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China Daily Website

'Tough part of job is getting a visa'

Updated: 2012-08-02 14:47
By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai ( China Daily)

Park Hye-ryoung said she hopes to find work in Shanghai after her graduation from Fudan University, but she wonders about her chances of getting a work visa.

"I know it's difficult to get a Z visa (work visa) in China," said the 24-year-old student from South Korea who will graduate next year.

"Work experience in a big financial institution in Shanghai will boost my career path," she said.

Park is one of many job-hunting foreigners. More than 27 percent of foreign students in universities in Shanghai hope to find employment in China after graduation, according to a recent survey, but most of them are worried about getting a work visa.

The survey was conducted by the culture and education commission under the Shanghai Municipal Committee of the Jiu San Society, one of the eight non-Communist parties in China. Nearly 1,000 foreign students studying in local universities in 2010 were polled.

"We have seen not only a sharp rise in the number of students from Japan and South Korea who are trying to land a local job, but also many from Spain and Italy this year, which was very rare several years ago," said Cao Enyu, business development manager of Getin2China Group, a company in Beijing that helps foreigners get internships and work opportunities in China.

However, some visa requirements, such as at least two years of work experience, are stamping out new graduates' hopes of getting work visas.

Moe Moe Tun, a student from Myanmar who majors in journalism at Fudan University, said that years ago an alumnus returned to Myanmar after graduation and worked there for two years just to meet the job experience requirement. He finally returned to China.

Twenty-two-year-old Moe Moe Tun hopes she won't have to return home. "The journalism industry in my country is not so developed as it is in China. That's the main reason I want to stay here.

"Moreover, the salary (in Myanmar) doesn't compare with what's paid here," she said.

Under Chinese policies, a foreigner must have a job offer from an employer in China before a work visa can be issued.

Not all companies are qualified to hire foreign staff, said Xu Jie, a senior consultant at the international training center of Shanghai Foreign Service Co, a recruitment service provider for overseas businesses in Shanghai.

Qualified companies "must be registered in Shanghai and have assets registered in the city, and the amount of registered assets must meet a certain threshold," Xu said.

Many foreigners can tell painful stories about how frustrated they were when applying for work visa.

"I know foreign people working in China with multiple entry visas for tourists, which means they have to leave the country after 30 days and can't return for another 30 days," said Elyse Stone, who came to China from the United States in 2009.

"Actually, it's common in the expat community. Some companies that are without credentials to employ foreigners give them round-trip tickets to Hong Kong to avoid overstaying the duration of their tourist visas," said Stone, a marketing executive for SinoUnited Health, a physical therapy clinic in Shanghai.

In 2011, the country saw 20,000 cases of foreigners who had illegally entered, stayed or worked in China, according to the Ministry of Public Security. Most of the illegal employment were at language schools.

Marianne, a Frenchwoman who has a travel visa for China, works as a teacher in a language-training center in Shanghai.

"I know I'll be fined and deported if the police find out. My boss once asked me to hide in a storeroom when the police conducted a raid," she said.

Under Chinese regulations, employers may hire foreigners only when "no Chinese candidates are available".

"China has adequate human resources, and every country gives priority in employment to its own citizens," said Cheng Weiming, vice-chairman of the Jiu San Society's Shanghai committee.

However, some adjustments to the regulations would make everybody happy, he said, suggesting the government could issue a one-year work visa to foreigners who are badly needed in high-end industries but do not meet some of the requirements for a long-term work visa.

This will satiate employers' demand for foreign professionals and at the same time help those foreigners to gain the necessary qualifications for long-term work visas.

Shi Jing and Wang Xinwei in Shanghai contributed to this story.