Chinese Temporary Residence Permit
Some visas, most notably Work, Student and Long Stay Journalist visas (Z, X, J-1) are initially for 30 days and zero entries. It allows you to enter the process of obtaining a Temporary Residence Permit, usually for up to 5 years depending on the contract or course length. Unlike the initial visa, the Permit will allow you unlimited exits and re-entries.
In reality, the Temporary Residence Permit is a visa by another name. It is pasted into your passport exactly like a visa and looks almost the same.
If you arrive on a work or student visa you will be working for an accredited employer of foreigners or attending an academic institution accredited for running courses for foreigners. Long stay journalists will also have an organization they are linked to. Only these places can provide the support you need to get these visas. These organizations have staff who know the system and will take responsibility for organizing the application - although they will need your input and cooperation.
You are required to commence application at the local Public Security Bureau (PSB) Exit and Entry Administration office within 30 days of your entry into the China Mainland, but don’t go travelling for 29 days and expect to get it the next day! Apart from anything else, you need to get to know the person who will be handling your application and learn to work together. If you are new to China you need to learn the style of management and administration. Even with the best intentions on both sides, cultural differences can cause difficulties, so try and be patient.
Within 24 hours of arrival you should try to ensure that your organization (usually someone from its Foreign Affairs Office) creates an appointment to take you to the police station for the area you will be living in to register you as a resident in their area. This is a legal requirement. Don't panic if the organization waits a couple of days. Ensure that you take your passport and be prepared to explain your entries and exits; the interviewing officers are usually friendly and helpful, but in all situations be polite as the officer has considerable power over your application. They will supply an 'accommodation registration printout' which you will need for the residency permit.
Persons applying for residency are required to attend a physical examination at an authorized medical centre. Again, your organization should assist you with this. You may be responsible for paying the examination fee as well as the application for the residency permit, (expect 600 to 1000 RMB for the two). Remember to fast for 12 hours before the physical, drinking water only.
Education institutions will provide students with documentation showing that the institution is accredited, that the student has been properly enrolled, and has paid the fees. Employers will provide a copy of the contract of employment (in Chinese and English), evidence of their right to employ foreigners, plus a letter of invitation and your certificate as a 'foreign expert'. If possible, ask the organization you are joining to seek an expiry date some weeks after the contract or study ends – this saves applying for a another visa immediately and provides more time to organize an extension should you stay on for a further period. Some will agree, but not all. It’s possible the PSB office might not agree to you having the residency beyond the contract or study period.
Once all this has been collected, your organization will arrange an interview with the local PSB office to which you will need to take:
• Accommodation registration printout from the police
• Physical examination results
• Employment or student documentation (from your organization, as explained in the previous paragraph)
• The fee.
Processing the residency application itself is likely to take at least 14 days. If you have an efficient organization and PSB office, it is possible to get the Temporary Residence Permit within 3 weeks or your arrival, although 6 weeks is more typical. You should note that during this time (except when your passport is with the PSB) you are permitted to exit the China mainland, but you can’t re-enter unless you get another visa which would automatically cancel the old one and thus you would need to start the process all over again. So don’t plan to travel outside the Mainland immediately after you arrive. When your permit is being processed you won’t have your passport but can use your Foreign Expert Certificate (a small booklet) and carry a photocopy of your passport for things such as hotel registration.
Many visas require a health check. The physical examination is generally required for visas having a duration of greater than 6 months in a single visit. The first part of the form is where you make certain declarations about your health. The second part must be completed by a doctor and is normally done in China in nominated medical locations in major municipalities. If you decide to undergo the medical examination before leaving your home, ensure that you bring the chest X-rays with you.
You may be rejected for a visa or temporary residency if you have had certain illnesses. Serious mental disorder, infectious pulmonary tuberculosis, or other infectious diseases which could be a public health hazard are the most obvious ones. As a developing country, China has less facilities available for the disabled.
Renewing a Temporary Residency Permit
If you remain with the same organization they will arrange the residency extension. If possible try to decide you are continuing well in advance of the end of your current contract or study period so that it can be sorted out before it expires.
Changing Educational Institution or Employer
If you want to study at a different educational institution or work for another employer, it is possible to do so without having to start from the absolute beginning and get a new visa. The first criterion is that you must do this while the existing Temporary Residency Permit is valid. The new organization must be eligible in the same way and must obtain all the new paperwork. There can be difficulties if the old organization will not co-operate or objects. Realistically, a lot will depend on the new organization as it will have to lead and manage the situation.