (1) high level talents, e.g. returned Chinese / original Chinese who hold foreign passports (2) employees of companies whose head office is registered in Beijing are eligible if the company has obtained a special permit from the relevant government authority 

6. Adding biometric information 
For 1st time RP applications, the applicant will need to visit the PSB to give a copy of their fingerprints. 

7. The processing time of the Residence Documents (only confirmed for Beijing to date) 
L /F visas remain the same - 5 working days 
RP Applications: 15 days (not confirmed yet if its 15 days or working days, although Saturdays are a public holiday, and so are excluded from the processing time) 

8. A foreigner who is 16 or older is required to bring their passports for random checking 

9. Residence Registration Paper (RRP) 
Foreign nationals who live in local compounds should apply for the RRP within 24 hours of arriving in China. Regarding the RRP application, please consult the local police station instead of the PSB as it’s not the PSB’s responsibility. 
For foreign nationals who often travel overseas, please double check with the local police station on the status of their RRP to make sure the RRP in the police station’s records does not show the foreign national as ‘leaving’. 

10. Illegal employment 
1. A person who works in China without a valid employment license, work permit and residence permit, unless an exemption is obtained. Work is considered to be taking place if the foreigner and the employer have an actual working relationship, regardless of whether a formal contract exists. 
2. A person who works for employers other than the sponsor of his or her work permit. 
3. A person who works in cities other than those where his or her work permit sponsor is registered. 
4. Students working without authorization or beyond the scope of school-related, campus work. 

11. Illegal Residency 
1. Staying beyond the validity of a visa. 
2. Staying beyond the visa-free period without acquiring a visa or residence permit. 
3. Staying outside residence areas designated by the government. 
4. Any other illegal residence situation. 

12. Punishment 
New born babies who aren’t registered/apply for a visa 
Old regulation: no punishment 
New regulation: a fine of more than RMB2,000 

Illegal residence/stay 
Old regulation: RMB500/day, the maximum is RMB5,000 
New regulation: RMB500/day, the maximum is RMB10,000 

13. Notice for applications before the new regulations take effect 
(1)Passport number changes 
If not in conjunction with an RP extension, the applicant only needs to provide their RRP and a letter of proof from the company stating the reason for the passport number change 

(2)RP for parents in law (This has not yet been confirmed for Shanghai) 
If parents in law can provide kinship relationship documents, they can apply for dependent’s RP. For foreign nationals who have more than one wife, as long as the Marriage certificates can be provided, the PSB can process the RPs as special cases. 

(3) Additionally, for unmarried couples, or for gay and lesbian couples, the PSB will respect these relationships, as long as they can provide cohabitation documentation which is issued by their Embassies in China. The PSB can then process the RPs as special cases. This will be the situation in Beijing, but it is unclear if this will be consistent across China. In Shanghai, a cohabitation document is insufficient. The PSB will only accept a de facto marriage certificate and some Consulates will not issue these. 

Other Notices 
1. Yellow slips/PSB receipts for visa applications – can they be used instead of a passport for domestic travel 

(1)The PSB issues a receipt which only proves the applicant’s passport is at the PSB for visa issues. It’s not equivalent to personal ID, which is required when taking a plane, train, or boat. 
The Shanghai PSB, however, does provide a receipt which can be used for travel domestically, but this is only a local regulation, and so far is only available in Shanghai. This is currently not available in any other cities in China. We are also not sure if this travel receipt issued in Shanghai will still work after July 1st when the new regulations will take effect. 
(2) Foreign nationals over 16 years of age 
Foreign nationals over 16 years of age should carry their original passport with him/her, in case the police wish to carry out a random check. Those who do not carry their original passport could receive a fine. 
Therefore, the PSB will not take any responsibility if applicants have their passport checked in other cities whilst their original passport is in the Beijing PSB. The PSB suggests that applicants should not travel to other cities during their visa application period. 

2. RRP 
Foreign nationals should update their RRP at their local police station every time after returning to China from overseas. Some local policemen may change the status of a foreign national to ‘leaving’ when they leave China, and the PSB cannot process a visa application if an RRP status is set to ‘leaving’. When returning from overseas, foreign nationals should check with their local police station to ensure that their RRP status is not set to ‘leaving’. 


Some Q&A 

1. Medical checkups 
Under the old regulations it wasn’t necessary for applicants under 18 years of age to take a medical checkup. Under the new law, however, only applicants under the age of 16 are exempt from medical checkups. 

2. Working in different cities 
Wherever the foreign national works for the majority of the time is where the WP and RP should be applied for. This, however, is dependent on the practical situation of the company involved. 

3. Visa transfers 
One visa type cannot be transferred another type of visa in Beijing. F visas cannot be changed into L visas; F visas cannot be turned into Z visas and so on. However, it’s possible that exceptions may be made for senior managers in the company, which will be handled on a case-by-case basis. 

4. 72 hours visa free 
Some foreign nationals who hold an onward ticket to a third country can have 72 hours visa free in Beijing. This is not available in all parts of China, nor is it available to all foreign nationals. This visa cannot be extended at the PSB. 

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