Step 4: Work (Z) Visa

In order to enter and stay in China, all foreigners need a visa.  There are many different types of visas including a tourist (L) visa, business (F) visa, student (X) visa, and transit (G) visas.  These visas are geared for specific types of visitors, allowing for different lengths of stay and permitting different activities.

My plans called for me to get a work visa, also known as a Z-Visa.  The visa itself is a small formal certificate that gets pasted into my passport.  This allows me to enter China for purposes of long-term (1-year) employment. 

This is an example of a Z-Visa certificate (not mine).  This gets fixed in your passport.

This is an example of a Z-Visa certificate (not mine). This gets fixed in your passport.

As I mentioned in Step 3, in order to get a work visa in China, I needed two special documents from Tsinghua University.  Those documents were 1) an Invitation Letter to prove that I did in fact have an employer in China; 2) a Work Permit that to prove that the government would allow me to apply for a Foreign Expert’s Certificate once I entered the country.  I spent all of Step 3 giving Tsinghua University all of the information they needed to secure these two documents.  When I received them, I had everything I needed from them to apply for the visa.

To apply for a visa, you need to assemble the following documents:

  1. Application form
  2. Declaration form
  3. Passport
  4. Two Passport Photos (Walgreens Stop #3!)
  5. Employer Invitation Letter
  6. Work Permit

It is then your choice to either go to a Chinese consulate near (or not near) you in person.  Or you can pay a visa service to do the in-person work on your behalf.  Given that I was in the craziness of summer and given that Chicago has the closest Chinese consulate, I chose the later option. 

I went with an online service called Visa Express.  I filled out their online order form and paid about $200 ($150 for consulate fee and $50 for their service fee) to rush it.  The reason I rushed it was because it was getting to be late-July and I wanted to buy a plane ticket knowing that I would have the visa.  Again, I also had to use secure mail (another $20) to send them everything.

I highly recommend Visa Express as a visa service.

I highly recommend Visa Express as a visa service.

About 24 hours later, I checked online and found that my visa had been processed successfully and that it would ship back to me the next day.  That night I called Tian to celebrate and ordered my plane ticket.  Another day later I received the passport and visa in the mail.  Everything suddenly became official!

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