When Chychyna Dina was forced to decide between a firm job offer in her native Belarus and studying economics in Beijing, she opted for the latter, convinced it would open more doors for her in the future.
"For me, Beijing simply promised more opportunities," said the 26-year-old, who arrived at the University of International Business and Economics in 2010.
Two years on, however, the new graduate said she now has only one option: Pack up and leave China.
Like many overseas students, Dina is unable to meet the requirement that foreigners must provide evidence of having at least two years of work experience before they can be employed in China, a rule in place since 1996.
"I don't have that (experience), and without it I'm left in a position where I can either buy myself a return ticket to Belarus or become one of those foreigners who works in China illegally," she said.
Dina's is a common problem that education experts say is leading to many people turning to agencies that promise to help them evade the strict regulations.
According to information gathered by China Daily, consultation companies in Beijing and Shanghai are charging 1,500 yuan ($236) to 20,000 yuan to foreigners who cannot meet the work-visa requirements to help them obtain one.
Prices are based on the client's nationality, age and educational background.
"Many foreigners have received work permits and visas through our connections with the local government," said a female agent at Xiangrui Business Consulting in Shanghai's Pudong district, when contacted by a China Daily reporter posing as a Japanese student. "Even if you've never worked before, there's no need to worry, since our boss used to work with the government and has connections."
An agent at Zhuolu Commerce Co in Beijing's Dongcheng district also claimed he could help foreigners who did not have evidence of their work experience, which is usually provided by a former employer.
"There's basically no risk. We've been doing it for years," he assured a reporter in a conversation over the QQ instant-messaging tool. "We don't fake any documents. We simply skip the process entirely."
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