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Home > Visas to China > Guidelines for Visa Applications
Part One: A Brief Introduction to Chinese Visas
2013/12/01

 

A visa is an officially approved document issued by authorised bodies for the government, in accordance with the laws of the country, to foreign citizens applying to enter, leave or transit through the country.

 

In line with international law and practice, any sovereign state is entitled to make its own decisions as to whether to allow a foreign citizen to enter or leave its borders, and to issue or refuse to issue a visa, or to revoke an issued visa according to its own laws.

 

Based on Chinese laws and regulations, Chinese consular officials may decide on the type of visa, number of entries, validity period and duration of stay, and may also refuse a visa application or revoke an issued visa.

 

1. The necessity to apply for a Chinese visa if a foreign citizen is planning to visit China

 

Foreign citizens should have applied for and obtained appropriate visas before entering China unless they are visa-exempt according to certain agreements and regulations.

 

You are advised to ensure that your visa is valid before travel. If your visa has expired or the visa has insufficient number of entries, you need to apply for a new visa.

 

2.  Types of Chinese visas

 

Chinese visas fall into the types of diplomatic visas, courtesy visas, public service visas and ordinary visas. Ordinary visas can be further classified as the following categories:

 

(1) C visa: Issued to foreign crew members of means of international transportation, including aircraft, trains and ships, or motor vehicle drivers engaged in cross-border transport activities, or to the accompanying family members of the crew members of the above-mentioned ships.

 

(2) D visa: Issued to those who intend to reside in China permanently.

 

(3) F visa: Issued to those who intend to go to China for exchanges, visits, study tours and other activities.

 

(4) G visa: Issued to those who intend to transit through China.

 

(5) J1 visa: Issued to resident foreign journalists of foreign news organizations stationed in China.  The intended duration of stay in China exceeds 180 days.

 

(6) J2 visa: Issued to foreign journalists who intend to go to China for short-term news coverage. The intended duration of stay in China is no more than 180 days.

 

(7) L visa: Issued to those who intend to go to China as a tourist.

 

(8) M visas: Issued to those who intend to go to China for commercial and trade activities.

 

(9) Q1 visa: Issued to those who are family members of Chinese citizens or of foreigners with Chinese permanent residence and intend to go to China for family reunion, or to those who intend to go to China for the purpose of foster care. The intended duration of stay in China exceeds 180 days.

 

"Family members" refers to spouses, parents, sons, daughters, spouses of sons or daughters, brothers, sisters, grandparents, grandsons, granddaughters and parents-in-law.

 

(10) Q2 visa: Issued to those who intend to visit their relatives who are Chinese citizens residing in China or foreigners with permanent residence in China. The intended duration of stay in China is no more than 180 days.

 

(11) R visa: Issued to those who are high-level talents or whose skills are urgently needed in China.

 

(12) S1 visa: Issued to those who intend to go to China to visit the foreigners working or studying in China to whom they are spouses, parents, sons or daughters under the age of 18 or parents-in-law,or to those who intend to go to China for other private affairs. The intended duration of stay in China exceeds 180 days.

 

(13) S2 visa: Issued to those who intend to visit their family members who are foreigners working or studying in China, or to those who intend to go to China for other private matters.  The intended duration of stay in China is no more than 180 days.

 

"family members" refers to spouses, parents, sons, daughters, spouses of sons or daughters, brothers, sisters, grandparents, grandsons, granddaughters and parents-in-law.

 

(14) X1 visa: Issued to those who intend to study in China for a period of more than 180 days.

 

(15) X2 visa: Issued to those who intend to study in China for a period of no more than 180 days.

 

(16) Z visa: Issued to those who intend to work in China.

 

3. Validity period, number of entries and duration of each stay of Chinese visas

 

(1) The validity period of a visa ("Enter Before") refers to the valid time length of the visa itself. A visa is valid for the visa holder to enter the Chinese border from the date the visa is issued to the expiry date (as of Beijing Time). If a visa has unused entries, the holder can still use it before the expiry date (inclusive).

 

(2) The term "Entries" of a visa refers to the number of times the visa holder is permitted to enter the Chinese border within the validity period of the visa. A visa becomes invalid if all the entries are used up or if the visa has expired even though there are entries unused.

In this case, you will have to submit a new visa application if you wish to visit China. Holders of an invalid visa will be refused entry to China at the border.

 

(3) The "Duration of Each Stay" refers to the maximum number of days a visa holder is permitted to stay in China after each entry, namely, the maximum number of days a visa holder can stay in China from the day of entry.

