As of Wednesday night, March 5, 2008, the entry/exit bureau significantly tightened visa rules for foreigners, notably Americans, already residing in China. This applies to anyone hold F Business visas and L Tourist visas. Those with employer-sponsored work permits or student visas aren’t really affected. However, any foreigner holding an F or L visa which expires(d) before the Olympics will face serious difficulties extending his/her visa or obtaining a new one; Americans are especially limited in their options. This is to restrict the number of foreigners living in China and to more closely monitor their activities in the lead up to the Olympics. For whatever reason these rules seem to be more strictly enforced in Guangzhou and Shanghai, which seems ironic if they’re trying to protect Beijing for the Olympics. Holding Olympics tickets doesn’t help either (my German friend tried that route). Leaving the country to get a new visa in Hong Kong or elsewhere is no guarantee either. Now the details (most applicable to Americans though other countries also face stricter policies): No renewing, extending or obtaining a new F visa for anyone currently here on F. Foreigners can no longer apply for visas without the Form of Temporary Residence (issued by the local PSB). Any long-term (more than 30days) F or L visa issued to a foreigner will expire before July 15, though more likely before July 1. I know all this because my visa was set to expire soon and panic mode set in as my options were quickly diminishing. The options I was given:
– Leave!! (as one visa agent so insistently put it to me);
– Get hired by a company that will sponsor a Z work visa;
– Pay CNY4500 (US$630) for a 6month Student Visa (normally 6month visas for Americans are about CNY2000);
– Get a visa which is only valid for 1month and therefore requires leaving the country every 30days.
Well none of those options were particularly suited to me so I kept searching. I found 1 agent in Changchun, an industrial city in Dongbei province, who could help me get a visa until July 15 and another 1 in Beijing who could get me a single-entry visa valid until July 1. Traveling to Beijing or Changchun in the hope these people would actually be able to help me out was not ideal. More searching revealed a couple of agents in Shanghai who offered alternatives, though seemingly less legit alternatives. One guy told me to bring my resume and photos and he’d find me a company to sponsor my work visa, though there was no intention of me actually working for any company. Another said they could extend my current F visa for 6months for far less than the CNY4500 the 6month Student visa would cost. This sounded too good to be true.
Any foreigner seeking to renew or extend an F or L visa between now and the Olympics is going to, at best, have problems or pay extra money and at worst be totally without options and required to leave the country. If you’re wondering, why not just overstay the visa, because its CNY500 per day for doing so. Good luck to everyone facing the same situation.
Other info and experiences with the situation: Shanghaiist.com
Update Friday, April, 18th:
The visa policy has gotten even stricter recently (last 2-3weeks). The WSJ’s report on visa applications in HK said no more multiple entry visas were being issued in HK until after the Olympic Games. My friend also confirmed this when he tried to use the same agent in Shanghai that I used who said they could no get any visa valid longer than 1 month.Â I’m sorry to everyone who will need visa renewals between now and the Olympics, but I can’t help you.Â Just be happy with a 1 month visa.