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Brian US

Internship on a student visa

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Brian US

A good friend of mine is currently on a student visa (temporary resident permit) and would like to apply for internships. Many of the companies ask if you are legally able to work in China on the application. Anyone have experience with this for an internship, probably around four weeks long?

My friend's Chinese classmates have contacted co-workers at large companies they interned at, and they think it shouldn't be a problem (but they aren't HR). My concern is that a large company isn't going to want to go through a visa hassle for such a short work time.

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cui ruide

Maybe too much info:

I think there would be two main issues: whether or not it's paid, and the duration of the internship.

Strictly speaking, I guess unpaid interns should be on an F visa (short-term study, internships, business visit), but as long as it's not too long of an affair, I don't think there should be any problem doing it on the remainder of a student visa. I frankly don't think they care what you do as long as you're not getting paid, or at least are busy with other things that they don't deign to investigate.

I think the issue with this comes into play when people are getting paid. If a foreign worker is getting paid by a company in China with Chinese currency, then I'm 99% certain, internship or full employment, this person needs a "Z visa"* One loophole I've heard is if the foreigner happens to be working for a foreign company in China, they can transfer foreign currency to a foreign(?) bank account, thus technically, they're not getting paid in China, so may be considered a visiting worker?

All of that said, there is gross violation of this ever day. Lots of foreigner make local money and work part-time, full-time, and freelance on student (X) visas, tourist (L) visas, and F visas. How this works on the Chinese side, I'm not entirely certain. My friend** taught on an F visa (couldn't get a real work visa* when the rules changed required 2 years of experience after college graduation--he had only graduated 7 months before...). In this case he was paid under the table in cash, though they gave him a slip showing taxes were taken out. I guess in this case, they probably fudged numbers on what they were reporting they were paying the other teachers or allocated other expense money.... Later he worked for a company, technically as a "freelancer" until the aforementioned 2 year mark closed in. My understanding was that they paid him a per-hour rate that equaled the promised monthly salary an directly deposited it. Because of an issue that came up with the tax rate, it seemed they kept the ID cards of lots of Chinese freelancers and could divide that pay, saying it was divided among those randos, and thus fall into a lower tax bracket... Quite a stretch, huh? So I assume they could just pay whoever they wanted and say it's some random Chinese guy. This friend also worked on a project for some other small company in which they just photocopied his passport and gave him cash... So who knows. My point with all of this, is there seems to be a lot of grey area when it comes to "freelance." Maybe that greyness was just outright illegal, but it's hard to tell.

* The "Z-visa" is more complicated than just a visa. The actual Z-visa is only like 1 month long, and it's temporary until you you get your Alien Work Permit and Residence Permit. After which, the actual z-visa is canceled, and your "visa" is the Residence Permit.

** ;^)

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Hugh

I may know someone that did a six-week internship in Shanghai on a tourist visa. The same person may also have worked (paid work) in Qingdao for four months, also on a tourist visa. :P

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xiaolan_beijing

I know a lot of people who did internships whilst studying on our year abroad, and never had any problems. It's really down to the company, and, as cui ruide mentioned, whether you are getting paid. If it's unpaid or you are just receiving a stipend, it shouldn't be much of an issue. That said I know people here on student visas who are doing paid part time jobs...

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Brian US

Alright, said it was a friend in case I looked into other visa options, but it's me looking for an internship. I'm applying to large accounting firms and I don't think they will go through the extra paperwork to accommodate me. Pretty sure they don't offer unpaid internships, but being paid in a foreign currency may be an option. Yet, seeing as I may or may not be the only foreigner studying accounting in China I think most of their applicants will do the tourist/work visa route.

I'm interested if anyone been in the same situation as me and applied to fortune 100 companies while studying. They definitely won't turn a blind eye on your visa like every English school or odd job.

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Keown

I also have related problem. I am planning to enter China with a tourist (L) visa, then I'd like to convert it into student visa / residence permit in order to be able to work as an intern (the HR told me that I need to have a student visa to intern - and the internship is paid, and they didn't tell me about any problems this might pose...). Does anybody know that how long does it take to convert the L visa into student visa? Also, if I only register for a 2-month full time study program (since there is only 2 month left until this semester ends), am I eligible for a student visa at all?!

