As the number of foreigners visiting, residing and working in China has steadily increased over the past decade, China determined there was a need to modernize immigration laws that were passed more than 25 years ago. 

At the beginning of May, the Chinese government issued draft regulations (Regulations) to implement the new Entry-Exit Administration Law (Law). The Law was issued by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee in 2012 and will take effect on July 1, 2013. The Regulations provide further details of how the new requirements under the Law, which provides a general framework, are to be implemented.  

Tightened Enforcement of Immigration Compliance by Foreigners

The Law tightens up oversight of compliance by foreigners with Chinese immigration laws, stipulating increased fines and penalties for both individuals and employers for unauthorized work and overstays. The Regulations provide further details regarding what constitutes unauthorized work and overstays. 

The Regulations define unauthorized work as including the following:

  • Foreigners working in China without a valid work permit and residence permit, unless an exemption is obtained.
  • Foreigners working for companies that didn’t sponsor their work permits.
  • Foreigners working in locations other than the location where their work permit sponsor is registered.
  • Foreign students working without authorization or beyond the scope of school-related, campus work.

The Regulations define overstays as including the following:

  • Foreigners who stay in China beyond the allowed duration of stay indicated on their visa or residence permit.
  • Foreigners who entered China with a visa waiver and stay beyond the allowed duration of stay.
  • Foreigners who travel or stay outside areas where they are allowed to travel or stay.

Changes to Types of Visas

The Regulations set out a couple of changes to existing visa categories:

  • M visas will cover business and trade activities, which are currently covered under the F category. F visas will be limited to scientific, educational, cultural, health, sports and other non-commercial activities.
  • R visas will be available for professional workers and senior-level managers who are urgently needed in China. R1 visas will allow long-term residence for durations of up to five years. R2 visas will permit stays as long as six months. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security will indicate positions that qualify for the R visa.

Punishment for Immigration Related Violations

The Law provides authorities with enhanced enforcement powers, requiring foreigners to provide biometric data when applying for residence permits, authorizing body searches of foreigners entering or exiting China, imposing increased reporting requirements for employers and allowing the detention of foreigners during investigations of violations.

The Law also increases penalties and fines for violations, and the Regulations add to this aspect:

  • The maximum fine for providing fraudulent or fake immigration documents is RMB2,000.
  • If a foreigner is deported and cannot bear the costs of deportation, the employer or sponsor will be held liable for such costs.