Work in China? It's not so easy
| Tue, 06/12/2012 11:38 AM
China has hardly laid out the welcome mat for foreign workers, but this has not stopped a growing number from coming here to find riches, with or without the right papers.
Take Dave, 23, who came to Beijing two years ago after he graduated in business from a college in Iowa, in the United States, and had no luck finding a job. He got one in Beijing teaching English, but he is actually not allowed to work on his tourist visa.
Last year, more than 54 million foreigners visited China, up from about 52 million in 2010, said the Beijing Review weekly magazine. Like Dave, some of these arrivals land in China on tourist visas and stay on illegally to look for jobs.
More than 20,000 illegal immigrants were nabbed in China last year, compared with 13,000 five years ago. Illegal foreigners have become such a headache that Beijing is on a 100-day campaign until August to get rid of “the three illegals”– overstayers, illegal immigrants and foreigners without the right visas.
Despite the risk of being fined and deported, many take their chances as the job market is daunting elsewhere.
“The economy is so bad. It is impossible to look for a job in America these days,” said Dave, who declined to give his full name.
There are foreigners aplenty in China these days, observers note.
“Recruitment agencies now have a huge pool of foreigners working illegally in Beijing to pick from. They can afford to be fussy and offer them lower pay,” said labor expert Liu Erduo of Renmin University.
The capital now has about 120,000 non-Chinese with residency permits. The number is expected to grow, say sociologists.
Beijing has to do something about illegal aliens as most turn to crime if they cannot find jobs, said Professor Xiang Dang of the Chinese People's Public Security University.
But some foreigners say they have no choice but to find ways around the system, as China is very strict about work visas.
Foreigners must apply for one before they can be lawfully employed under the Chinese rule, with the Z-visa being the most common. The single-entry visa is valid for 30 days, enough time for the holder to apply for a temporary residence permit for the duration of the work contract.
But it is very tedious to get one, with applicants having to prove that Chinese organizations have hired them. They also need to have at least two years of work experience in the relevant industry. Hong Kong does not make the same strict demands on foreigners.
“Very few companies will invest in a young and inexperienced foreigner,” said Charlie Melvoin, 24. He, however, had a relatively easier time looking for a job in China, partly because he has degrees from Harvard and Cambridge.
Even without the problem of getting the right papers, many foreigners say landing a job in China is not easy in the first place.
For one thing, companies here prefer hiring locals because of their Chinese knowledge.