How to apply for a visa in Beijing
Gus Kang and Lily Tang
Foreigners have been having a tough time getting a working visa from Chinese government agencies because the process is too complex and time consuming. But a new procedure announced by the Beijing Public Security Bureau's (PSB) Administration of Entry and Exit Department promises to make applications for visas and residence permits, or their renewals, easier if the applicants follow the regulations properly.
The new procedure, however, exposes the foreigner to some of PRC's tax liabilities.
The November 22, 2004, announcement applies to all types of Chinese visas ("F" Business Visit Visa, "Z" Working Visa", etc.) and both to foreigners and their family members. Since the PSB has not issued a written guideline, an applicant has to depend on the verbal instruction of the bureau officials, all of who may not come up with the same interpretation of the regulations.
Foreigners working in China generally need a "Z" working visa and a residence permit, issued normally for one year, after which it can be renewed. It's mandatory for the foreigner's family members living with him/her in China too to have these documents - though they are no permits for them to hold a job in the country, unless they have got a Working Card or an Employment Permit. Apart from the usual travel papers, such as passports, needed to apply for the "Z" working visa and residence permit, an applicant now has to furnish a number of other documents too.
1) Proof of residence in China - Applicable both to expatriates and their accompanying family members
A letter confirming the residential status - whether permanent or temporary - of the foreigner with his employing company's official stamp has to be issued by the hotel or apartment he/she is staying in. The letter should clearly spell out the full names of the foreigner and his/her family members, if any.
If the foreigner has been occupying a government-approved international estate, a copy of the official approval should be attached with the application, otherwise it has to be notarized by the local police station.
In cases in which a police station's notarization is necessary, the lawkeepers may have to furnish proof that the landlord has paid the tax on his income from rents. But the lack of guidelines may prompt the policemen into seeking information from one another. The police, however, should know that if the landlord has not paid his tax, the visa application process may be delayed or jeopardized. Also, PRC tax regulations say that if the landlord is an overseas enterprise or individual, the tenant automatically becomes his withholding agent, and has to pay the tax on his behalf.
2) Proof of family relations
The family members of a foreigner applying for a visa or residence permit in China need to furnish official documents proving their relationship. These documents have necessarily to be issued by their home country. The spouse has to prove her/his relationship by providing a marriage certificate, and children's kinship can be proved through their birth certificates. All the documents have to be submitted in the original with the application to the PSB. Duplicates/photocopies have to be notarized by the Chinese Embassy in the applicant's home country.
No residence permit booklets
Instead of issuing a separate residence permit booklet, the PSB will now give out a residence approval card, to be attached to the applicant's passport. Residence permits are renewed along with the Z visas and work permits.
Since the State Public Security Bureau has not revised its regulations, the new procedure applies only to those foreigners living and working in Beijing, though some other cities such as Shanghai also demand proof of residence. Rules and regulations for visa and residence applications may, however, differ from city to city and district to district.
Gus Kang is a tax director and Lily Tang, senior tax consultant in Beijing.
(HK Edition 01/04/2005 page16)
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