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back to index backASIAtalk March,  2006


Navigating the Visa Process in Asia-Pacific—A Guide for India, Japan, and the People’s Republic of China

When sending an employee abroad, it is essential to understand that each country has its own bureaucratic processes for applying for entrance. McCartney outlines those processes for three of the largest countries in the Asia-Pacific region with respect to global business activity—India, Japan, and the People’s Republic of China.


Sending expatriates abroad means securing visas for the country in which they are headed. The following is an overview of the visa processes for India, Japan, and the People’s Republic of China.

India

Corporate transferees to India must be sponsored by an Indian-registered company, and hold a current employment E visa when they arrive in the country to take up employment and residency. Typical validity is one year, and renewals are possible depending on the company situation and assuming the visa holder has complied with all specified Indian migration regulations.

Accompanying dependents (lawful spouse and children) should apply for X visas at the same time as the E visa application. Grant of an X visa allows children to attend school, although no employment is permitted. X visa holders who wish to work in India must apply for and be granted their own E visa.

It is important to apply for, and ensure that, the visa is issued with multiple entry status.” This is essential in order to avoid the cumbersome process of applying for individual exit permits prior to subsequent travel outside of India.

It is almost impossible for people arriving on tourist visas to change to employment and dependent status while onshore, and they, in all likelihood, will be required to leave India to apply for and await grant of appropriate visa status.

Indian immigration regulations do not stipulate that intra-company transferees are required to have overseas affiliate/subsidiary experience prior to assignment to India. However, the relevant visa consul has broad discretionary power in assessing whether an Indian national may be sufficiently qualified and experienced to undertake the role described in the position description and, thus, the application to fill the role by an overseas specialist could be refused.

Employment and linked” dependent visa applications are made at the Indian diplomatic mission in the home country, and documentary evidence such as, but not limited to, the following is required:


• Birth/adoption/custody/marriage certificates
• Tertiary qualification certificates
• Current résumé demonstrating qualifications and specialized skills and experience relevant to the position offered
• Indian sponsoring-company registration
• Employee contract letter from Indian-sponsoring company, including remuneration, responsibilities, experience and qualifications required, and the length of the assignment
• Home-based company’s letter of appointment addressed to the particular diplomatic mission that is processing the application; and
• Secondment letter issued to assignee by the home-country organization.

Processing times vary, but allow up to three weeks from date of lodgement; provided that the visa consul does not deem it necessary to refer the application to authorities in India for special consideration.

In cases in which the employment/ residence visa is issued for more than 180 days, all visaed persons ages 16 years and older must register with their local District Foreigners Registration Office within 14 days of arrival in India. At the same time, they also will apply for a residence permit, which usually is issued within five business days.

This entails submission of the appropriate completed immigration form; visaed passports; secondment letter from the home company; letter of welcome from the host company in India; passport photographs for each person; and a lease agreement (for proof of address).

A business B visa is applied for at an offshore Indian diplomatic post, and allows the holder to attend meetings, engage in training, conduct negotiations, and the like, provided the holder continues to be fully remunerated by an overseas company, and has no employment connection with an Indian-based company. One note: persons of Indian origin (PIO) who live overseas and have proof of Indian heritage up to fourth generation removed are eligible for PIO cards, which afford free entry, employment, and unrestricted employment rights.

Additionally, companies sponsoring personnel who are citizens of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Bangladesh, and the People’s Republic of China should consult their nearest Indian diplomatic mission as early as possible to identify India’s special requirements and timing issues associated with these particular nationalities (See http://passport.nic.in/visa).

Japan

Japan’s immigration procedures and regulations are clearly defined and regulated, and the process of acquiring and maintaining work and residency status spans four stages: certificate of eligibility (COE); visa (change of status); alien registration; and re-entry permit. One or three year (maximum) visas are the norm, and the term is determined at the discretion of the immigration office. The visa may be renewed provided that all holders under the original nomination have satisfied all conditions of the visa.

Intra-company transferees must possess relevant experience and tertiary qualifications, and have worked with the overseas company (subsidiary, joint venture, or the like) for at least one year immediately prior to the Japan assignment.

New hires must have relevant tertiary qualifications and experience in the nominated position.

As permanent residence does not usually align with corporate transfer requirements, this article concentrates only on temporary residence, of which there are seven visa categories, and 27 status categories. Those most relevant to business transfers, in general, will be the working visa category, which includes the status categories of working investor/business manager; legal/ accounting; instructor; engineer; specialist in humanities/international services; intra-company transfer; and skilled labor. There also is the general visa category, which includes the status categories of designated activities; cultural activities; trainee; and dependent.

The certificate of eligibility (COE) is processed through the Ministry of Justice in Japan and certifies that the approved holder has met the criteria established for residency status in Japan.

The host company applies in Japan, on behalf of the employee; or the employee may lodge an application through the Japanese diplomatic mission in the home country. On issue, (approximately four to six weeks) the assignee and accompanying dependents apply for visas to enter Japan at the overseas Japanese diplomatic mission or, in the case of eligible nationalities who are already in Japan on business visitor/visitor status, at their nearest immigration office.

