Although China is still seen by some as a closed society with a foreigner-hostile government, this view has become outdated and is basically a false one. Many of the big cities here like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou are full of foreigners working in various capacities, and all across the country you will find immigrants living and working happily as part of Chinese society.
Getting here isn’t particularly difficult. Although China has no “Visa on Arrival” system for tourists, getting a travel or work visa is often no more challenging than sending your passport to the nearest Chinese embassy. If you want it quicker, you can even travel to the nearest embassy and watch them process it for an additional fee. We can talk you through the process. Visa restrictions are probably looser than you might think, and certainly it is easier than obtaining a visa for working in the more popular destination of South Korea. One off-putting factor can be the cost: Americans are required to pay significantly more for a visa than non-Americans. This is generally true for most types of visa.
The standard single or multiple entry tourist permit is called an L visa in China. It is usually illegal to work in China on an “L” visa. Some of our partner schools have been able to convert some of our teachers from an “L” visa to a “Z” visa allowing them to take up permanent employment in China. Generally it’s best to have your visa sorted out before you come out to China but considering the schools we work with in China hold a lot of credibility with the local Chinese government, this visa conversion usually works fine. But the majority of our teachers come in on the visa that was processed at home.
“F” visa is a single entry permit for business purposes. You must have an invitation letter from your host company. The visa is for 30 days. This visa is easily converted to a “Z” visa before its expiration date that then allows further employment in China past the initial 30 days.
“Z” visa is a single entry permit, usually issued for 30 days. This merely allows you to enter China to apply for your “Expert’s Certificate” and “Green Card” or “Temporary Resident Permit.” Once you have these two documents you are free to stay, work, and travel within China. If you wish to leave China you must surrender your “Expert’s Certificate” and “Green Card” or “Temporary Resident Permit” and obtain an “Exit” visa. You will then need another “Z” or “F” visa to return to your teaching job in China. Vacationing outside China is really discouraged by this entangled process and is a major source of confusion and dissatisfaction with FEs.