Monday, June 13, 2016

Obtaining a Chinese Z Visa part I

A Z-visa is the visa required to be allowed to work in China and the process has definitely gotten a lot more complicated than the last time I lived in China. Like any government, China has an ever changing list of requirements for being allowed to work in their country as a foreigner. When I first went to China in 2002 I didn't really have to do any of the work for my visa. I believe I had to get a physical (I know I had to do that part, I still even have the form) and fill out a form. I think that is all I had to do. It is possible it was more difficult than that because I was going through an organization based in the greater L.A. area and they actually did most of the application procedure for me. In 2003 I changed employers and worked directly for 内蒙古科技大学 (Inner Mongolia University of Science and Technology). When I went to work for Neikeda ( 内科大- short form of the university name) they had me get a tourist visa while I was home over the summer and then after I arrived they converted it to a Z visa.
Over the years the process has changed and gotten more and more complicated. One of the early changes was that you couldn't arrive on a tourist visa and convert to a Z visa. In order to get a Z visa you had to leave the country and so a lot of people did visa runs to Hong Kong. Now, you have to apply for a Z visa from your home country (sometimes you can get an exception for the country you currently live in if it isn't your home country). When I taught at Neikeda I remember having to send them a copy of one of my college diplomas. Starting this year you have to actually send the original diploma in. Thus, as you can see there have been a lot of changes. This post is actually going to focus on what I've had to do so far toward my visa. It is part I because the process is not complete and I do not yet have my visa. Some of you may not be interested in reading all of these details. That's okay. I'm writing this because I searched the web for this topic and didn't find much. I really could have used help figuring out how to do some of these things. Thus, I'm writing a post about it.
After signing my contract I scanned it and sent it to my new school. I then received an email with the list of documents I needed to obtain and directions on which ones had to be sent in hard copy to the school and which ones only needed to be scanned and then the originals brought with me to Beijing in August.

Here's the list:

  • Physical with blood tests in the last 6 months - scanned copy with original sent to Beijing
  • Resume including high school and explaining any gaps in the timeline - electronic copy only
  • letters of recommendation from my schools for the last two years (which for me is 2 schools) - these had to be sent as hard copies with original signatures.
  • Original copy of my teaching license
  • Original copy of my diploma - originally I was told this had to be my most recent diploma, but then the HR person at my school told me I could send one of my bachelor's diplomas because it was going to be rather difficult to get my most recent diploma sent.
  • Original copy of a non-criminal check
  • Original copy of a child abuse clearance check

The physical, non-criminal check and child abuse clearance were the difficult parts. Obtaining the physical had two main problems. 1) I wanted/needed it quickly and did not have primary care physician. I spent part of a morning calling around try to find places to do it. I finally found a good place that could get me in about a week later. 2) The doctor was rather thrown off by the form. He'd never seen anything like it and wasn't sure how to fill it out. I had brought my form from 2002 and I think he liked seeing how it had been filled out before. He decided for some of the things on the form he would write that those tests were unnecessary. We'll have to see if that'll be accepted when I get to Beijing or if I'll have to repeat the whole thing. One of the big things that I knew China requires having proof that I do not have is AIDS and STDs. They also ask for tuberculosis. Thus, I had to have quite a bit of blood drawn. The next day I got a phone call from the hospital telling me that the incubator had broken overnight and I had to go and have more blood drawn. Ouch! I was especially nervous about this because I had gotten a huge bruise from the first blood draw. Thankfully, the second one didn't cause any bruising.
The non-criminal check and child abuse clearance were a bit of mystery to me. I didn't even know what I was looking for there. My good friend Google came to the rescue here. I found a form for a California Department of Justice background check used for admission into the U.S. or another country. For that, I had to go to a live scan location and get my fingerprints scanned. A little less than a week later I received the results in the mail. For the criminal abuse clearance, I found a form that had to be notarized and sent in. I got those results about a week later.
I sent everything to the school in Beijing thinking it would be okay. Unfortunately, last Friday I woke up to an email from the school HR person saying she had spoken to someone who did visas (I think on the school end) and was told my criminal background check would probably not be accepted because they had already had one like that rejected. I panicked. I didn't know what else I could do. I turned back to the Internet and discovered an email address to contact. About 6:30 on Friday morning I sent an email. I'm pretty sure I received a reply before 8:00 am. The person I emailed from the California Bureau of Criminal Information and Analysis quickly printed a copy on letterhead with an original signature and put a seal on it (the form I had gotten before was just a print out). He told me that I could then contact the California Department of State for authentication. That letter arrived in the mail today and I took a picture of it and emailed it to the HR person. She told me it was perfect and didn't need authentication. I hope she is correct. I shipped it 2-day air to Beijing this evening.
Now, I am waiting for the school to get a work permit for me from the State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs. They will then have to ship that to me along with a letter of invitation. When I have both of those original documents then I should be able to submit them along with my passport (and an application, photos and of course money) to the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles for my visa.
Whew, I'm tired just writing about the process...
Hopefully, it will all go well.

My poor arm! The bruise from the blood draw.
The imprinted seal that hopefully makes this document official enough