The Visa's Q&A with Shanghai Exit-Entry Officials

Publish Date:2024-07-10     Source: City News Service

Did you know you can call 12367 to get answers to all of those crucial questions about living and working in China? As a unified immigration service platform of the Shanghai Entry-Exit Bureau, Shanghai 12367 facilitates foreigners and overseas talent coming to China, offering business consulting, high-quality immigration service and problem-solving for the public.

Since its launch in 2021, 12367 has received nearly 11 million calls, covering 143 countries and regions across the world. This express platform operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so there's always someone available to assist with any issues surrounding visas and residence permits, visiting or staying in China and integrating into the city.

SMG International Host Chen Xuan sat down with Cai Baodi, Director of the Visa Dept at Shanghai Entry-Exit Bureau, and Wu Lisi, Hotline 12367 Operator, to take calls from foreigners and address their frequently asked questions.

What are the different types of residency?

For visas, the stay period is less than six months; residence permits are valid for three months to five years; permanent residence is usually valid for 10 years, or five years for children under 18. The status is permanent, after 10 years they just need to renew their card. We have an official website where foreigners can find this information.

Foreigners who stay in China for a long time may need proof of non-criminal record, where can they get that?

Foreigners who stay in Shanghai who hold a valid residence permit for six months or more, or who have a permanent residence card, can apply for this document at Shanghai Exit-Entry Bureau headquarters located at 1500 Mingsheng Road in Pudong, or go to the local exit-entry office in the district where they reside.

I heard there's something new called a Five-Star card. What is that, and is it necessary for people with a residence permit to apply for it?

The Five-Star card is a form of permanent residence card. Compared to the old version, it has improved functions. For example, the chipping system has been improved to satisfy social needs, such as traveling in China, staying in hotels, and so on. The card has been improved to be machine-readable, so using it in these circumstances will be more convenient.

It's not necessary to apply for the Five-Star card if you already hold a permanent residence card, as the old version is still in use for now and will work for the validity of the stay period. During the last few months, we have made efforts toward making both versions functional across society.

What are the functions of the Five-Star card?

The Five-Star card is a type of ID card, almost the same as a Chinese ID card. It can be used as a travel document in China; for example, when you buy a plane or train ticket, you can use it directly instead of a foreign passport. This card is normally valid for 10 years, and the holder can stay in China continuously – for example, if you want to work in China, you needn't apply for a work permit, you can work in China similar to a Chinese citizen. A Five-Star card is like a whole package – it's more convenient and has more functions.

If someone holds a Five-Star card, how can their relatives visit, and can they apply for a longer-term stay?

Parents of Five-Star card holders can apply for a visa for a family reunion through the Chinese embassy abroad, or through us at the exit-entry bureau. Through us, we can issue a family reunion residence permit. Through the embassy or consulate abroad, they may issue a Q1 or Q2 visa for a family reunion. With the residence permit, they can apply for long-term stays (less than five years); the visa is for a short stay.

What is a port visa? Is it a visa upon arrival?

A port visa is a type of arrival visa, known as an airport or seaport visa. Foreigners can apply through the exit-entry website before coming to China; if approved we will send them a notice, and they can board the plane with this notice and obtain the visa at the airport or port of entry.

I have a student residence permit. When my relatives want to visit me in China, what type of visa should they apply for, and should I provide them with any documents?

Family members such as parents, spouses or children can apply for an S1 or S2 visa for personal affairs. If they want to stay longer, they can try to apply for a visa or residence permit, but the residence permit period cannot exceed the duration of the student's residence permit, which is usually less than a year.

How can I apply for a job here in China after graduating from a Chinese university?

A foreigner can apply for a work permit through the Foreign Experts Bureau, and if you've got a work permit, then we will grant you a residence permit. If the current visa is not a working visa, the Foreign Expert Bureau will ask you to provide documents proving that you are qualified for a job – for example, educational background and diplomas, working experience or related skills.

I'll soon graduate from university, but I'm not sure if I'll get the documents required for a work permit before my visa's expiration date. What should I do?

Before graduating, you can apply for an extension of your student visa and residence permit with documents from the school. If you have already finished your studies and want more time to stay, you can apply for a short-term T visa. While on a T visa, you can get your documents ready – if you're attending another school, then you need the school to give you the offer; if you have a job, then you need documents from the company to apply for a work permit.

Normally we issue a T visa once, valid for one month while you prepare documents or make plans to leave China. If you need longer or are still waiting for a work permit, you can provide proof, and we may grant an additional extension.

