Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Don't always believe what you read...or, what things say is not what they mean

If I had to find out that there's an issue with my visa to be in China I'm glad I found out now and not a day or two before it expires. That's something to be grateful about.

I have an F visa, issued to business people or people here on a cultural exchange, with permission for multiple entries. The period of time on my visa is one year - it expires January 17, 2009. The visa also states the 'duration of each stay.' The duration listed on my visa is 120 days. My experience with the English language and various legal documents had led me to believe that this actually meant that I could stay here up to 120 days each time I came into the country. Naive me.

While talking with some other laowai (foreigners) recently I learned that this language actually means I am allowed in China up to 120 days in total on this visa. When I come back here after going to visit the U.S. in May I will apparently only be able to legally stay here for another couple of weeks, not another 120 days. In addition, I am told the Chinese government is no longer issuing F visas that allow people to be here after mid-July. F visas allow visitors to do things (start a business, etc.) that holders of tourist or student visas are not allowed to do. After the Olympics the visa office will resume business as usual but for now they are limiting the Fs.

This means that I am going to be limited in my job-hunting to looking at companies that will be able to sponsor me for a Z visa, used for foreigners who are working here legally. I don't expect it to be a problem but it does limit my options.

Like I said, better to find out now that three months from now.

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