How to stay in China for as long as possible?
April 13, 2006 3:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm taking Chinese classes this summer in Beijing. After that, I'd like to travel a bit and then find a job. How do I make this work, with regard to visa issues in particular?

I'm studying at the Beijing Language and Culture Univ. (BLCU) from July to August. After that, I'd like to find a job, and I'm relatively employable (18 years old, decent & improving Mandarin, Stanford student, good resume and SAT scores).

I'm trying to secure a job now, but everything I've read says that it's often easier to get industry jobs (i.e., not the standard white-guy English-teaching jobs) once you're in the country. If all else fails, I'd still enjoy teaching English. And even if I do secure a job now, I'd still like to travel between the dates of my student visa and my work visa.

The BLCU will give me a student visa valid for July and August. I could go to Hong Kong after that and reenter with a 30-day Chinese L (tourist) visa. But 30 days isn't enough for me to travel and find a job. And I'm booking plane tickets soon, so I'd like to have some reassurance that I won't be forced to leave China months in advance of my return ticket because my visa ran out.

How do make this visa situation work? Is it possible to live in China for a few months without having an official reason to be there?

The feeling I've gotten from most people is that long-duration Chinese visas are not difficult to get if you're willing to deal under the table. I'm skeptical and wary, but is this common practice?
posted by jbb7 to Travel & Transportation around Beijing, China (6 answers total)
Have you asked the BLCU about this? When I was studying abroad in Russia, the program I was studying with was willing to help students get the necessary visas/work permits so they could stay on and work over the summer. Figure out who's in charge of this stuff at your study abroad program and talk to them-- odds are they have experience with students who want to do this, or at the very least contacts in the visa offices with whom they can put you in touch.
posted by posadnitsa at 4:01 PM on April 13, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks! I'll try asking them again. They seemed pretty firm, though, when they told me that the visa duration is only for the term of study.
posted by jbb7 at 5:07 PM on April 13, 2006

Once you get there it should be pretty easy to both find a job (seriously, just looking at any bulletin board around campus- or try one of the expat mags like That's Beijing) and once you do that, extend your visa. It is kind of a gamble when you're dealing with booking stuff in advance, but it's safer than just staying on illegally and hoping for the best. You could always enroll yourself in additional classes at pretty much any of the universities (including really, really good ones like Qinghua and Beijing University) if you pass a language proficiency test, so that would definitely ensure a longer visa, and it wouldn't be terribly expensive. I guess it depends how long you do want to stay for- if you want to stay for a few months, or you have a year at your disposal, that will all make a difference.
You should know, if you're traveling, and planning on staying in hotels (even the crappiest ones) you will need some form of document, either a student ID or your passport, or something- so if you are staying on past your visa traveling would be very inadvisable. I was in Beijing for all of last year on a multiple entry/exit student visa, so I don't know how the work situation would unfold exactly, but I can try and find out for you from people who still live there if you have any more specific questions (my email's in the profile).
posted by Oobidaius at 6:06 PM on April 13, 2006

What I would reccomend is that you find someone who is willing to employ you, let them know that you are in turn willing to make a commitment to them for a while, and then have them get you a type F visa, not a type Z. The difference being that an F is a business visa and even if you decide the job is not for you and decide to quit it cannot be revoked by your employer, the downside is that it only lasts for 6 months, while a work visa can last for 1 or maybe 2 years. Regardless I would suggest extending your studies for a while and staying on that visa, and making arrangements before that ends for an F or a Z, your plan of going to HK and then reenetering the country sounds neat, but it is really quite expensive if you are seriously trying to consider supporting yourself on a Chinese salary.
As for a white collar job, I would forget it without a college degree. For the most part white collar jobs for foreginers in China that are event worth doing are offerred by foreign companies and the will hold your CV to foreign standards of measurement, so 18 and in college wont cut it. Most reputable English schools that wont work you to death will have similar but less demanding requirements, but their main critierea is whether or not you are white honestly. China can be a great experience and going over there with some Mandarin is a good idea. But having both studied and worked there I can say that studing is much more rewarding, and you can easily make some scratch teaching private lessons under the table while you do that.
posted by BobbyDigital at 6:41 PM on April 13, 2006

Also you should never have to deal with the visa stuff yourself. If you are a student then your school should take care of it, if you are working then your job should do it. Remember that.
posted by BobbyDigital at 6:42 PM on April 13, 2006

From what I've heard from friends of friends, getting long-term visas under the table from "visa agencies" in country is fairly easy. Just check out any of the ads in the expat magazines.

In theory, you can also get long-term visas from any random Tsim Sha Tsui guesthouse in Hong Kong. The reason why I say in theory is that I tried to get one, but since I was American, they could only hook me up with a 6-month, unlimited entry visa where each entry could only be 30 days (meaning I would have to enter and exit the country every 30 days.) Just about any other nationality could get a year-long, unlimited entry visa, though.
posted by alidarbac at 6:30 AM on April 14, 2006

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