Straight Scoop on the Z-visa

There is a lot of confusion over Z-visas.

Let’s demystify things by first stating a Z Visa is the visa that allows you to legally obtain employment in China. It is good for thirty days (even though it is usually printed as being good for “000” days) [see Z Visa image] and its purpose is to allow you to enter China and be hired.

Once hired, your employer must process your Z Visa into a FRP (Foreign Residence Permit” – this, not the Z Visa, is what actually allows you to legally live and work in China. The Z Visa can only be properly obtained outside of mainland China. It is not legal (and in most places it is impossible) to convert an L Visa (Tourist Visa) to a Z Visa in China. The FRP is a sticker placed inside your passportĀ and also functions as a multiple reentry visa.

FRP [Foreign Residence Permit]

Your FRP is tied to your employer. When you change employers, you must change your FRP. No matter what your FRP sticker says in your passport, what really counts is what the PSB (Public Security Bureau) has in their database that tracks your documents. You can have a “valid” sticker in your passport and still be illegally present in China. The PSB can invalidate your Visa without you being present under certain circumstances, e.g., midnight run, etc.