As of July 11, 2011, the City of Harbin Government has advised that all family members accompanying an employee and residing in the City of Harbin must file with a Chinese consular post simultaneous “Z” entry visa applications at the same time as the employee.  As of mid-July, it is understood that the Harbin Public Security Bureau (“PSB”) will no longer permit accompanying family members to regularize or “change status” from an “L” visa (tourist) status to a Residence License.

Family members not obtaining a “Z” visa will be limited to only an “L” Tourist Visa status, renewable up to three times with individual extensions ranging between 30-90 days.  However, “L” status does not grant full residence status to family members.  Family members with “L” status must depart China once their renewal options expire and apply for “fresh” “L” visas from the appropriate  Chinese consular post.

According to the PSB, family members who intend to reside in Harbin must now have their names included in the employee’s official “Z” visa Invitation Letter and apply for their “Z” visas at the same time as the employee.  For those family members currently in Harbin in “L” visa status and awaiting to regularize their status, it is recommended that the employee and family members work with their Chinese immigration supplier to review the family’s ability to regularize status with the PSB.  Currently, it is not yet known whether Chinese consular posts will allow family members to file “Z” visa applications if they are not included in the employee’s Invitation Letter.

Clients are advised to immediately review with those employees with family members present in Harbin in “L” status, or are considering “split-family” assignments, that family members who are currently in “L” status may be adversely impacted in applying for their Residence Licenses.  For those employees initiating assignments to Harbin, clients should be reminded that once a “Z” visa is issued, visa holders have a 90-day period to travel to China.  This 90-day window should allow some flexibility for family members to make arrangements to later join the employee and register for their Residence Licenses with the Harbin PSB.