As a publicity stunt, consumer electronics giant Suning Commerce Group hired a number of foreign students to work as express delivery couriers over Spring Festival in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Nanjing, and Chengdu.
The story drew wide media coverage (e.g., Global Times, China Daily). The Chinese press seemed intrigued by the notion that expats might stoop to delivering packages, writes Julie Makinen for the Los Angeles Times.
But, she says, the publicity prompted immigration officials to investigate whether the foreign students were working illegally. According to the law, the company and students could face sanctions. I’m amazed that the company and the Chinese press apparently never realized that.
Under State Council regulations, a person with a residence certificate for study who wants to take a part-time job or internship off campus should obtain approval from the school, then apply to the Public Security Bureau (PSB) Exit-Entry Administration for a notation to the residence certificate showing the part-time job or the location and period of internship off campus. (State Council regs, art. 22). Notice that short-term students with X2 visas do not have such opportunities.
The Exit-Entry Administration Law (EEAL) delegates to the Ministry of Education the obligation to establish a framework for foreign students to obtain work authorization. (EEAL, art. 42.). To date, the national framework has not been published. But some local policies have been established. For example:
- Shanghai has issued interim rules that allow for off-campus practical training without pay (except for reimbursement of travel and meal expenses).
- Beijing’s Zhongguancun Science Park allows foreign students at Beijing universities, with the university’s agreement and recommendation letter, to apply to the PSB exit and entry authorities to add to their residence permits for study an “innovation” annotation to concurrently carry out innovative activities.
- Dalian’s High Tech Industrial Zone allows foreign students to engage in practical training with approval from the school, employer, and PSB.
Yet in many cities it’s not yet possible to apply for authorization for a part-time job or internship, except on an ad-hoc basis.
I’m not holding my breath for Chinese media reports following up on the illegal employment angle to the Suning publicity stunt.