Chinese work visas becoming a problem for foreign players

The Chinese basketball fans all together chant a low pitched “ooohhhhhh” which echoes across various arenas throughout the country. They are Ooh and aah’ing at the razzle-dazzle type basketball being brought to them by the 67 foreign players who play in the Chinese Basketball Association.

Little do they know, some of these foreign players who are being paid around $1 million for 34 games in China are playing on tourist visas. After defeating the defending champion Beijing Ducks, Zhejiang Guangsha was fined nearly $30,000 USD by the Chinese government (who control the CBA) for failing to provide temporary foreign player Jamal Franklin with a proper work visa.

Franklin isn’t the only one playing pro basketball in China without a visa, it was reported that seven other players including Franklin’s teammate Elijah Holman are all listed to be on tourist visa’s.

This August, the CBA passed a bylaw stating foreign players must provide both a work visa and an employment certificate. Before that, foreign players received bogus “temp tourist visas” from their respected teams and worked on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” basis with the league. With the regulations, teams are forced to pay more money for the proper visas and go through a lengthy process.

A Zhejiang spokesperson said in the past, it would take about 3-5 days to grant their foreign players with tourist visas. Now, it takes about 30 days to get everything passed through the Chinese government.

Many critics around the league are blaming the CBA for implementing impossible bylaws. The registration deadline for foreign players was November 3rd (meaning all documents, visas, and permits must be sent to the league office by that day). But getting a work visa in China is a very lengthy process. The team must apply for an employment permit from the government and await their response. Once that’s done, the team must then finish the invitation confirmation (send the official invitation to the player so that he can present it to the Chinese visa registrar). Then, the process for applying to the work visa kicks in. Once that process finishes, the team must sign over an employment permit to the government which could take a week for approval and finally, the team must register the foreign player for a resident permit (showing that the foreign player is in fact allowed to reside in China). Sources say that this process take anywhere from 30 to 60 days (based on the fact that nothing gets lost of “misplaced”).

Zhejiang Guangsha was in a tough spot because they lost their original foreign player, Jonathan Gibson, to injury right before the season started so they had to act quick on finding a replacement. Of course, they didn’t have 30 to 60 days to wait until the paperwork is processed. As of right now, the team is being fined $1,500 USD per day until they fix their current foreign players visa situation.

Teams are hoping that the league/government implements a special regulations visa for foreign players and make it easier for them to obtain proper visas. But as we know, that wouldn’t necessarily be the “Chinese way”.

Nick Bedard (@bedardnick) is the editor-in-chief of

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