Snakeheads use various methods to get their customers to the West. They may employ the use of stolen or altered passports, improperly obtained visas, and bribes to move people from nation to nation until they arrive at their final destination. They also may use fake business delegations and tour groups as a way of beating immigration controls. The rate of payment for successful smuggling can be as high as US$70,000.
In the Lincoln Rhyme novel, The Stone Monkey by Jeffery Deaver, the villain is a shadowy snakehead, nicknamed "the Ghost," who is intent on killing a family of Chinese immigrants who are the only witnesses alive who can identify him to the authorities.
In the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, one of the operations puts the player on a ship carrying illegal Vietnamese immigrants. The gangster running the operation is referred to as "the Snakehead."
The TV series Hawaii Five-0 (2010) featured a snakehead in the pilot episode who is sentenced to life imprisonment - later to be revealed as a subordinate of the archvillain Wo Fat.
The zombie fiction novel World War Z, by Max Brooks features a Snakehead gang member as a character, revealing how they helped transport infected refugees outside of mainland China to the West and Central Asia.
The movie Premium Rush refers to the Snakehead gang as the recipient of the envelope that is being delivered.