Fake it to make it

By Zhang Xinyuan Source:Global Times Published: 2017/10/27 23:10:28

Some foreigners in China use forged documents to secure jobs and get visas

It is troublesome and difficult for Chinese employers to check credentials from various countries, which some say makes it easier to used forged documents. Photo: IC

When Lily (pseudonym) from the US first came to Beijing one and a half years ago, like many other expats, she was tricked into using fake documents and worked illegally as an English teacher in a Chinese kindergarten.

"That was a horrible experience. I am glad it's all behind me and that I am a legit employee using proper documents," she said.

However, according to Lily, it is common that foreigners in China voluntarily seek out fake documents or are being tricked into using them in order to work in China.

Metropolitan contacted an agent from the company Global Networking (pseudonym), an agency that specializes in providing foreigners in China fake documents ranging from passports, visas and teacher's certificates to college degrees and more.

In order to get inside information on the counterfeit industry providing foreigners illegal and fake documents, Metropolitan went undercover as an expat from the US who is in need of a fake Z visa (work visa) and a college degree.

According to the agent, it's an up and coming industry.

"I really can't count how many cases I have handled over the years; it's too many to count," the agent told me. "From the beginning of this month until today (October 25), I have handled 15 cases of helping foreigners get fake documents."

Using fake documents

Lily was recruited by a Chinese agent that helps companies in China recruit foreign employees.

The agent convinced her that she only needed a business visa, which is easier to acquire than a Z visa, to work in China, and when Lily asked the agent if she needed a "no criminal record," the agent told Lily no.

Lily felt uneasy because she knew that providing proof of not having a criminal record is a basic credential needed to find a job in a foreign country, but since she is no expert on China's policies, she let it slide.

"I now realize that she must have faked my no criminal record," Lily said. "I was so lucky I didn't get caught and thrown out of the country for that."

"Fake documents are very common among the foreigners I worked with at my school," Lily said. "I remember one guy told me that he bought a fake college degree for 5,000 yuan ($753)."

"And my roommate at the time, a Filipino who holds passports from the US and the Philippines, had criminal records in both countries," Lily said.

"So, I knew his documents must have been forged as well."

Fortunately for Lily, after a while, she managed to get a better job in media on her own, and she now has a legit Z visa.

"Most foreigners are tricked by their Chinese agents to use fake documents and unknowingly work in China illegally like I did. Since they don't know the governmental policies, the social rules or how things are generally done in China, it is easy to be tricked," Lily said.

"But there are also some foreigners in China who voluntarily seek fake documents in order to work in China," she added.

Jake (pseudonym), a teacher from the US, has been working in Beijing for five years using a fake college degree, and he is fine with that.

For the first two years of his career, he was working on a business visa, which is illegal, and then he decided to apply for a Z visa.

That is when he found out he needed a college degree. So, he bought a fake college degree for 2,000 yuan from a vendor located outside of a subway exit in Zhongguancun, Haidian district.

Now, he has a legit Z visa, and he thinks it was a smart move. In addition, he does not appreciate online shaming where Internet users say it is wrong to use a fake degree.

"I don't have a degree, but I've been doing my job and teaching kids for the last two years. I am more experienced and qualified to teach English than some of those who do have degrees," Jake said.

 "Not having a degree doesn't mean I'm uneducated and incapable of doing my job. I didn't go to university because it was too expensive for my family," he said.

Jake added that if he wanted to go into a career like medicine or law, it's essential to have a degree. However, he has been speaking and writing English for the past 30 years, which he feels makes him qualified. 

"I am a native English speaker. I grasped my language perfectly, and I am just teaching teenage kids; it's not rocket science. Why do I have to have a college degree?" Jake said.

The Chinese government's requirements for foreign workers are becoming stricter, which can limit the ability to use forged credentials. Photo: IC

Fishing a counterfeit expert

Through the conversation the reporter had with the agent on WeChat, a lot of inside information on the industry surfaced.

"If you have a business visa, we can change it to a one year Z visa. It's very possible," the agent said.

"For the college degree you asked for, we can issue a college degree from universities in Beijing," the agent said. "It will be a valid certificate."

"The process only takes 10 to 20 days," he/she said. "A one year Z visa costs 8,500 yuan, with the lowest price being 8,000 yuan. A college degree costs 3,500 yuan."

The agent insist that he/she "speak only English," but according to a native speaker, the agent did not seem to be a native speaker from the way he/she formed a sentence.

So the agent is either a local Chinese or a foreigner from a non-native English speaking country. The agent also said that he/she has received requests from people from every country imaginable.

"Among them, people from African countries, Russia, Ukraine and the Philippines are most common, in addition to people from Western countries," the agent said.

The agent also guaranteed that his/her company's visas have a 99.9 percent success rate, and in case of any failure, the company offers a full refund.

When Metropolitan, posing as the expat from the US, expressed concern over whether or not the visa would actually work and if the user would get caught, the agent said, "There is nothing to worry about; we will handle all the processes until you get your visa."

Double checking

"I think using fake documents mainly occurs in the low-end English teaching industry because of its high demand and loose regulations, and mainly with people from developing countries," said David Shang, a senior consultant from Jobsitechina.com, a website that bridges Chinese employers and foreign workers.

"Other industries, like my company, mainly help recruit high-end technical and management foreign talents, and the use of fake documents is very rare. At least I haven't seen one before," Shang said.

He added that another reason why counterfeit behavior exists among foreign employees is that some Chinese employers usually do not check the authenticity of the documents carefully.

"It's almost impossible to check since different credentials from different countries vary and there is no universal template. They don't have the means and it's time consuming," Shang said.

Besides, employers usually use agents to find foreign employees, according to Shang.

"So when the agent works with the foreign employees to forge documents or the agents trick them into using fake documents, which I think is more often the case, employers don't find out," he said.

In Lily's case, she was the victim of her agent. According to Lily, a list of fraudulent agents' name was spread online, and her agent's name was on it.

"She has changed her name to Rosey, but she still keeps doing the same thing to other expats," Lily said.

However, Lily doesn't agree that there is a "Chinese cheating culture" leading the foreigners to do so, since she has heard of many immigrants in the US forging documents as well. She said that some immigrants from the US will make fake visas and green cards, and some even buy social security numbers from the black market so they can register in schools.

How to Discern?

Shang suggested some ways for employers to tell if their foreign employees have the right credentials and if their documents are legit.

He suggested that employers could sign a contract with the agent and the employees, stipulating that if their credentials and documents are found out to be fake, the agents and employees need to take full responsibility and compensate the company.

Also, since April 2017, the Chinese government has implemented a policy that foreign employee's university degrees and no criminal records need to be validated by the Chinese embassy or consulate in their own country, according to Shang.

"That limits the opportunity for fake documents, but in case there are some counterfeit masters out there, the employers could question the future employee on how long it took to get the documents and the process they went through, which usually takes at least take two months, and see if there are any irregularities," Shang said.

"I do think that it is not as easy as before to use fake credentials since the requirements are becoming stricter," Lily said.


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