Whether you want to visit China long-term as a business owner or just on holiday, a necessary hoop you’ll have to jump through is getting a visa. And there’s no denying it’s a complex system. This will be a three part series that will guide you through the process of getting the three most desired visas: the permanent residence visa (D), the tourist visa (L), and the business visa (M).
The first visa we’ll be looking at is the D visa, frequently called The Chinese Green Card.
As a US citizen, you might be used to low-to-no cost entry into foreign countries. China visa fees stand at $140, with the maximum it asks for other other countries hitting a maximum of only $90 if they ask for multiple entries for ten years. There are only a handful of countries that charge US citizens at that rate or higher, though Saudi Arabia takes the cake with a visa fee amounting to half a grand at $533.
From the get go, you should know that $140 fee applies to your visa no matter how long you’d like to say, or whether or not you’re applying for multiple entries. For this reason, immigration attorneys and visa agencies will often advise you to go for broke and apply for the visa that offers multiple entries over ten years. If you tell them you’re not interested chances are they’ll look at you like you have five heads.
A bit of background
There are four types of visas, the diplomatic, the service, the courtesy, and finally the ordinary. The vast majority of people seeking to enter China will fall into the ordinary category.
Ordinary visas are true to their name in that they apply to people who have ordinary reasons for trying to enter China. These categories of reasons are divided into twelve types: C, D, F, G, J1, J2, L, M, Q1, Q2, R, S1, S2, X1, X2, Z.
These visas range from foreign crew members on international transportation to foreign national students studying in China for a semester.
The Chinese Green Card
One of the most difficult ordinary visas to obtain is the D visa. In 2012, it was estimated approximately 5,000 D visas were granted to foreign nationals… since the program started in 2004. It’s possible that we’ll see the PRC issue more D visas in the future as the PRC seeks to entice top-level foreign talent.
But if you can get it, the D visa is one of the most desirable in that it’s essentially the Chinese version of the US green card. It grants its owner permanent residence in China and freedom to work, leave, and return to country at will… without ever having to apply for an extension or make a visa run. But it does not make the visa holder a Chinese citizen.
First and foremost, you must be 18 to qualify for this visa and not have a criminal record that the Chinese government will recognize. If you have that down, the next thing to consider is which of the six paths to permanent residence applies to you.
The types of qualification for D visa falls generally into two categories, only one of which will be considered here: either family related or business related.
For business related D visas, there are two roads. You must either be an investor or an employee. But beyond that, there are strict requirements attached to each.
D Visa: Investment
If you’re seeking to gain permanent residence in China based on your investments you must have made:
- direct investments in China for three consecutive years and have a record of taxation as well as,
- made an investment of over $500,000 USD in industries that are noted in the Catalogue of Industries of Foreign Investment produced by the PRC government
- have made a total investment of over $500,000 in China’s western counties, or in counties which are currently the focus of poverty relief action by the PRC government,
- have a total investment of over $1 million USD in the central part of the country, or
- have invested over $2 million USD in the PRC government.
If you meet any of the above, you can then consider whether you have or can do the last four requirements.
- You’ll need to complete the D Visa form.
- A valid foreign passport.
- Two valid passport photos.
- Received a certificate of health after undergoing the Exit-Entry Inspection, conducted by the Quarantine Bureau or issued by a foreign medical agency that is accredited by teh Chinese embassy. Worth noting is that once you receive your certification it is only valid for six months.
- Finally, you must have certificates of registration, approval of foreign funded enterprises, proof of combined annual inspection, proof of personal tax payment, or any other document that would be relevant and material in proving the validity and worth of your investment in China.
Assuming you’ve managed to overcome every hurdle, the next step is to actually submit your documentation and fees, then kick back your feet and wait for it to process.
You’ll submit your application, with a copy of your passport page, your two passport photos, your health certification, evidence of no criminal record, all relevant documents surrounding your investment, and fees (1,500 RMB Application Fee for each person, 300 RMB for each Foreigner’s Permanent Residence Permit) to the Public Security Administration of a province of your choice, so long as it’s controlled by the PRC.
You can submit it yourself in person or you can have a third party go in your stead, but the third party must have power of attorney to submit the documentation, which should be attested to by a Chinese embassy or consular office.
Once your material is submitted, the Public Security Authority will provide a decision within six months.
D Visa: Employment
The requirements for those seeking a D visa through the professional or employment channel also face their own strict set of requirements:
- the applicant must have worked as a deputy general manager, deputy factory director or above, or of associate professor, associate research fellow and other associate senior titles of professional post or above or enjoying an equal treatment;
- she must have worked at least four successive years, with a minimum period of residence in China for three cumulative years within that four-year time frame;
- she must be in good standing in terms of taxation;
- the units where she worked must meet any of the following terms and conditions:
- institutions subordinate to the various ministries under the State Council or to the provincial level people’s governments;
- major higher learning schools;
- enterprises or institutions executing major engineering projects or major scientific projects of the State;
- high-tech enterprises,
- foreign invested enterprises in encouraged type,
- foreign invested advanced technology enterprises or foreign invested export-oriented enterprises.
If you fit these narrow qualifications, then you may be eligible for a D Visa. Similar to the Investment path, you must then meet then submit all of the necessary paperwork.
You’ll submit your application, with a copy of your passport page, your two passport photos, your health certification, evidence of no criminal record, all relevant documents surrounding your employment, and fees (1,500 RMB Application Fee for each person, 300 RMB for each Foreigner’s Permanent Residence Permit) to the Public Security Administration of a province of your choice, so long as it’s controlled by the PRC.
But beyond that you must also provide one of the following:
- units are foreign funded enterprises, the certificate of approval of foreign funded enterprises and proof of combined annual inspection should also be provided;
- persons of enterprises or institutions executing major engineering projects or scientific projects of the State should provide testifying documents for the projects issued by the competent authorities of the provincial level people’s governments or ministries;
- persons working for high-tech enterprises should provide certificates of high-tech enterprises;
- persons working for encouraged type foreign funded enterprises should provide letter of confirmation of the encouraged type foreign invested projects;
- persons working for foreign invested advanced technology enterprises should provide letter of confirmation of foreign invested advanced technology enterprises;
- persons working for foreign invested export-oriented enterprises should provide letter of confirmation of foreign invested export-oriented enterprises.
Whether you’re applying for a D visa under investment or employment, both offer very high bars for Chinese-resident hopefuls. But we may see China relax these strict requirements in the coming years.