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Jumping through Hoops: China Visas for Athletes, Performing Artists, Film Production

jump-through-hoopsThis article introduces China visa rules as they apply to athletes, performing artists, and film production.

The rules have been re-shaped by the recent Exit-Entry Administration Law (2013),[1] implementing regulations (2013),[2] and ministry-level rules on short-term work assignments (2015).[3]

The overall goals of China’s visa scheme are to attract global talent while at the same time discouraging illegal entry, stay, and employment. An additional, ideological goal drives visa policy related to performances and film production. The Party seeks to promote “core socialist values” while using visa policy to exclude Western ideas and values deemed corrosive, as discussed below.[4]

Local authorities retain significant power to interpret and implement the visa rules in ways that are not uniform throughout the country.

Applicable Visa Categories

F (Exchange, Visit, Inspection) Visas

F visas are for those engaged in exchanges, visits, inspections, etc. This includes non-commercial sports and cultural activities. The key supporting document for an F visa application is an invitation letter from a domestic Chinese party.[5] F visas are commonly issued valid for 1, 2, or multiple entries over for 3, 6, or 12 months, at the consular officer’s discretion. The typical stay permitted is 30, 60, or 90 days.

M (Commercial) Visas

M visas are for commercial and trade activities. This includes professional sports events. The key supporting document for an M visa application is an invitation letter from a Chinese business.[6] M visas are commonly issued valid for 1, 2, or multiple entries over for 3, 6, or 12 months, at the consular officer’s discretion. The typical stay permitted is 30, 60, or 90 days. In addition, China has entered into reciprocal agreements with the United States and Canada to issue 10-year, multiple-entry M visas valid for 60-day stays to those countries’ nationals.

Z (Work) Visas for Short-Term Assignments

A Z (work) visa may be issued for a short-term work assignment in China, meaning one lasting not more than 90 days. The procedures are:

  1. Initiate the application:
  • For workers other than commercial performing artists, the application is initiated by applying to the local Human Resources and Social Security (HRSS) bureau for an employment license (工作许可) and “approval of short-term employment for foreigner” (短期工作证明).
  • In contrast, for commercial performing artists, the application an application is filed with the local cultural administrative department for an approval document (批准文书) and “approval of short-term employment for foreigner” (短期工作证明).
  1. Apply for a visa notification letter from the duly authorized unit, which is often the local commercial committee or foreign affairs office.
  2. Apply for a Z visa at a PRC Embassy or Consulate abroad.
  3. After entering China, apply to the public security bureau’s exit-entry administration for a residence permit, if the stay will exceed 30 days.[7]

Regular Z (Work) Visas for Longer Assignments

For assignments lasting longer than 90 days, a regular Z (work) visa is appropriate. Foreign workers must be in good health, have no criminal records, and be equipped with sufficient skills and experience for the position. Age limits may apply. The application procedures are:

  1. Initiate the application:
    • Commercial performing artists must apply to the Ministry of Culture for a license for temporary commercial performance (临时营业演出许可证).
    • Other workers typically apply to the local Human Resources and Social Security bureau for an employment license.
    • Foreign professionals working in the fields of culture or sports may apply to the local foreign expert bureau for a foreign expert’s working permit. The employer must have a “Certificate of Authorized Qualification for Employment of Foreign Cultural and Educational Experts.” The foreign professional must have a bachelor’s degree or above and at least 5 years’ relevant work experience.
  2. Apply for a visa notification letter from the duly authorized unit, which is often the local commercial committee or foreign affairs office.
  3. Apply for a Z visa at a PRC Embassy or Consulate abroad.
  4. After entering China, apply to the local human resources and social security bureau for a work permit or to the foreign expert bureau for a foreign expert certificate.
  5. Apply to the public security bureau’s exit-entry administration for a residence permit for work.[8]

Athletes

An M visa is appropriate for participation in a professional sports event as an athlete, coach, team physician or assistant, or other support personnel, for a period not exceeding 90 days.[9] The required invitation letter is typically issued by the local organizing committee for the sports event.

In contrast, an F visa is suitable to attend amateur sporting events, as mentioned above.

