All visitors traveling to mainland China require a Chinese visa, which should be obtained in advance. There is an exempt from this requirement for the visitor who travels and stay only in Hong Kong or Macau for less than 90 days.
To obtain a China visa you must appear at the Consulate in person or apply through an authorized visa agency. Request by mail is not accepted. (Download the Visa Application Form)
Visas are issued with specific type relevant to your major purpose of visit. There are 16 major types, which are respectively marked with Chinese phonetic letters L, M, F, Z, X1, X2, S1, S2, Q1, Q2, C, J-1, J-2, G, D, and R. The most popular types include tourist, business, study, work, crew, visitor, and family visa.
China Visa Types
Tourist Visa (L)
China Tourist visa is issued to foreigners who intend to go to China as a tourist or visiting friends. Proof of travel such as flight confirmation and hotel reservation or private invitation letter is required. Single-entry, double-entry or multiple-entry are all available for tourists. The duration of stay (each visit) normally is 30-60 days.
Business Visa (M)
Business M visa is issued to foreigners who intend to go to China for commercial and trade activities. M Visa is usually issued for single-entry, double-entry or multiple-entry. It is usually issued for up to 60 days stay per visit and multiple entry valid up to 10 years (for US passport holder). The duration of each visit is normally 30-60 days based on particular Chinese Consulate. Chinese Consulate may issue you a visa with limited entry, shorter duration, and validity at their discretion.
Non-Commerce Visa (F)
Non-Commerce F Visa is issued to foreigners who intend to go to China for exchanges, visits, study tours, and other non-business activities. It is currently issued for single entry only. The duration of the visit is normally 30-60 days.
Work Visa (Z)
Work Z visa Issued to those foreigners who intend to work in China or to people conducting a commercial performance in China. Z visa is usually issued for one entry with duration of stay of 000 (means to be determined). A government issued working permit or employment license is required. Holders of Z Visa shall, register at local public security bureau within 30 days of arrival, where the China Residence Permit will be issued to replace Z visa to allow multiple entries for one year.
Study Visa (X1/X2)
Study visa issued to foreigners who intend to study in China and have been admitted by a Chinese college. Student Visa is sub-divided into X1 and X2.
- X1 is issued to foreign students who come to China for study for more than 6 months. X1 visa can be issued for multiple entries with validity up to 5 years. The holder of this type of visa must register at local public security bureau within 30 days of arrival, where the China Residence Permit will be issued to replace X1 visa.
- X2 is issued to those who come to China with the same purpose but for a period of less than 6 months. X2 visa is issued for single-entry only.
Visitor Visa (S1, Long Term)
Visitor visa S1 issued to those foreigners who intend to go to China to visit an immediate family member 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. Original proof of kinship is required. S1 visa is issued for single-entry only with duration of stay of 000 (means to be determined). Holders of S1 visa shall, within 30 days from the date of entry, register and apply for the residence permit in Public Security Bureau (police station). China Residence Permit will be issued to replace S1 visa to allow multiple entry for one year or longer. S1 visa is not guaranteed. Chinese Consulate may issue you an S2 visa instead at their discretion.
Visitor Visa (S2, Short Term)
Visitor visa S2 issued to foreigners who intend to visit their family members who are 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 matters. The intended duration of stay in China is no more than 180 days. Proof of kinship is required for visiting family members. S2 visa is usually issued for multiple-entry (30 – 90 days per visit). Chinese Consulate may issue you a visa with limited entry, shorter duration, and validity at their discretion.
Family Visa (Q1, Long Term)
Family Visa Q1 is designed for Chinese descendants or foreigners who are direct 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. “direct family members” refers to spouses, parents, sons, daughters, spouses of sons or daughters, brothers, sisters, grandparents, grandsons, granddaughters and parents-in-law. Original proof of kinship is required. An interview may be required. Q1 visa is issued for single-entry only. Holders of Q1 Visa must register at local public security bureau within 30 days of arrival, where the China Residence Permit will be issued to replace Q1 visa to allow multiple entries for one or multiple years. Chinese Consulate may issue you a Q2 visa instead at their discretion.
Family Visa (Q2, Short Term)
Family Visa Q2 is designed for Chinese descendants or foreigners 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. It is usually issued for up to 120 days stay per visit and multiple entries. Chinese Consulate may issue you a visa with limited entry, shorter duration, and validity at their discretion.
Crew Visa (C)
Crew visa C 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.
Transit Visa (G)
Transit Visa G is designed for foreigners who intend to transit through China and has the same requirements as Tourist Visa (L)
Tips and Facts
- You must have full blank visa pages in your passport. China visas are affixed in your passport on the pages specifically marked for them, and countries require that visa stamps be placed on those pages that do not contain any other stamps.
- The Consulate and passport agency require passport type photo. You can find the requirements here. (Here directly from Chinese Embassy for better photo analysis)
- If you travel to China for multiple purposes, you may submit your application based on your main purpose and provide supporting documents accordingly.
- Your passport must valid at least for one year, and not altered/damaged/smudged in any way.
- Normally it takes 4 business days to process a visa application although some applications require longer processing time. You are advised to submit your visa application about one month before your planned travel date in China.
- The invitation letter may be in the form of fax, photocopy or computer printout, and must be signed by the inviter and/or company seal in case of a business invites.
- A visa is not a guarantee to enter China. The decision on whether or not you will be allowed to enter China is made at a port of entry by Chinese Border Control authority in accordance with Chinese Laws and Regulations.
- If you lose your passport during your stay in China, you should report the loss to local public security authorities as soon as possible and go to your country’s embassy or consulate in China to apply for a replacement passport or travel document. After that, you must go to the local public security authorities to apply for a new entry and exit visa.
- Avoid to overstay and always exit the country before the visa expires. The Chinese law states that for an illegal residence of foreigners, a warning shall be given. In serious cases, a penalty of 500 Yuan per day shall be imposed…But what is “serious case” in China?
For more information, click here visit the website of Chinese Embassy