*This is intended for Americans who are moving to China for long-term work.
My husband landed a job teaching just outside of Shanghai earlier this year. The process of applying for our family’s visas has been a long one, but we finally made it and have our tickets to our new home booked! I found a lot of misleading, hazy, and just incorrect information on how to get visas for dependents of someone entering China on a Z visa. It’s much easier than I initially thought, but the lack of coherent information made me insane while I was scrambling to get all the necessary documents together before some very important and quickly approaching deadlines.
The Z visa is for those intending to work in China. You will get a Z visa if you’ve been hired by a company or school in China that intends to keep you long-term (longer than 6 months). To get the Z visa, you first have to go through the process of getting several documents authenticated and legalized so your hiring company or school can apply for your Chinese work permit. Once your work permit is approved or released, you’ll also get an invitation letter, a copy of the hiring company’s business license, and a family invitation letter if you intend to bring dependent, non-working family members with you to China. I go into detail about the legalization and authentication process in another post.
Once you have all the documents required to apply for your visa, you’ll want to contact a visa service. I have used VisaExpress for every visa I’ve ever needed for China, and they have always been very quick and easy to work with. I highly recommend calling the visa service you intend to use before compiling your information just to make sure you have everything you need. My experience has taught me that HR people do NOT always know the correct procedure for US citizens applying for work visas. The people that work at a company that specializes in getting visas processed know exactly what is needed for your specific situation.
*If you have been hired by a company or school in China that wants you to enter the country on a tourist visa, do not accept the job. This means that they do not have the credentials needed to get you what you need to be able to work legally in China. A Z visa (work visa) will be turned into a residence permit once you enter China. You should only be applying for a Z visa if you’re hired to work in China. Do not take your chances with Chinese law.
Required Documents for the Z Visa
The person applying for a Z visa needs the following documents:
- Original passport
- A passport photo
- Copy of Chinese work permit
- Invitation letter from the hiring company
- Copy of the hiring company’s business license
- Visa application form
There is only one form for all Chinese visas, and I have posted it above for you. Do not go frantically searching for a “Z Visa Application” like I did.
Required Documents for Dependents
Each dependent needs to fill out his or her own visa application form. Technically, the dependents can’t apply for a Z visa because they will not be working in China, but a visa application is still necessary. Again, each person that is moving to China MUST fill out a separate visa application form. Here is what each dependent needs:
- Original passport
- Passport photo
- Family invitation letter (from the hiring company of the person getting the Z visa)
- Marriage or birth certificates for spouses and children respectively
- Visa application form
I personally like VisaExpress because if you miss something, they call you immediately when they receive your application package. I did not include a copy of my marriage certificate an my daughter’s birth certificate when I mailed our visa applications to VisaExpress. I got a call around 11am the day after I dropped the package off at FedEx and was able to email the copies over in five minutes and no time was lost at all. I’m sure other companies do the same, but I haven’t tried any other company because VisaExpress has always been perfect.
You will send in ONE package to the visa processing service you choose. In that package, you should have all of the following:
- Original passports for each member of the family that will be living in China
- Completed visa application forms with an attached passport photo for each member of the family that will be living in China
- A copy of the Chinese work permit for the person hired to work in China
- An invitation letter from the hiring company for the person hired to work in China
- A copy of the hiring company’s business license
- A family invitation letter with all family members’ full names listed from the hiring company
- A copy of a marriage certificate/license if you have an accompanying spouse
- A copy of the birth certificate for each accompanying child
Double check this list when putting your things together. If you’re operating on a tight timeline, which is highly probable if you’ve been hired as a teacher in China, don’t set yourself up to have to keep going back and mailing additional things. This will delay your visas!
Filling Out the Visa Application Form
The Chinese visa application form can be frustrating because some of the translations are vague or odd. Here are a few tips for some parts of the application that I found to be a bit unclear. I do not cover every line of the application because many lines are just self explanatory.
1.2 中文姓名 Name in Chinese – Unless you have a legal Chinese name simply put N/A or NONE on this line. Otherwise just put N/A or NONE.
1.3 别名或曾用名 Other name(s) – If you have had a legal name change, indicate your previous name here.
1.7 曾有国籍 Former nationality(ies) – If you have ever had another citizenship aside from your current citizenship, enter it here. Otherwise just put N/A or NONE.
1.10 护照/旅行证件种类 Passport/Travel document type – You most likely have an “ordinary” passport. If your passport just says “Passport” on the front cover, then mark “ordinary” on the form.
1.13 签发地点 Place of issue – If you applied for your passport in the US, type “USA” on this line. It doesn’t need to be any more specific.
1.15 当前职业 (可选多项) Current occupation(s) – If you’ve been hired by a company or a school, mark the second box labeled “company employee.” Dependents that will not be working can mark “unemployed.”
1.17 工作单位/学校 Employer/School – This section is for your most recent employer in the US, not the company for which you will be working once you’re in China.
1.23 主要家庭成 员(配偶、子女、 父母等,可另纸) Major family members(spouse, children, parents, etc., may type on separate paper) – List ONLY the family members that will be living in China with you.
2.1 申请入境事由 Major purpose of your visit – The person hired needs to mark “工作 Work.” Dependents should mark “长期探望因工作、学习等事由在中国居留的外国人As accompanying family member of foreigner residing in China due to work, study or other reasons.”
2.2 计划入境次数 Intended number of entries – As someone who has been hired to work in China, you and your family members will apply for residence permit once you enter the country on your temporary visas. You do not need a long-term, multiple entry visa so you should select the first option “一次(自签发之日起 3 个月有效) One entry valid for 3 months from the date of issue.”
2.3 是否申请加急服务 Are you applying for express service? – Mark “No” if you do not intend to get rush or urgent processing. Mark “Yes” if you’re paying extra to get your visas back quickly because of a looming deadline.
2.4 本次行程预计首次抵达中国的日期 Expected date of your first entry into China on this trip (yyyy-mm-dd) – I was told that I needed to put the exact date I would be entering China with the visa. I booked my plane tickets before getting the visa for this reason. You do not have to book the tickets first (for a Z visa, tourist visas are another story), but you do want to make sure tickets are available for the date you put on the application. I do not know how finicky the immigration officers are about a date that is off by a day, but I do not intend to find out. Follow the rules closely because China can be difficult. I would not risk giving an immigration officer any reason to hold me on entry.
2.6 在中国境内行 程(按时间顺序, 可附另纸填写) Itinerary in China (in time sequence,may type on separate paper) – If you’re moving to China for work, you probably do not know your permanent address in China at the time you apply for the visa. Indicate any hotel or temporary lodging, and you can put the address of the school or company that hired you. Just as with the plane tickets, I booked my hotel before applying for the visa so I could put the address in this field.
2.7 谁将承担在中国期间的费用? Who will pay for your travel and expenses during your stay in China? – If you are paying your own expenses, put “APPLICANT” in this field. This is most likely the case if you’ve been hired to work in China.
2.8 中国境内邀请 单位或个人信息 Information of inviter in China – This is your employer’s information. Make sure you get the full and correct name, address, and phone number of your new employer.
Sign and date in Section 4. Fill out Section 5 only if you are filling out an application for a minor. The minor should still sign in section 4 if able.
Please feel free to leave a comment with any questions regarding the z visa and dependents!