If I get an internship in China, what visa should I have?

This post is also available in: fr de da nl

Growing numbers of foreigners are coming to China for internships in the hope of improving their careers, but at the time of writing there is not yet an official “internship visa”. Instead, interns may find themselves being shunted onto a number of different visas. But which of these is allowed?
This depends on what kind of internship you will be performing. It doesn’t not matter whether your internship is paid or unpaid – and yes, China allows both kinds of internship.

M Visa for business and work internships
Until 2013, the F Visa was the primary option for those coming to China on a business-related internship. That year, however, the internship function (among other things) was split off into the M Visa. While some companies do still issue F Visas for business internships, the official method is to use an M Visa.
This visa allows the bearer to be paid for their internship. For more information on applying for an M Visa see this page.

X Visa for internships while studying
If you are on studying in China on an X Visa, you are allowed to perform internships or paid work provided you first submit an internship application to your school and obtain their approval. You must then go to the Entry and Exit Office your city’s main Public Security Bureau to update your residence permit with details on the place you are working or interning at and the period of time that you will be employed for.
Then you can work part-time or on internship with pay, though it is legal for the company to offer your internship without pay.

Do not perform internships on a Tourist Visa!
Note that it is absolutely illegal to perform internships on a Tourist Visa, aka L Visa. This is regarded as working illegally in China and you may be fined or even deported!

Useful Chinese words and phrases 

实习 shíxí Internship
不带薪 bú dàixīn Without pay
带薪 dàixīn With pay
非法工作 fēifǎ gōngzuò Illegally working

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