Some interesting developments with China visas this last month.

First the good news. The Shanghai Exit-Entry Administration Bureau has launched an English-language website for visa renewals and I checked it out and it is not bad at all (h/t to Shanghaiist).

Now the bad news. I have received three rather troubling visa related calls in the last month or so. Two of them were from people who had been caught working in China without a work visa (Z visa) and both of them were subsequently denied re-entry visas to China. Both of these people should have set up companies in China but had not done so in order to cut costs and avoid paying taxes. The other person was an employee with a state government in the United States, while vacationing in China was reading up on China cyber hacking and is now convinced that the Chinese government took his laptop at some point when he left his hotel room and then followed him while in China.

The first two people wanted us to call the Chinese Embassy and get them visas and the third person wanted us to do the same, but to tell them that he is not really a spy, rather just a low state government employee with an interest in computers. I told all three that a phone call from an American lawyer would likely have zero effect and that they could better spend their money elsewhere. All three really want to return to China (the first two pretty much need to return to China), but in my experience, once China has put you on a no entry list, it is pretty much impossible to get off it. The government employee is rightfully concerned about returning to China at all and my advice was that he consider vacationing elsewhere the next time.

All three of these people talked about the possibility of “just paying someone off” in China but I explained how that was a bad idea because even trying to do so would put them at risk of getting charged criminally in either China or the United States and that there would be a very good chance that the payment would not work in any event.

Anyone else experience or know of something similar?

UPDATE:  A number of people have asked what it was that caused these two people to get caught working in China without a work visa. One of the callers told me he was convinced that he had been reported to the authorities by an employee he had fired a few weeks earlier. The other guy did not tell me and I did not ask. In my experience, these things are about 99% of the time due either to an ex-employee who is angry about having been fired and left without a real company to sue or by an existing employee who has decided that the foreigner is no longer needed and that he or she is now ready to take over the company.

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Dan Harris

I am a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

I mostly represent companies doing business in emerging market countries. It has taken me many years to build my network and it takes constant communication and travel to maintain it. My work has been as varied as securing the release of two improperly held helicopters in Papua New Guinea, setting up a legal framework to move slag from Canada to Poland’s interior, overseeing hundreds of litigation and arbitration matters in Korea, helping someone avoid terrorism charges in Japan, and seizing fish product in China to collect on a debt.

I was named as one of only three Washington State Amazing Lawyers in International Law, I am AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (its highest rating), I am rated 10.0 by AVVO.com (its highest rating), and I am a SuperLawyer.

I am a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and I constantly travel between the United States and Asia. I most commonly speak on China law issues and I am the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog (www.chinalawblog.com). Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Business Week, The National Law Journal, The Washington Post, The ABA Journal, The Economist, Newsweek, NPR, The New York Times and Inside Counsel have all interviewed me regarding various aspects of my international law practice.

I am licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at my firm, I focus on setting up/registering companies overseas (via WFOEs, Rep Offices or Joint Ventures), drafting international contracts (NDAs, OEM Agreements, licensing, distribution, etc.), protecting IP (trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents), and overseeing M&A transactions.