Due to the rapid development of the Chinese economy, the number of foreign students wanting to do their internships in China are increasing. Another factor is the evident increase in living standards in China due to the western influence and globalization. Growing numbers of foreigners are coming to China for internships in the hope of improving their careers and gain experience. However in China, there is no official “internship visa.” Instead, interns may find themselves being shunted onto a number of different visas. But which of these methods are allowed? Is there a 100% legal way to work in China as an intern? Which Visa Allows Foreigners to Do an Internship in China? Here is a guide on how to do an internship with the right visa in China.
Which Visa Allows Foreigners to Do an Internship in China?
First of all, yes, there is a legal way to work in China as an intern and no, it does not matter whether your internship is paid or unpaid because China does allow both types of internships. The Chinese government just does not provide specific “internship visas.”
The internship situation in China is extremely complex and ambiguous. Until July 2013, China actually allowed foreigners to come to China just for an internship with an F visa. However, due to the fact that too many people were taking advantage of this visa and not paying any taxes while earning money, the government banned them.
Another reason the government banned such visas is to protect the young local Chinese. After graduating from university and finding a good white-collar job in China is actually very hard and the competition is extremely high. The last thing the Chinese government wants is for foreigners to take such jobs away from the local Chinese.
Thus, currently, the only way for foreigners to do a legal internship in China is only if they are enrolled in a Chinese university. It cannot be a language school as you will need an official letter from your university in China that proves that an internship is compulsory for your academic studies. Moreover, your internship has to be related to your field of study. You cannot be studying fashion in China and work as an intern at a law firm.
For example, in Shanghai, there is an “agreement” between the prestigious universities and the Entrance and Exit Bureau. Foreign students enrolled in universities such as Fudan University, Jiaotong University, and Tongji University are able to receive these letters/permission from the visa bureau easier compared to other universities.
Currently there are two types of views. Firstly, there are those Chinese people who have a favorable view on internships and believe that internships are considered part of the university’s academic program. They believe that as globalization progresses, in order to gain more outside knowledge and insight, hiring foreign interns is the best way to go. Furthermore, they believe that foreign students ought to have the same equal rights as the Chinese students and be able to freely apply for internships. However, there are also those who have a dissenting opinion. They argue that the boundaries of internships and foreign students working is extremely vague and could be dangerous. Therefore allowing foreign students to conduct internships means, to a certain extent, allowing them to work without work permit that is contrary to the essence of the Rules for the Administration of Employment of Foreigners in China.
After the Chinese government banned the F visa, many foreigners are trying to find loopholes in the system and still come to China and gain internship experience. Below is an explanation of some of the main visas issued by the Chinese government available to foreigners:
Business F/M Visa
As mentioned previously, until July 2013, the F Visa was the primary option for those coming to China on a business-related internship. That year, however, the internship function was split off into the M Visa. While some companies do still issue F Visas for business internships, the official method is to use an M Visa. This visa allows the bearer to be paid for their internship. However, in reality it is extremely hard to attain an M visa because you are required to provide an invitation letter issued by a registered Chinese company or a registered organization. Thus the applicant must have an impressive resume and a high level of Chinese in order to reach out to such registered Chinese companies and organizations. Despite the fact that many foreigners try to use these business visas to work in China, this is in fact, illegal. If you want to legally work in China, you need a Work visa (Z visa).
Student X1/X2 Visa
Student visas are divided into X1 and X2. X1 is issued to foreigners who come to China for studying purposes, advanced studies, or fieldwork for more than 6 months. X2 is issued to foreigners who come to China with same purposes but for a period of less than 6 months. X1 visas are mainly used by universities, colleges and official Chinese institutions, whereas X2 visas are usually issued by Chinese language schools, and short-term study programs. If you are studying in China with an X1 visa, you are allowed to perform internships or paid work provided you first submit an internship application to your school and obtain their approval (students with X2 visas are not allowed to apply). You must then go to the Entry and Exit Bureau and your city’s main Public Security Bureau to update your residence permit with details on the location you are working/interning at and the period of time that you will be employed for along with the official letter from your university.
Work Z visa
A work visa is required for foreigners wanting to work in China and receive a salary. It is only granted if you and the employer meet certain requirements. First, the organization must be accredited to employ foreigners. You must meet the requirements as a “foreign expert” and the employer must obtain a certificate stating that you comply. The most common employment is teaching English for which the minimum qualifications are stated as having English as a first language and having at least a Bachelor’s degree and two year teaching experience. So if you are trying to do an internship with a Z visa, might as well find a full-time job in China and gain experience that way.
Tourist L visa
Do not perform internships on a Tourist Visa! Note that it is absolutely illegal to perform internships on a tourist visa under any circumstance. This is regarded as working illegally in China and if caught, you will be fined, may have to spend jail time, and then be deported back to your home country. After being deported, in severe cases, you will not be able to enter China for ten years or even be denied entrance for the rest of your life.
After reading these facts, it may seem that China is overreacting and is making a big deal regarding internships. However, it is imperative to keep in mind that most countries in Asia do not share the same views when it comes to internships as opposed to the west. In western countries nowadays, it is very common for university students to have at least one internship experience by the time he or she graduates from university. On the other hand, it is only until recent that Asian countries such as China, Japan, and South Korea have started implementing internship programs for their local citizens. Thus, when it comes to foreigners doing internships in their countries, they are less flexible and still need some time to adjust and get familiar with the idea and benefits that come along with hiring foreign interns.