China’s new entry-exit laws for foreigners

Chinese Law

The first overhaul of Chinese immigration laws since 1986 promises to include some of the most severe punishments for unwelcome foreigners to date. Don’t panic just yet, though; these provisions won’t go into effect until July 2013, so there is plenty of time to think about getting legal and paying a visit to your local embassy, police station, or public safety bureau.

The following article outlines the current measures related to foreign employees in China that were decided by the 27th session of the 11th National People’s Congress Standing Committee. After several deliberations, the standing committee decided that it was time to cut through the red tape and do something about all those job grabbing, language and culture class taking illegal foreigners. But foreign employees aren’t the only ones who should be aware: companies who hire foreigners can suffer too, and receive major financial or legal blows in the forms of fees and prison time.

New measures for foreign employees

On June 30, a decision was made at the 27th session of the 11th National People’s Congress Standing Committee to change the length of foreigner work permits. The current shortest time for non-employment residence permits has been shortened from 180 days to 90 days.  Additionally, more extreme punishments for people who “accidentally” overstay their welcome face fees of up to 10,000 RMB (up 5,000 RMB from the original fee) or 5-15 days imprisonment.

Employers of illegal foreign employees can also face similar charges (10,000-100,000 RMB for every illegal employee and imprisonment).  How severe or thoroughly these laws will be carried out isn’t too clear, but better be safe than sorry.  So those of you who are still working on your student visas from 1999, it’s time to stop partying like its 1999 and start getting legal like its 2013!

Who should be worried?

These measures will go into effect starting July 1 2013, giving you a heap of time to think of which school you’ve been studying Chinese at for the past 5 years.  According to stated rules, regular non-employment visas shall be issued and regulated by the State Council.  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently responsible for issuing visas and keeping tabs on foreigners.  But the system was so spread out over so many areas, that the state council decided it was time to get serious, and what time would be better than following the 100 day crackdown.

Foreigners who plan on entering the country to work should plan on following the legal guidelines to obtain a worker’s license and residency permit, so head on over to your local “alien examination” bureau today.  All work units and individual employers are not allowed to employ foreigners without both of these items.  The good news is that a new “talent” visa system will be open to foreign talent entering China.  So what if you haven’t played piano since 3rd grade, you’ve been meaning to get back into the music scene anyway, right?  Or better yet, try to become the next big thing on Chinese television, like Da Shan or Cao Cao.

Long-term residency, talented foreigners and witch hunts

This law is related to the issue of whether foreigners who work or perform some other service that contributes to the development of China should, with the correct applications and approval of the Ministry of Public Security, obtain permanent or long-term residency status.  So even if you have helped to build 100 orphanages, are the best English teacher in China, or are the funniest token “lao wai” on television, it may be wise to get the legal chops to back up your achievements.

According to current legal regulations, the Public Security administration and other national security authorities can restrict foreign companies or individuals from obtaining residency status and can restrict the movement of those companies and individuals who already have residency permits.  Thinking about riding a gallant steed through the grasslands of Mongolia for your next holiday? Not without the correct authority’s permission.

Those companies who hire foreign employees and those schools who admit international study abroad students are very much encouraged to follow current regulations and report their actions to the correct authorities.  Citizens have also been encouraged to “report clues” of any illegal aliens they may suspect.  While we sincerely hope that this 100-day crackdown does not turn into the Salem/China witch trials of 2012, we do encourage you to get your paper work in order and adhere to Chinese law.

Consequences for illegal residency

According to the current law, those foreigners who are working and do not adhere to the proper guidelines, or are in some other way in direct violation of the residency regulations can be expelled from the country at any time.  While these actions do not constitute any type of serious criminal title, the consequences are serious.  All decisions by the Ministry of Public Security are final, including those decisions to deport foreigners.  Those foreigners, who are expelled from China, cannot enter the country 10 years after the original deportation date.

Furthermore, these laws also extend towards the entrance and exit of foreigners within border areas with other nations.  Entrance and exit to these bordering nations are only allowed with the approval of the Ministry of the State Council and bordering nations’ adjacent public safety authorities. Counties and autonomous areas of other nations can refer to public safety, visa, transit, and other related laws of China in terms of foreigner travel between the two countries.  So, if your main strategy was to keep renewing your tourist visa at the border every few months or year, it may be time to start rethinking that strategy. Kazakhstan may not be there for you in the end, and we doubt North Korea will be of much help either.



Categories: Education & Employment

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5 replies

  1. hi , i hope you dont mind me putting a link to your article, from my article Teacher from New Zealand moonlighting Physician from Germany. it was also about employment of foreign people in China


  2. it a great reform in chinese laws but i think some thing can also be done to those illegal foreigners….All illegal foreigners or overstayed foreigners visas should be renew ,giving them the right permits to work and also any foreigner working should pay tax to increase the tax base of china….America did this and it has help to fight illegal foreigners.give all overstayed foreigners another chance…..God bless china



  1. Visa rules tighten for foreigners in China; 10 years expulsion « China Daily Mail
  2. Teacher from New Zealand moonlighting Physician from Germany « Chloe's Blog
  3. July 10 2012 China Daily Mail Headlines (July 5-10) « Craig Hill

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