What will happen if I’m caught with the wrong kind of visa on the Chinese mainland?
Photo by SSgt Fernando Serna
If you’re a foreigner in China it’s very important to always comply with Chinese laws and regulations, and not engage in any activities that either run counter to the purpose of your trip (as specified on your visa application form), or that have not been authorized by the relevant Chinese government authorities.
If you intend to work in China, you must apply for a work permit from the relevant authorities. The following all constitute working illegally in China:
- Working in China without a work permit.
- Working in China after the work permit has expired.
- Overseas students working full time or beyond what their university’s or college’s work-study programs allow, or doing any business while studying at school.
If you break these rules, you can get in serious trouble.
Punishments for violations
Foreigners who do anything unrelated to their visa type will be ordered to leave the country within a certain period (decided by the police) if they are considered not fit to continue staying in China. This is called being ordered to leave. Serious violators will be deported. These are two different things; for more information see this article.
For those working illegally in China, there may be more serious consequences:
- A fine of between 5,000 yuan and 20,000 yuan; the exact amount is at discretion of the police.
- In severe cases, foreigners may be placed into custody for 5-15 days as well as having to pay a fine.
- They may also be deported or ordered to leave China.
The punishment will be decided based on the gravity of the violation. However, the law doesn’t specify what circumstances are serious and how to measure them, so ultimately this is based on the judgement of the police.
What to do if you are caught breaking the law
Try to be polite and explain the reason why you are breaking the law to the best of your ability. Be contrite and apologetic and try to persuade them to give you a lighter punishment. Don’t get angry or be difficult, as this will only make things worse for you.
If your company has lied to you about the kind of visa you are using (for example if they have placed you on a business visa or some other kind of non-work visa) then explain this to the police, again being as polite and apologetic as you can. The company will be fined between 10,000 yuan and 100,000 yuan, and any illegal income they have made will be confiscated.
Hopefully you will get a lighter punishment from confessing and cooperating, but there will still probably be some kind of consequence to you, even if it’s just paying a small fine and being given a date to leave China. You are still held responsible for your actions while in the country on whichever visa you have been given.
Useful Chinese words and phrases
|非法工作||fēifǎ gōngzuò||To work illegally|
|勤工俭学||qíngōng jiǎnxué||Work-study program|
|停留居留事由不相符||tíngliú jūliú shìyóu bú xiāngfú||Engaging in activities unrelated to the purpose of the trip as specified on your visa application form|
|情节严重||qíngjiē yánzhòng||Serious circumstances|
|限期离境||xiànqī líjìng||Ordered to leave within a limited time period|
|驱逐出境||qūzhú chūjìng||To be deported|
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- How can I get a Chinese Certificate of No Criminal Record from outside China?