A short-term Z visa is appropriate to attend try-outs for a professional sports institution in China as a coach or athlete, for a period not exceeding 90 days.[10]

For athletes working in China in excess of 90 days, a regular Z visa is appropriate.

Performing Artists

Commercial performing artists must obtain short-term or regular Z visas. They must have a contract with and be sponsored by a performing arts agency.[11] A category 1 agency is licensed to directly sponsor foreign performers. A category 2 agency can do so only by seeking cooperation with a category 1 agency. A category 3 agency is not authorized to arrange performances by foreign artists.

The agency will apply to the local cultural administrative department for an approval document (批准文书) and, in the case of a short-term work assignment, an “approval of short-term employment for foreigner” (短期工作证明). The application will include the foreign artists’ resumes, the program, audio-visual materials, the complete script or lyrics, the contract with the foreign troupe, and the performance itinerary. The local cultural administrative department will take into account political, ethical, and cultural factors in deciding whether to approve the performance. Ticket sales can begin only after the approval.

In contrast, for a nonprofit art performance, an F visa is appropriate, as mentioned above.[12]

Film Production

Film production in China, including filming advertisements and documentaries, requires a short-term or regular Z visa.[13]

The film industry in China is regulated by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People’s Republic of China (SAPPRFT). Foreign parties are not allowed to independently produce a film in China. This includes fictional films, artistic films, scientific and educational films, documentaries, etc. However, a foreign investor may link up with a licensed local production company to jointly produce a film with approval of SAPPRFT. China Film Co-Production Corporation (CFCC) is responsible for processing joint production licenses on behalf of SAPPRFT. CFCC handles the visas for foreign workers.[14]

What’s your experience been? Feel free to leave a comment.

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  1. Exit-Entry Administration Law, Order of the President No. 57, enacted by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on June 30, 2012, effective July 1, 2013.
  2. Entry and Exit Administration Regulations of the People’s Republic of China, promulgated by Order 637 of the State Council on July 3, 2013, effective Sept. 1, 2013 (hereinafter, “Exit and Entry Regulations”).
  3. Ministries of Human Resources and Social Security, Foreign Affairs, Public Security, and Culture, Notice of Relevant Procedures for Foreigners Entering China for Completion of Short-Term Work Assignment, Notice No. 78 [2014] of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, issued Nov. 6, 2014, effective Jan. 1, 2015 (hereinafter, “Short-Term Work Assignment Rules”).
  4. See generally CCP Document No. 9, Communique on the Current State of the Ideological Sphere: ANotice from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China’s General Office (Apr. 22, 2013), translation available at https://www.chinafile.com/document-9-chinafile-translation.
  5. Exit and Entry Regulations, arts. 6(3) and 7(3).
  6. Exit and Entry Regulations, arts. 6(7) and 7(7).
  7. Short-Term Work Assignment Rules.
  8. Ministries of Labor, Pubic Security, Foreign Affairs, and Foreign Trade and Commerce, PRC Rules for the Administration of Employment by Foreign Nationals, Ministry of Labor Publication No. 1996 (29), promulgated Jan. 22, 1996, effective May 1, 1996 and revised in accordance with the Order of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security No. 7 on November 12, 2010 (hereinafter, “Employment Rules”).
  9. Short-Term Work Assignment Rules, art. 2(4).
  10. Short-Term Work Assignment Rules, art. 1(2).
  11. Administrative Regulations on Commercial Performances, promulgated by order 439 of the State Council on July 7, 2005; amended according to the Decision of the State Council on the Revision of the Administrative Regulations on Commercial Performances of July 22, 2008; and revised further according to the Decision of the State Council on Abolishing and Revising Some Administrative Laws and Regulations on July 18, 2013.
  12. PRC Consulate General in Mumbai, How to Apply for a China Visa (last visited Apr. 11, 2016), http://mumbai.chineseconsulate.org/eng/lsyw/visa/t182553.htm.
  13. Short-Term Work Assignment Rules, arts. 1(2) and 3.
  14. Motion Picture Association and China Film Co-Production Corporation, China-International Film Co-Production Handbook (Nov. 2014), http://mpa-i.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Co-Production_Handbook_English.pdf.

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