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roddy

Don't think anybody is going to arrange a student visa for you for two months. You might get better answers if you tell us which school we're talking about. Sounds dubious anyway, a student visa does not entitle you to do an internship (which is not to say it doesn't happen).

If it's unpaid or you are just receiving a stipend, it shouldn't be much of an issue.

The trouble with this is that there's no official divide between 'a wage' and 'a stipend'. If you do hit problems, good luck explaining to the visa folk that you were merely receiving 'a stipend' which is actually more than their 'monthly take-home pay'.

Basically I think all anyone can do is weigh up what the potential employer is saying, and how much you trust them to be correct. If you've got what seems to be the well-run HR office of a multinational saying that they often have interns on student visas and haven't had any problems, fair enough. If it's some no-name English school telling you not to worry, everything will be ok, I'd step back. Currently, internships are a grey area, and I can't see any fully legit way of doing it, even if you're not getting paid. Except a work visa, which isn't going to happen for anything short term.

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Keown

I think the case is, you can do an internship on student visa, but if you get money from it, it's not that simple maybe... (btw, is it common that you get paid for an internship in China? i think it's mostly unpaid).

As for the student visa for two months... Well, obviously I am not planning to study there for two months. I want to study nov+dec plus next semester, so in this case I hope that the university will help me to arrange, because I might get into trouble, I don't wanna be on tourist visa for sure.

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roddy

Show me anything official that says 'And on a student visa you can also work for little or no money in order to gain experience' - I'm not saying people don't do it, or that you'll have any trouble if you do - but it's like teaching English on a student visa - thousands do it, you're unlikely to have any trouble, but that doesn't mean you're "allowed" to do it.

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Keown

Just an example: "Non-Chinese applicants will need to provide evidence of a valid working or student visa to cover the period of the internship." (http://www.europeanchamber.com.cn/view/career/?typeid=&catid=&cityid=&sort=&keyword=&task=view&id=1127)

This organization seems quite official indeed, so that's why I'm thinking that it should be no problem interning on a student visa.

Also, even if you get money for your internship, I think there might be some loopholes, such as giving it to you as 'housing allowance', or 'meal allowance', etc.

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Matty

There may also be a difference between income and allowances. They may be able to give a living allowance and food allowance which isn't considered income. I've heard something along these lines but am not certain at all.

I'd say go to the Entry/Exit place and ask them, I've never asked about an internship.

The best answer I've had to date Entry/Exit is that the key to an F-Visa is you can't earn money while using it.

I think if they give you a nice place to live, a food card with a good allowance and some other non-monetary benefits you should fine.

My one concern would be - especially if it's any form of teaching - proving that you are not earning money if investigated.

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imron
This organization seems quite official indeed

Quite probably roddy meant official as in Chinese government visa regulation, not official as in chamber of commerce from a foreign entity, who may or may not be making use of various loopholes (like the ones you mentioned) and lax enforcement of visa rules to make their own life easier (happens quite regularly in China).

That being the case, Chinese X visa regulations do say:

Student Visa (X Visa)is issued to an alien who comes to China for study, advanced studies or intern practice for a period of more than six months.

So, internships on an X visa would seem to be ok if the period is longer than 6 months. The regulations also go on to say:

An alien who comes to China to study, short-term advanced studies or intern practice for a period of no more than six months shall apply for a (F) Visa.

So you're almost certainly not going to be getting a student visa if your internship or study period is 6-months or less.

What you'll need is an F-visa, which the regulations say is:

Business Visa (F Visa) is issued to an alien who is invited to China for a visit, an investigation, a lecture, to do business, scientific-technological and culture exchanges, short-term advanced studies or internship for a period of no more than six months.

As has been mentioned, there are pleny of loopholes and grey areas, and lax enforcement, so what you actually end up with will be anyone's guess, but according to the official regulations, you shouldn't be getting a student visa.

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roddy

For that though, you'd need the place giving you the internship to be issuing the JW202 form though, no? Can't see that happening. Maybe if it was an actual university-arranged internship.

It's academic, as you'll end up doing the internship on whatever visa the company is happy with.

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