 

Foreign citizens who stay in China longer than permitted by the visa without applying for an extension of stay will be considered as violating the Law of the People's Republic of China on Control of the Entry and Exit of Aliens and Rules Governing the Implementation of the Law of the PRC on the Entry and Exit of Aliens, and as a result will face prosecution of fines or other penalties. Therefore, the visa holder must apply for an extension of stay at local public security authorities above county level (detailed requirements are available on the websites of local public security authorities) should it be foreseeable that an overstay would happen. (However, approval of the application cannot be guaranteed.) Chinese embassies and consulates in foreign countries do not accept applications for visa extension.

 

Holder of D visa, J1 visa, Q1 visa, S1 visa, X1 visa, Z visa must register with a local public security authorities for residential formalities within 30 days of entry. Resident members of diplomatic and consular missions must complete residential formalities at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or local foreign affairs departments within 30 days of entry.

 

4. Visa Exemptions

 

Foreign citizens visiting China are exempt from visas if one of the following situations is applicable to them.

 

(1) Direct Transit

Foreign citizens who are going to transit China are exempt from visas, as long as they have a booked seat in an international connecting flight, and their stay in the city of transit is not to exceed 24 hours, and they will not get out of the airport during the stay.

 

From the 1st January 2013, citizens of the following countries holding a valid travel document, a transit flight ticket with a confirmed departure seat and date leaving within 72 hours,who transit via Beijing (Beijing Capital International airport) or Shanghai (Shanghai Pudong International airport and Hongqiao International airport) to a third country (region) may be exempt from a transit visa, provided that their stay within the Beijing or Shanghai administrative regions does not exceed 72 hours: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia, United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, USA, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.

 

From the 1st August 2013, citizens of the following countries holding a valid travel document, a transit flight ticket with a confirmed departure seat and date leaving within 72 hours, who transit via Guangzhou Baiyun International airport to a third country (region) may be exempt from a transit visa, provided that their stay within the Guangdong administrative region does not exceed 72 hours: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia, United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, USA, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.

 

From the 1st September 2013, citizens of the following countries holding a valid travel document, a transit flight ticket with a confirmed departure seat and date leaving within 72 hours, who transit via Chengdu Shuangliu airport to a third country (region) may be exempt from a transit visa, provided that their stay within the Chengdu administrative region does not exceed 72 hours: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia, United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, USA, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.

 

(2) Travellers to the Pearl River Delta or Hainan Island

 

1) Foreign citizens holding ordinary passports of a country with diplomatic relations with China, are exempt from a visa, if they are already in Hong Kong or Macao, and wish to enter the Pearl River Delta region (including Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen, Zhaoqing and Huizhou) as a member of tourist group organised by a travel agency legally registered in Hong Kong and Macao, and also if their stay will not exceed 6 days.

 

2) Citizens of the following countries holding ordinary passports are exempt from a visa, if they travel to Hainan Province in a tourist group (more than five people inclusive) organised by an international travel agency registered in Hainan Province and approved by China National Tourism Administration, and also if their stay is not to exceed 15 days: the U.S., Malaysia, Thailand, Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Germany, the U.K., France, Austria, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Netherlands, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Japan, and Singapore. Among the listed countries, visitors from Republic of Korea, Germany or Russia may stay for 21 days if their group includes more than two persons inclusive.

 

3) Citizens of Singapore, Brunei and Japan

Citizens of Singapore, Brunei and Japan are exempt from a visa when entering the border via a port open to foreigners, if their visit to China is for the purpose of tourism, doing business, meeting relatives and friends, or transiting, and if their stay is not to exceed 15 days. However, a visa will be required if one of the following situations is applicable:

 

a. the passport held is an ordinary one and the stay is to exceed 15 days, and the purpose of the visit is tourism, business or meeting relatives and friends in China;

b. the passport held is an ordinary one, and the purpose of the visit is study, work, settlement, official visit or news coverage in China;

c. the visitor holds a Japanese diplomatic or a public service passport.

 

4) Holders of valid APEC business travel cards

An APEC business travel card is equivalent to a three-year visa with multiple-entries. Holder of such a card together with a matching passport is entitled to making multiple entries, to China during the validity period of the card, and the maximum length of each stay is not to exceed two months.

 

5) Holders of valid certificate of permanent residence issued to foreign citizens by the People's Republic of China

 

6) Holders of valid residence permit issued to foreign citizens by Chinese public security authorities

 

Foreign citizens who come to China to pursue study or to take office or to take employment, and resident foreign journalists, must register with the public security authorities for a residence permit after arriving in China. Within the validity period of the residence permit foreign citizens may reside in China or make multiple entries into and exits from China without having to obtain another visa.

 

7) Bilateral Agreements

Citizens of some countries having bilateral agreements, either signed or reached with China, are exempt from a visa if they meet certain requirements. For further information please check the list of agreements on visa exemption signed between China and foreign countries.

 

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