China immigration issues

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The visa requirements for companies providing goods and services for events in China are outlined for MEI readers by ASG Immigration's Cameron Stone.

As a major player on the international stage, China is no stranger to large–scale events. In addition to holding the largest sporting event on the calendar, the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China hosted the 2009 Shanghai Formula One Grand Prix and is currently hosting the ATP Tennis Masters, also in Shanghai. Coming up are the 2010 World Expo and the 2011 FINA World Swimming Championships, both to be held in Shanghai. In addition to international visitors coming to watch these major events, there are many visitors arriving for the purpose of temporarily supplying goods or services to the spectators, event participants, journalists and everybody else participating in the event. General visa requirements for large–scale eventsEntry requirements for people providing goods and services at major events can vary significantly for different countries. Work permission is generally required if a person is to work in a foreign country, however, short periods of work can sometimes be allowed on visit (non–work) visas. It is also the case that special arrangements can be made for large–scale events, such as the 2010 World Expo. China's visa requirements China generally requires all persons entering the country to obtain a visa first (Bruneian, Japanese and Singaporean nationals can obtain a visa allowing a 15–day stay upon arrival). In terms of business visits, China's 'Business Visit' visa is similar to that in most countries–activities permitted include market research, attending meetings, conferences and exhibitions, delivering lectures or presentations and short–term study not exceeding six months. Single, double and multiple–entry visas can be issued. This visa is appropriate for business persons looking first to enter China to discuss or negotiate the provision of goods or services at a major event. Generally speaking, holders of the Business Visit visa are not permitted to work. After entering China as 'Work' visa holders, an employment permit is required for persons undertaking work in China. A residence permit must also be obtained. Business persons from certain countries considering visiting China to research accessing the opportunities provided by major events should also be aware that the 'APEC (Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation) Business Travel Card' removes the need to apply for Business Visit visas for nationals of participating countries. China (with Hong Kong) is an APEC member country and a member of the Business Travel Card scheme, as are the following countries: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand and Vietnam. Holders of APEC cards also enjoy fast–track arrival and departure procedures at airports. China's visa requirements for suppliers for large–scale eventsWhen it comes to large scale events, China is strict with visa requirements. An example of this was seen with changes to certain visa requirements for the Beijing Olympics, which caused considerable uncertainty for business travellers to China at the time. In April 2008, in the lead–up to the Olympics, the Chinese authorities stipulated that for Business Visit visa applications the required invitation letter could only be issued by a Chinese government organisation, whereas previously an invitation letter from the company or organisation sponsoring the visa holder's visit was sufficient. Also, during this period it was often the case that only single entry Business Visit visas were issued, allowing only short stays. Valid reasons and sufficient evidence were required to obtain a visa with more than one entry, particularly for Beijing. This policy remained in place for a period of some weeks after the torch was extinguished at the closing ceremony. As mentioned above, in terms of temporary entry for people providing goods and services at major events, a Business Visit visa is not the most appropriate visa. Obtaining full permission to work in China is quite an involved process and requires administrative procedures to be undertaken in China both before and after the actual visa allowing entry for work purposes is obtained at the relevant embassy outside China. The Chinese authorities can, however, make things easier for business entrants wanting to participate in big events. Although yet to be officially announced, at the time of writing Chinese government sources indicate that the Shanghai authorities are likely to have an arrangement in place to facilitate the entry of foreign suppliers for the purpose of providing goods and services at the World Expo coming up in May next year. This arrangement is likely to require foreign suppliers to obtain a Business Visit visa first, then enter China and apply to obtain permission to undertake work from the Shanghai authorities, with verification from the World Expo organisation itself. This would represent a significant reduction in red tape for foreign suppliers compared with the usual process of applying to undertake work in China. Cameron Stone works for ASG Immigration Limited in London and advises on global immigration as its International Specialist. He is a qualified Australian immigration adviser (MARN 0853023) and can be contacted on +44 (0) 20 7299 3330 or via e–mail at cameron@asgvisa. com. This article is not intended to be a complete statement of the law relating to the subject matter. Advice should always be taken on specific matters and no responsibility can be accepted by ASG Immigration Limited for action taken based on the content of this article.

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