Visas are a tricky situation, especially since regulations change so quickly.
To legally work and receive a salary in China you need to be on a work visa (Z). To obtain a work visa is a long process and a host company issuing the visa has to have a certain amount of registered capital and they have a limitation on the quantity of Z visas they are able to issue. To be eligible for this visa:
- You must have 2 years of work experience after completing university
- Go through a criminal background check in your home country
- Pass a health exam
As the process is arduous, company's are not quick to issue unless they see the employee is going to be committed. China is doing an overhaul of their visa infrastructure, so hopefully the process will be smooth and swift in the coming years.
The main question is, if you are coming to China to intern, what are your options?
The best visas to be on is a M (business) or F visa (exchange). Being on a tourist visa or student visa (unless you have permission from your uni) is not ideal. Technically, as an intern your are learning but in a professional environment and not a salaried employee. Sometimes with bigger, multinational companies the PSB will do visa checks. If you are a foreigner on a tourist visa and in a office environment you have no reason to be there and will be quickly fined and possibly deported. With a F or M visa, there is the legitimacy of being in a professional environment.
To receive a M or F visa, you need sponsorship from a host company in China.
An invitation letter will be issued, which you will take to your local consultant along with your passport, visa application, and photo. Once you arrive in China, be sure to register a temporary residence permit with your local police station. Always keep this on you along with a photocopy of your passport and visa. Every once in awhile, they will ask foreigners in the subway or public areas to see their temporary residence permit. As long as you have it on you, you should receive no hassle.