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I am a German citizen who is going to travel to China for six weeks on a Q2 visa for visiting my in-laws.

Am I likely to experience any problems if I do some remote work for my (Germany-based) company during my stay (maybe some 5 to 10 days scattered across the six weeks)?

A caveat might be that due to the internet restrictions in place in China, I might not be able to connect directly to our offices in Germany. Therefore, the variant that is most likely to actually work (in the technical sense) is for me to connect to our office in China (the same way Chinese colleagues who are employed in that Chinese office do) to get into the company's network. On the other hand, to an uninvolved outsider, this could look a lot more conspicuous, as if I were working for a China-based company.

The statements I could find by researching online were rather confusing, e.g.:

  • Can I work in China with a Q1/Q2 Visa?:
    • "(...) if you are working remotely for a company that isn’t based in China and not being paid into your Chinese bank account or studying online at a non Chinese university then you could do those."
    • "The only visa you are allowed to work on in China is a work visa and nothing else. (...) You can just exist in China."
  • Working for US company on US payroll remotely from China?:
    • "The issue with a Q Visa is that no worked is allowed on this type of visa. Now, considering you're working for a U.S Company, the chances of this being an issue are pretty small. However, it gets tricky when you want to send money into China."
  • Can I work remotely for a foreign company while staying in China on a tourist visa?:
    • "Any type of work (paid or unpaid) in China requires that you hold a work permit and the related residence permit or a Chinese Green Card."
  • And lastly, I found this noteworthy comment on another question: "in almost all countries, what most people consider work for their out-of-country employer (emails, documents, calls, meetings, writing code, writing words etc) is not considered work and therefore you can do it while you're a tourist."

and so on.

This is a bit confusing, as - while most answers seem to lean toward a total "no, not possible" - they also appear to focus on the issue of receiving money in China, or even transferring it to a Chinese bank account. That seems like a non-issue to me, as I have no Chinese bank account and I do not expect to receive or use any of the money earned while staying in China.

Or, that is, technically I might, but that would be unrelated to working there: Even if I stayed there without working a single day, I would of course still be paid for my job while staying in China (paid leave) and that's the money I would transfer into China when paying for something by credit card.

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    What did your employer say when you asked them?
    – Traveller
    Aug 2, 2023 at 23:29
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    Are you likely to run into legal problems? No. Is legal to work on a tourist visa? No. Aug 3, 2023 at 4:14
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    There can be real concerns to have for company data entering China, even only at-rest (most companies that send workers to China send clean laptops due to the obvious risk). Make sure you do have the affirmative consent of your employer Aug 3, 2023 at 4:37
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    Exactly. Working remotely from China is not a problem for the Chinese authorities, but it's a huge problem for 1. German authorities (working from abroad has tax implications) 2. your employer. Depending on how cyber-secure your employer is, you may not even be able to log in to company's VPN from China. Aug 3, 2023 at 13:21
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    @lambshaanxy if you have a source on this being explicitly illegal in China, it could be a good answer. Usually the legal answer is “inconclusive” because laws around foreigners working have usually been written a long time ago and don’t take digital nomads into account.
    – JonathanReez
    Aug 3, 2023 at 17:26

2 Answers 2

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De jure there are dozens of complex laws and regulations regarding remote employment, under which you may or may not need a special visa in order to work in a given country. Tax laws are an additional complication, where countries such as the UK can deem you as a tax resident for spending as little as 16 days on British soil.

De facto, as long as you don't mention your remote job to immigration personnel at the airport, there's a 99.99% chance no one will ever find out. There are millions of people breaking the law by being employed at on-site jobs in any given country, so digital nomads are a pretty low priority for law enforcement.

Same goes for any rules your employer might have - on paper they might care about your remote work but in practice it doesn’t matter as long as you don’t actively advertise your location. As an extra layer of security you can purchase a router with OpenVPN/Wireguard support (gl.inet can be a good option) and only connect your work laptop to that network. This way you’ll always have a non-Chinese IP address and avoid any problems related to geolocation. See What is currently the most reliable VPN for China? for information on which VPNs work within China, as most popular providers are restricted by their “Great Firewall”.

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  • The OP’s employer may care about remote work if it has IT policies in place to prevent a non China-based employee from connecting to the company network in China without eg local system admin approval, which may not be given for someone not officially working there.
    – Traveller
    Aug 3, 2023 at 16:37
  • @Traveller thanks, updated the answer.
    – JonathanReez
    Aug 3, 2023 at 16:44
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    This answer misses whether it is allowed. Many people do not just want to ignore the rules but know what the rules are, which you have not put in the answer.
    – Willeke
    Aug 3, 2023 at 17:21
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    @Willeke the answer to that question would be "inconclusive" for almost every country. Most countries haven't explicitly written a policy that covers what digital nomads are doing.
    – JonathanReez
    Aug 3, 2023 at 17:51
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You will be fine, as long as you don't camp out at your employer's China office. THAT would be an issue: Chinese Immigration often "visits" foreign companies – and local companies that employ foreigners – to check on work permits.

If that was your idea, get an M visa instead of a Q2: this allows you to come to China to do some work for your overseas employer – including visiting their Chinese offices, participate in exhibitions, etc.

But if your idea is to work from home or a coffee shop, go right ahead, you're well within your right.

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