I will graduate soon with a PHD from a university in Shanghai – is a degree enough to apply for a permanent residence card? When I get a job, if it is unrelated to my degree, is it still sufficient to get a permanent residence card?

A doctorate degree alone is not enough to apply for permanent residence, and you cannot apply for permanent residence directly only from graduating. After graduating, you can apply for a short-term residence before being employed. Then, after you're employed in China, you can apply for permanent residence.

The field of study is not limiting. If you're employed, we accept your application. In Shanghai, for example, we need the company to issue a document to prove you're employed and that they can provide a work permit. Normally it doesn't matter what kind of job – there are no limitations.

If an entrepreneur would like to come to China to set up a company, which visa should they apply for?

If a foreigner wants to set up a business or open a company here, of course, it's welcome. They can apply for an F visa or M visa (business visa), or a visa for personal affairs, through the Chinese embassy or consulate. When they arrive in China, we will check the documents provided – for example, if they want to set up a business, they will need to get a business license and show this kind of evidence. We may then give them a six-month visa or even a one-year residence permit, depending on the documents provided.

If you're still in the process of starting a company when you arrive, you can apply for an extension of the original business visa. When you're finished setting up the company, normally you'll then obtain a work permit, and if you've got a work permit, usually we will issue a residence permit for one year.

What are the requirements to apply for a start-up visa or business visa?

If you are already in China and want to change your status, you can provide proof that you're opening a company, and we may change the type of visa relatively – for instance, issue a business visa for several months. If you already have a work permit we will issue a residence permit, providing that the business is legitimate.

Are there ways to change the status of your visa?

Yes! For example, if you're in China for a short stay with a business visa, but later want to open a company, we may change the status. Or, if you were a student and now you have a work permit, we can also change it. It all depends on the situation. We will issue a residence permit based on whether you're qualified and all documents are correct.

We welcome foreigners to study, work, visit or tour in China. If you can provide the relevant documents, we will issue the relevant visa or residence permit. The door is open always, but you need to provide some evidence of your reasons for being here.

If someone needs to apply for a residence permit, but they urgently need their passport to travel, what do they do?

There are a few ways to solve this issue. If you need to travel urgently, you can provide a plane ticket to prove it's urgent, and we will rush the application through. Normally it takes seven working days to issue a visa or residence permit, but in this case, we may rush to issue it in two to three days.

If you want to travel to the Chinese mainland, you can use the application receipt, which can still be used as temporary proof of stay in China, even though we have your passport.

The third way is that if necessary, you can apply to take back your passport during the application period – we will give back your passport, and after seven working days, you can come back and we will add the visa or residence permit to the passport.

When foreigners need to update their address and personal information, where do they go? And if they move, do they have to change their information?

Foreigners who are not staying in a hotel and want to register their address can go to the local police station, or register directly through the website. If you already have a residence permit and need to change your address, you can do it directly through the website.

If you move, you need to update your information – it is required by law. If you're in a hotel, they will do it for you; if you have your own apartment or are staying with a friend, you need to do it yourself.

In what ways can foreigners contact the exit-entry bureau to provide suggestions and ideas, or solve problems with their application processes?

You can call us on the 12367 hotline. We can explain immigration policies and transfer you to the relevant department for submitting information, processing and providing feedback. Service is primarily in English and Chinese, but there are also operators who speak Japanese and French. It runs 24/7, so it's very convenient for you to call and ask questions.

Final takeaways for foreigners and overseas talent:

• Remember to register your residence in the app, both when you arrive and when you move. You can do so online here:

• For information on different visas, visit this website here for a list of all currently available Chinese visas. or call 12367 for information. 12367 has mobile apps on both WeChat and Alipay.

• When you're ready to apply for or change your visa, you need documents to support a long-term stay in China.

There are now two offices in Pudong's Zhangjiang and Hongqiao CBD with exclusive windows for overseas foreign talent. They can handle 12 types of paperwork, visa, permanent residency and exit-entry certificates.

Zhangjiang Office (Pudong International Talents Port)

Opening hours: 9am-5pm, Monday-Saturday

Address: 2/F, Bldg 1, Lane 999 Huanke Rd, Pudong New Area


How to get there: Take Metro Line 13 and get off at Xuelin Road Station

Hongqiao Office (Shanghai Hongqiao One-Stop Service Center For Overseas Talents)

Opening Hours: 8:30am-5pm, Monday-Saturday

Address: Branch-F2, Bldg T5, Changning Art Park, No.377 Songhong Rd


How to get there: Take Metro Line 2 and get off at Songhong Road Station