Since I am coming up to the end of a contract and I decided not to renew, I am traveling back in time to a situation when I did not have the nice and tidy Z Visa all taken care of, but rather had to find relationships and companies and money to keep my Visa current.
The Visa situation in China has always been one of constant flux. I came on a 3 month Tourist (L) Visa and after that three months, I was able to find an organization which would help me change to a Business (F) Visa for a fee. Essentially, what they did was that they told the police that they were helping me go to markets and export something...when actually, they were just selling Visas.
My first summer in China was my first trip to Hong Kong and I was going to Hong Kong to go for fun, but also I was going to renew my Visa...it was too hot for much fun. I took the 24 hour train down to Hong Kong and met another American man who was traveling down to Hong Kong to do the same thing. My plan was to get a 6 month F Visa and then travel back into Beijing. However, when I arrived in Hong Kong...things had changed.
In retaliation to America requiring all international travelers to give fingerprints at their point of entry, the Chinese government required all Americans getting a visa of more than one month to leave the country every 30 days, which would be nothing for someone living in Guang Zhou, but in Beijing there is no border for days, so I ended up getting a one month tourist visa and changing it once again in Beijing.
As of some date in April, the Chinese government has made some serious changes to the Visa system. There is no more F Visa after July 31 and they are not renewing the Student (X) Visa of international students until something like October....so they have to go home. I have tons of friends who are searching high and low for some sort of way to stay in China, but to no avail. Soon, there will be many foreigners leaving China because they have no other option. Hong Kong businessmen are making some noise about the new situation because they have no idea when they will be able to get a Visa to come and do business and there is no "transparency" to the whole process.
So has the situation really changed? Surprisingly, the answer that I conclude from the whole business is NO. Realistically speaking, the whole situation is the same, just inflated. Companies with relationships with the Visa office are setting up programs for people to "study" for a couple months for the fee of 10,000 rmb and they only have to attend a couple of classes. The requirement in Hong Kong is that a person must have a hotel reservation in China and a plane ticket to China....which can be manufactured for a price...so the situation has not changed, just the price has been inflated.
One thing that has changed, which I heard about yesterday, is that landlords have to register their apartment in a special way to be able to hold foreigners and foreigners have to tell the police when they are leaving the country and when they return, like businessmen have time to run downtown and talk to their local police every time they need to take a trip. For the majority of foreigners that I work with, who have no idea how to take care of any issue in China without their Ayi or the Human Resources Department, the problem will be very large...but they will get HR to do it for them, I am sure.
I will find a way to get my issues taken care of, I hope...but we will have to see what happens to the rules between now and tomorrow.
Reply to comments: Jeff - I would say that it is getting worse that when you were here. I know you had your incident near the Lidu, which was bad, but things are getting worse the more foreigners that come in. Did you read about the American that was beaten outside of Carrafour?
Ashley - Don't thing we will make it to Europe soon. Things have really changed her recently, that is true. Steve still works at the Korean School and he is getting married in July to a girl from Wuhan, with whom he has been living for a long time. Lots of the teachers from the Korean school are having to get out of town soon. How is Germany? We are taking a new adventure soon...
Teresa - We have traveled different paths to China and around, so we will have different perspectives. I remember what I was feeling at the beginning of my stay, the first two years is "expert" time. But, if those Fengtai people are really from Beijing, they are not poor - though they might be extremely cheap. I found out yesterday that one of the nastiest little apartment areas in Wang Jing is known to be a compound of millionaires...they all had big farms before. The "Wai Di" people are often poor cause they have to work for little and pay rent. Wai Di means "outsider" and only Beijingers use it in Beijing. I think that Shanghai people use it in Shanghai... I will also say that the insulation that people get by coming to China with a company or school keeps them safe and secure from problems...enjoy that, but know lots of people who come on their own or with lesser companies have to deal with a lot that gets them pretty disappointed about life here. Here is a story that happens everyday...Foreigner rents apartment, rent is due, gives to landlord (28,000), landlord's sister comes and asks for more money saying her sister has no right to previous money, apartment owner is actually grandma, lease is with one sister but other wants to give to grandma (so she says), they all go to police maybe 5 times, foreigner has to go to court... This was not me by the way.