• Fri
  • Jul 11, 2014
  • Updated: 5:06pm

Longer wait for China residency permits irk foreign firms

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 September, 2013, 10:59am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 September, 2013, 10:59am

Foreign executives in China are upset at a new rule that allows authorities to hold passports for up to 15 working days when processing and renewing residency permits, saying it could disrupt essential business travel within China and abroad.

The changes are evidence to those who argue China is becoming a harder place to do business, especially following a wave of antitrust investigations that some executives contend have singled out foreign firms.

The increased processing time from five working days had prompted a “flood” of complaints from the expatriate community, said Gary Chodorow, a Beijing-based immigration lawyer at Hong Law Offices.

“What concerns companies is profits. When people are grounded they are not doing business. They are not making money,” he said.

The new rules took effect on July 1. Chinese officials have said they aim to deal with the rising flow of foreigners coming to China and to protect national security and social order.

The Ministry of Public Security handles residency applications, which are renewed annually.

Chodorow said the new rules could hamper travel for foreign executives who oversee offices throughout Asia, especially as cities such as Beijing and Shanghai have encouraged multinationals to establish Asia-Pacific headquarters there.

Foreigners are required to show passports when travelling by train or plane within China, and for registering at hotels.

Chodorow said he didn’t believe the government was using the policy to encourage the hiring of more Chinese executives at foreign firms or to make life difficult for multinationals.

“I think it is possible that the concerns of the business community were not anticipated,” he said.

In late August, Qu Yunhai, the deputy director for the Ministry of Public Security’s Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration, said 15 working days was the maximum authorities would hold passports.

He told a news conference individuals could ask for their passports for emergency travel, although it was unclear how that would work outside normal office hours.

Working in China not easy

Foreign executives already have to put up with a host of challenges working in China, from Beijing’s chronic pollution to strict internet censorship, although the country remains a draw because of its strong economy.

China does not appear to have consulted foreign firms or residents before issuing the new rule.

“The current issue with the 15-day wait is that it is too long. For many people living here that need to travel, it is too big of an impediment,” said Adam Dunnett, secretary general of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China.

“There is always something that falls through the cracks or there isn’t an obvious solution for or that somebody didn’t think of. That’s the reason why consultation is helpful ahead of time.”

Despite the maximum period detailed in the regulation, the length of time authorities will hold passports may vary by city, adding to confusion.

A Ministry of Public Security official in Shanghai, China’s commercial capital, said applicants would have to wait “about seven working days”.

Authorities in Beijing as well as the metropolis of Guangzhou in southern China said the 15-day policy was in effect.

“People grumble, but it’s just accepted as yet another hassle to doing business in China,” said one British executive in the financial services industry in Beijing, who declined to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media. 


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This article is now closed to comments

A 15-day wait for your passport back in China is comparatively nothing and people shouldn't ****.
British passport holders wishing to renew their passports now face renewal procedures requiring them to surrender and lose the use of their current passports for at least one month, if they live overseas.
"...to hold passports for up to 15 working days..." You are talking about China, where anything is possible.
Foreign businessmen should make a strong appeal to their home government to apply the same visa requirements to all Chinese nationals.
Make Chinese businessmen experience the same "red tape" that foreign businessmen experience in China.
idiots! I've renewed my work visa in China 8 times, and I've traveled extensively within China whilst my passport was at the Gong-An. Take 3 things with you and you won't have any problem: 1- a photocopy of your passport and old work visa, 2- your Alien Employment Permit (which looks like a passport), 3- your receipt from the PSB (gong-an) showing your visa is under application. VOILA ! no travel or hotel restrictions within China.
I just got my visa renewed in Beijing and this was a major hassle. You get a receipt from the PSB that should be okay for hotels but the place I usually stay in Shanghai wouldn't accept it.
What the article doesn't mention is that the PSB are advising that next year you need to apply for a new visa 30 days in advance ... meaning one month without a passport.
Mine is due renewal late December, I guess that's my Christmas holiday ruined.
Moving to HK would not help company execs, the point is you need to move around China a lot. Face to face meetings are far more valuable here than in other parts of the world due to the less formal way of doing business. If you have no passport that is no train tickets, no flying and no hotels. Even if you have a second passport you will still have hotel problems as they need to send a scan of your visa to the local police.
When I still worked in the corporate business, I said many years ago 'Don't hastily move your corporate HQ from HK or Singapore to China. There will be trouble, because China does not play well with others, and despite the shiny outside, is still a backwater'. As with many other things, I am proven right again:)
just get out of China or run your biz out of HK... or do it the Chinese way, grease somebody..!!! if you have been in China long enough you should know that the rules are there for the officials to fill up their wallet..
This one of the fundamental differences between China and other places. Referring to people a foreigners an offensive term versus foreign nationals.
Next is the annual visa/residence permit thing. In most other countries people on an employment visa would have the option to apply for permanent residency after a few years with a realistic chance of obtaining it. In China only a few people of all that have applied have been successful. The reality is that the Chinese government doesn't want new ideas flowing into the country even though it could help build a stronger and more diverse economy.
Working and doing business in Beijing for sure is not getting easier. The welcome has ran out. Also, if you read the latest updates on what documents are required to get through to obtain work permit and Z-visa (or something alike), be prepared for a rude awakening. Some of the new requirements will be nearly impossible for some to fulfill. Embassies are no longer allowed to produce some of the documents while for many long-term expats, this is the only place to get them. Questions raised on what it means to produce a "no criminal record" are left open – the US actually cannot produce such documents. Etc. Good luck to the newcomers.




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