Documentary information for COE application is required from both the assignee and Japan-based company:

• Application form
• Copy of Japanese host company registration certificate
• Host company’s latest profit and loss statement
• Company profile
• Host company’s promotional material indicating its nature of business
• Assignee’s passport photo
• Assignee’s résumé, diploma, career documents, and the like
• Birth certificate; and
• Employment contract detailing position, responsibilities, and duration.

For intra-company transferee status, additional requirements are:
• Copy of the company’s registration in home country
• Materials detailing home country’s business activities
• Copy of employment contract between the employee and home country company detailing duties and responsibilities immediately prior to departure for Japan; and
• Home country letter of offer.


Japanese Visa Applications

When applying for a visa to enter Japan, the following are required:
• Application forms for assignee and each accompanying dependent
• Two passport photos of each applicant
• Original COE approval
• Marriage certificate if spouse is included in application; and
• Birth certificates of each child included.

Allow approximately four weeks after application for the visa to be issued.

If issued offshore, immigration at the visa holder’s port of entry will determine the status of residence and period of validity.

Accompanying dependents (lawful spouse and children younger than the age of 20) are issued general (dependent) visas; this also allows children to study. Holders are not permitted to engage in employment. A spouse must independently seek a sponsor for full-time or part-time employment and apply for a work permit at the Immigration office.

Japanese Alien Registration Cards

All foreigners intending to stay in Japan for more than 90 days must register as an alien within 90 days of arrival at their local government ward office. Aliens 16 years and older must register in person.

Registration requirements are:
• Application form
• Passport with valid visa
• Two passport photos
• Home address and phone number (in both Japanese and English); and business card with company name, address, and assignee’s position in both Japanese and English.

Applicants are issued a temporary certificate and their official alien registration card will be available in approximately two weeks. A bank account cannot be opened until the official card has been issued.

Foreigners remaining in Japan for more than 90 days are obliged to carry their alien registration (identification) card at all times and must inform the ward office of any change of information such as address, visa status, employer, or marital status.

Japanese Re-entry Permits

All visa holders who wish to leave and return to Japan under their work/residence status must have a re-entry permit; they will not be permitted to re-enter without this, and it is advisable to apply at the immigration office for a multiple re-entry permit, which is issued on the spot (See www.mofa.go.jp).

People’s Republic of China (PRC)

Complexity of PRC immigration procedures presents constantly changing and unpredictable hurdles for international companies and their expatriate employees to understand and comply with.

Visas for transferring employees and their accompanying dependents are issued initially for 12 months, and may be renewed provided the visa holders maintain conformity with visa regulations, e.g., lawful status in China; ongoing employment with the sponsoring company; and children remain younger than the age of 21. Pre-requisites for both intra-company transfers and new hires mandate that the nominee has appropriate tertiary qualifications unless exceptional circumstances prevail, together with appropriate experience for the position.

The employment visa holder’s lawful spouse (de facto or same-sex relationships are not recognized), plus approved accompanying dependents 20 years old or younger, are issued with dependent Z visas, which do not permit the holders to engage in any form of employment.

Regulations are inconsistent throughout the nation and frequently change without notice, thus, what is allowable in one province or region may not apply elsewhere. The Public Security Bureau and Labor Bureau in each provincial/regional jurisdiction is able to adapt the central government’s guiding principles to suit their particular needs and interpretations. Companies should, therefore, research visa issues relative to the destination location thoroughly to ensure that procedural information is current, and also allow sufficient time prior to making final business arrangements to relocate expatriate personnel to that area.

As an example, in the second half of 2005, a major variation was applied, virtually without notice, to visas for personnel intending to work and reside solely in the Shanghai region.

In some provinces, holders of a short stay business visitor visa may apply to convert to employment category without traveling offshore; other provinces may stipulate that the applicant leaves the PRC on the visitor’s visa, and subsequently obtaining the Z visa prior to returning and applying for employment and residence status.

Broadly, the multifaceted procedures related to employment visa/residence permit acquisition involve many stages including Z or F visas, employment license, invitation to China, employment certificate and visa, and residence permit.

In general, it is typical for the employee and accompanying dependents to arrive on Z visas, which are obtained prior to arrival at their nearest Chinese diplomatic mission; however, this depends on the region or province of jurisdiction.

Several forms of documentary evidence are required throughout the many stages, and applicants are required to undertake a medical examination with a PRC immigration-approved medical facility.

To obtain an employment license, the sponsoring company submits its application to the Labor Bureau in China. Following approval, the sponsoring company requests the Foreign Economic and Trade Commission to issue a letter of invitation specific to the nominated transferee and the family dependents.

With both documents finalized, the sponsoring company provides them to the transferee offshore, who then applies at the nearest Chinese diplomatic mission for short stay visas (generally Z). This visa enables the employee and dependents to travel to China and, thereafter, finalize onshore, work permit, and residence license applications and grant.

The restrictive curtailment to leave and re-enter China for international travel applies until official work and residence status has been granted.

Application times vary, based principally on provincial determination, but, in general allow approximately two months.

The information contained in this article is of a general nature. While every effort has been made to ensure its accuracy, the author or Worldwide ERC® cannot accept responsibility together or individually for errors or omissions.

Source:    Mobility Magazine - GAI


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