When John got his work visa, he felt very lucky: The days when he had to leave the Chinese mainland every three months for a new visa had finally ended.

With the Z-visa, he can now legally work in Beijing as a music teacher, and his next visa renewal is a year away, said John, who declined to give his full name.

But not everyone is so lucky.

Lured by opportunities in China, young foreigners who cannot get a work visa have to travel abroad to get a new visa every few months. Some even work illegally in the country.

According to the Rules for the Administration of Employment of Foreigners in China, only foreigners with Z-visas are legally allowed to work in China.

Those with tourist visas have to leave the Chinese mainland regularly to apply for new visas.

But it is extremely difficult to get a Z-visa, which requires applicants to prove that they have been hired by Chinese institutions and have at least two years of work experience in the relevant industry.

Unfortunately, most young foreigners like John cannot be hired by Chinese companies or other institutions, having had no such experience before they came to China.

Although he had no work visa, John still found a job as a music teacher for Chinese children.

"This is very common in artistic circles, among freelancers or English teachers", he told China Daily, adding that those industries need only part-time workers.

"China offers more chances for young people", said Oliver, a Frenchman working in Beijing as a consultant for Chinese students who want to study abroad. He also declined to give his full name.

"If you are good at Chinese, there are more opportunities," he added.

"There are a lot of foreign models who work in China, although they can only get tourist visas," said Jack Shen, a model agent in Beijing.

"This situation is quite common in Beijing, Shanghai and other big cities in China. But China so far has no clear, relevant regulations or policies."

Shine An, another model agent, said that they only need foreign models during fashion show seasons, and these models work with three-month tourist visas.

Models usually hold tourist visas, and they cannot admit that they have jobs in China. Most of them tell border officers that they have come to China to meet their Chinese boyfriends.

Some model agencies suggest that they dress like young students, said the Wall Street Journal.

The situation for English training agencies is similar, because they only need foreign teachers during the winter and summer vocations, said John.

John first arrived in China in 2006 and studied Chinese folk music. Having finished his studies, he decided to stay in China. At that point, his "visa tours" began.

Before he got the Z-visa, he used tourist and business visas, involving 11 applications starting in 2006.

John, a US citizen, chose Hong Kong for the renewal of his visa because the city is visa-free for citizens of most Western countries.

"There are many agencies that can help you to renew the visa," John said, adding that he usually chose the one that his music school recommended.

The agencies usually charged him 4,000 to 8,000 yuan ($640 to $1,280).

"The application process can be very tough You never know how long you will stay in Hong Kong", said Oliver, who arrived in Beijing in 2010 and has renewed his visa for four times. "If you get a bad agency, you have to stay in Hong Kong for a longer time."

But Oliver said he was lucky, because his boss in Beijing never blamed him for the time he spent on visa renewals. "My boss quite understands my situation. He usually gives me one day’s leave to renew my visa, and they still pay me when I take some extra days," said Oliver.

Compared with John and Oliver, a Russian woman -Lisa Guetzkow – was quite unlucky.

With a tourist visa, she chose to go to Mongolia for renewal, even though the people in small border towns along the China-Mongolia border could not guarantee her safety.

Leaving aside the old and crowded Russian jeep she traveled in, which didn’t even have a proper doorknob, she was "blackmailed" by the driver, who suddenly raised the price for the trip from 100 yuan to 180 yuan in the middle of her way back to China, according to a report on the Journal’s website.

Beijing has begun a 100-day campaign targeting foreigners who commit crimes, overstay their visas or gain illegal employment, said the public security bureau in the municipality.

Beijing, second only to Shanghai in terms of the number of foreigners with residency permits, was home to almost 120,000 foreigners at the end of 2011.

The capital has reported 13,000 cases of illegal entry, overstaying and illegal employment concerning foreigners from more than 100 countries since 2008, according to exit-entry statistics.

Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, will launch a similar campaign, Wang Lin, deputy director of the Chengdu exit and entry administration bureau, confirmed.

In spite of difficulties, 20-year-old Kanulya from Kazakhstan said she wants to stay in China. It is easy to live in China and make friends with Chinese people, she said. She has studied in Beihua University in Jilin province for four years and will stay in China if she can find a high-paying job.

"If you stay in China for a long time, you will find it more difficult to leave because no one in your home country could share your experiences in China," Kanulya said.

Still, she said she would recommend to her friends to work in China.

SOURCE: China Daily

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