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July 10, 2012

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Illegal foreign domestics using fake visas for work

LOCAL judges are reminding both locals and foreigners not to hire foreign domestic helpers, as the employer will face serious punishment for violating Chinese law.

But Filipino maids, renowned for their skills as nannies, are still popular in the city. Many maids are seeking ways to keep their jobs here, some even to the point of sticking fake work visas to their passports.

Last week, a Shanghai man who provided forged visas to some 10 Filipino maids overstaying visas in Shanghai and neighboring cities was sentenced to one year in prison and fined 5,000 yuan (US$785) by Changning District People's Court for providing forged entry and exit documents.

Peng Hao, 32, was an agent specialized in introducing Filipino maids and he provided fake visas to foreign domestic helpers whose visas had been out of date for up to three years.

Between July 2010 and June 2011, Peng said he helped some 10 Filipino maids get fake visas and arranged work for them. "The maids knew their visas were forged but their employers didn't," Peng told the court.

Peng was caught in September after one of his Filipino maids, surnamed Amparo, reported him to the police. The woman said she was given a fake visa and was unable to go back to her country.

Police seized 10 foreign passports with forged Chinese visas and a forged police seal at Peng's home in Zhujiajiao in the city's suburban Qingpu District.

Hiring foreign domestic helpers is legal in Hong Kong and Taiwan but not in China's mainland. Yet underground agencies like Peng's have arisen as the demand for Filipino maids, well-known for their English and housekeeping skills, rises as more expat families have settled here and local families have gotten richer.

Peng said he bought the fake visas from an illegal vendor at 1,200 yuan each and he charged every employer from 18,000 yuan to 20,000 yuan for agent and visa fees.

"I used to pay some other agencies to get real visas, but the fee goes up to around 8,000 yuan for a six-month travel visa. It was too much and I don't want to take the trouble of taking the maids to some other cities for visa interviews," Peng told prosecutors.

Almost all Filipino housemaids have visas allowing them to stay in China for up to six months but not to work. "The problem is how to keep them here and keep their job steady," Peng said.

A common practice is that the maid leaves for Hong Kong and comes back to the mainland with a new visa, which could be very costly.

Peng chose to use fake visas and he was ready to pay fines for Filipino maids if they were caught staying too long in the country. He said he would give the maids up to 7,000 yuan to let them try to fix their problems themselves.

In China, the average monthly income for a Filipino domestic helper is 3,500 yuan. "The maids don't want to leave because they earn a fairly good living here," Peng said.

Three Filipino maids including Amparo have been given a five-day detention term for an illegal stay before they are deported, the court said.

It was unknown whether their employees had been fined or not, but according to Chinese law, the employer will face a fine of between 5,000 yuan to 50,000 yuan for hiring foreigners without work permits.


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