What a year! Wherever you are right now and wherever you’ve spent the last 18 months, it’s been one heck of a ride as the world navigates this pandemic that continues to surprise us. One thing we’ve all learned is not to try and predict anything at this point. So how can you plan to move to China? There are a whole bunch of new challenges, so I’ve narrowed it to nine essential things to know as you plan to make the journey.
Please bear in mind that this article was written June 13, 2021. Information is constantly changing, so please double check everything in here regarding deadlines, requirements, and other things, especially as they relate to visa requirements and arrival information even if it’s just a week after the date.
The one thing I assure you that you can count on is that what is true one day will change the next as this virus and government restrictions evolve. So, for today, here’s what we can tell you. Some information is specific to ENREACH, but most things are universal:
- What documentation do I need to get a work visa? This is a long list! In order to get a visa, you currently need both a Work Permit Application Notification (WPNL) and a PU letter. The PU letter requires very little documentation from you – we can use some things for the WPNL, but has the challenge in that it’s difficult to get them in the first place. At the moment we are focusing on getting everything for the WPNL and hoping see PU letters start again soon. For the WPNL you need:
- Passport information page scan
- Passport photo scan
- Degree scan
- Medical note (we provide the template)
- Reference letter
- Work Permit Application form
- Authenticated Police Check
There are a lot of details that go into each of these steps and anyone who accepts a position will get in-depth instructions, and of course, we welcome any and all questions about the process.
- How long does the visa take to process? Perhaps the most unknown of all the questions list is this very important one. There are so many chat rooms and blogs written currently about this, and my response to all of it is that as of today – no one really knows. While I know that can sounds disheartening, it will eventually open up, hopefully sooner rather than later.
The last few visas I saw issued from US consulates, were done so in a week or two, only slightly longer than normal. However, it has become more challenging in the last few months and very few visa applications are getting through right now.
Two things will help speed up the process – one is the ease of getting PU letters from China, which we expect to open up soon, and two is the consulates becoming less restrictive with visas.
My best guess is that this summer visas will start being issued again, though the process will be slower than normal given the backlog of those waiting. Again, nothing is a given, but that’s my guess as of today.
- How soon can I get my plane ticket? This is an easy one – just like pre-pandemic days, you should never get a plane ticket before having a visa in hand to get on the plane. At the moment, the cost of tickets is fairly prohibitive anyway though, so we are happy to purchase the ticket outright once you get your visa. Further, all passengers currently need two negative COVID tests within 72 hours of the flight, and then a green light (via the form of a QR code) to board the flight.
- I’m vaccinated – will this help my chances of getting a visa? So far we haven’t seen anything about how vaccines impact the process. Hopefully that isn’t too far off, but it’s not here just yet.
- What is quarantine like? Surprisingly, I haven’t heard anyone really complain about quarantine. I don’t know if everyone is just doing an excellent job preparing themselves, or if there are a lot of up-sides to the time you have to reflect and have food brought directly to you three times a day. My boss even managed somehow to run more than 10,000 steps. I don’t think I’d be that ambitious, but I am inspired by these stories.
Some challenges to consider how you might navigate are food restrictions, as you often don’t have a choice in meal selection, laundry (you won’t have access to it), and entertainment, though luckily most people in 2021 have access to plenty of movies, music, and exercise videos. You will have wifi, electricity, and all the basic amenities of a hotel room, though note coffee and tea will not be refreshed, nor will your bed be made up daily, so it’ll be more like home and you’ll have to do that.
- Can I use my US credit card in China? This question might not seem related to arriving in a pandemic, but it is important when it comes to the hotel quarantine. So the simple answer is that it’s not 100% certain at the moment – some hotels will allow it and others will not. You will be expected to pay upon arrival at the hotel though, so if you do not have access to a Chinese payment system (local bank card, Alipay, or WeChat), then you’ll need to let us know so we can help prepare for what to do when you arrive. No problem is insurmountable, but this is one point we like to be really careful with.
- Are there any travel restrictions after I arrive in China? Life in China has mostly returned to normal, which is awesome. The primary differences at the moment are:
- Needing a mask on public transportation
- Needing the green QR code on WeChat (it’s a confirmation you have not traveled to an infected region recently – green is considered safe).
- If you leave the country, you will need to go through quarantine again upon re-entry. The important point with this is that it’s not really realistic to vacation outside of China if you need 2-3 weeks of quarantine in addition to other time off.
- Can travel with my spouse? It’s currently very challenging to get even a work visa, and dependent visas are not being considered, to the best of my knowledge. Just like processing work visas, I’m not sure when this will change.
- What is the best way to decide if moving to China is right for me this year? Obviously there are a lot of individual circumstances that only you know to ultimately make the decision this big. I’ve listed the biggest questions I think you should ask yourself below, but I also think it’s important to talk to people like me, or other people you know in China or working with China that can help give you firsthand experience.
- Are you able to operate with some degree of uncertainty with regards to arrival dates and requirements? These things will evolve with time, so if you don’t have much flexibility at the moment, it could be challenging.
- Are you able to commit to staying in China for the length of your contract? While not a strict requirement, it will be challenging to leave part way through.
- Can you see these challenges as an adventure? I think it’s the only way to get through this – with some levity.