Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bureaucratic misadventures when obtaining a work permit in Tianjin, China

Assume that:
  • you are in China on a tourist visa, and
  • you have a 30-day tourist visa, and
  • you have received an employment offer from a Tianjin firm.

After fumbling about, you find out the general structure of the application process:
  • Apply for a license for a working visa
  • Apply for an notification letter to allow a working visa
  • Return to Kuala Lumpur, and apply for a 30-day working visa using the aforementioned license and approval document
  • Upon entry to China, apply for a work permit
  • Using the work permit, apply for a residence permit so that you can stay for more than 30 days

License for application of working visa

To obtain this license, you need to get a medical examination from the immigration department's hospital.
Hence you go to the immigration department's hospital. They tell you that you need a license for application of working visa before they can give you a medical examination. WTF.

Oh shit, a paradox. A snake eating its own tail. A perpetual motion machine.

You whine rant to your manager. The manager talks to a few people, and the immigration's hospital agrees to allow you to be given a medical examination despite not having a license of application of working visa.

You do your medical examination, and complete the paperwork.

5 working days after the submission, you get the coveted license for application of working visa. You have now levelled up- you are allowed to apply for a working visa, yay!

Notification letter to allow a working visa

Of course, the embassy will not flippantly approve working visa applications lest China suffers an influx of talented professionals.

So the embassy will require a formal notice from the province government before they will approve a visa application.

To apply for this notification letter, you will need to go to the Labour and Public Security Bureau with some forms you printed from the department's website. There, a surly looking woman will tell you that you need to get approval from the city/town government office before coming to the province level department.

You need to fill up the form on their website, and submit it. Wait for one working day while someone at the other end of the line proofreads your submission. Upon approval, download the completed form and print it out. Bring the form and supporting documents to the city/town labour department for their approval.

They will slyly tell you that you actually need photocopies of documents that were not specified, thus requiring you to make another trip.

After the stamp is obtained, you can now apply for a notification letter to allow a working visa.

You bring the stamped form back to the provincial-level Labour and Public Security Bureau, where the surly looking woman has changed to a slightly pleasant lady. She will tell you the network is down, so please come back tomorrow. Tell her you'd wait a while in hopes the network is restored.

The network gets restored, and you apply for your notification letter. She prints out a formal looking document for you.

Congratulations, your future application for a Working Visa will have a higher chance of getting approved!

Visa applications

You return to Kuala Lumpur to apply for a working visa. One of the important considerations is that you have sufficient assets to show that you will not starve. The minimum balance in your bank account is to be RM 3000.

You ought to be pissed off now. So, the best thing you can do is to find the account with the biggest balance. Your Public Mutual investments have RM [omitted] in them, but you cannot get the balance sheet in the blink of an eye. So look for your BT Investments' online balance sheet, and show them the AU$ [omitted] you have in there.

You hand over the required documents to the embassy 2 weeks in advance. Curiously, they ask you when you will be flying into China. You tell them the 14th of June.

The embassy bounces the application back at you.

“Too early,” they say, “come back in 4 days time.”

Curse at them, but do not neglect to swear at their grandmothers as well.

When you finally get your working visa, check the validity period. It will be invalid on 15th of June, one day after your estimated entry to China. Hence you cannot change your flight.

This time, swear at their grandfathers.

Entry to China

Upon entry to China, you need to register yourself with the local police. Bring your passport, a photograph, your residential rental agreement, and a photocopy of the landlord's identity card. The police will issue a foreigner residence registration document.

Applying for a work permit

Bring your passport, employment contract, foreigner residence registration document and medical examination results to the Tianjin Human Resource Bureau.

One week after submission, pay the processing fee of 600 Yuan and then collect the work permit.

Applying for a residence permit

The working visa only allows you to stay for 30 days, thus you need to apply for a residence permit to extend the period to 1 year.

Go to the provincial Immigration Department, find the relevant form and fill it up. Queue up at the counters, noting the slow pace of work.

When you see an officer, she will tell you that you need to get photographs taken at their photograph booth because they need the electronic copy, and then go for an interview with an officer, then come back to submit your application.

This is another good time to be pissed off.

Queue up to pay for the photograph's fee of 50 Yuan, noting the counter attendant's bored and can't-be-fucked look. (aside: he literally cannot be fucked- anyone trying to get boned by him will be immediately turned off and lose all sex drive) Get your mugshot taken, collect the prints and then queue up outside Room 103. The area outside Room 103 is an unmistakably dingy corner located next to the toilets.

The officer in Room 103 will have a quick discussion with you. Satisfied that you are not a terrorist and you have valid reasons for entry, he sign an approval form for you.

Take this document (and the photographs) to the application counter and queue up. When it's your turn, remember to submit the documents.

Return to the Immigration Department in one week, pay 800 Yuan and you have completed your quest to work in Tianjin.

Now you will ask yourself, “why am I working in China?”

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