What About Visas?

Do I need a visa to stay in the country long-term?

Everyone traveling to China from the United States is required to get a visa before traveling to China. Most visitors from other countries are required to get a visa as well. Under certain conditions though, visitors from countries that have visa agreements with China may not be required to have a visa for a short stay. Visitors from Singapore, Brunei, and Japan are not required to have a visa for visits of less than fifteen days not involving work or study.

There are a few unordinary situations in which travelers may not need a visa for a short visit to mainland China. Currently travelers to the following Chinese airports: PEK, PVG, SHA, CAN, CTU,CKG, SHE, DLC, XIY,HGH,KWL,KMG can stay visa- free in China for up to 72 hours. They have to have a confirmed flight itinerary to one of 51 approved countries and one of their layovers on the way to their destination has to be at one of the above airports. The final destination of their flight itinerary cannot be these airports, but must be in another country. Certain other conditions may have to be met as well to get this 72-hour visa-free stay.

People that join certain authorized tourist trips in China are not required to get a visa. The visitors fall under the tour group`s authorization.

Outside of mainland China, US citizens traveling to the Chinese provinces of Macao, and Hong Kong for a short trip do not need a visa. If they plan to stay for work or study or for an extended period of time, a visa will be required.

So, in summary unless you plan to stay for just a day or two or are from a country with a reciprocal visa agreement with China, you will have to get a visa to visit mainland China. There is no way to get really around it. You are going to have to go through all the headache of getting a visa.

What Kind Of Visa Can I Get? What Type Of Paperwork Is Involved?

There are many types of visas that you can get for your trip and stay in China. The type of visa you will need to get will be determined by the length and purpose of your trip. Below I will outline some of the most common visa types that you can get.

Short Stay Visas

Type L Visa: This is a visa for tourism. It is the most common visa and easiest to get for people making a short trip to China. This visa can be used to tour or visit friends in China. Generally with this visa you are given a thirty to sixty-day stay and the currently issued visas for US citizens are usually good for ten years.

Type F Visa: This visa allows you to come to the country for non-tourism, non-working type circumstances. This is the visa you get for non-commercial conferences, investigations, cultural exchanges, etc. If the purpose of your trip is not to make money but to gather information, attend a workshop, or other public event then this is the type of visa for you to get. This visa is generally good for only a thirty-day stay, but you can ask for sixty and ninety-day stays. You can apply for single or multiple entries. The length of stay and length of visa validity is determined by the consular officer based on his review of your application.

Type M Visa: This visa allows you to come into the country for commercial and business purposes. It is not a work visa, so it does not authorize you to work in China long term. Rather, it is like a business trip visa. It allows you to attend meetings, conferences, do training, etc. all for commercial purposes. It is possible for US citizens to get this visa with a validity of ten years. The duration of stay allowed by this visa is up to the consular office, but would probably be from thirty to ninety days.

Long Stay Visas

Type X1: This is a visa for students studying long-term (longer than 180 days) at a university in China. This visa requires that you be accepted as a student from an accredited Chinese school. Some of the paperwork required for this visa must be filled out by the school.

Type Z: This is a work visa. This visa is for people working in China for pay. This visa requires that the employer and employee meet certain requirements. The employer will have to provide a work permit and visa notification letter to the applicant.

Type Q1: This visa is for relatives of Chinese citizens or foreigners with a permanent residence permit. This visa allows them to stay and live alongside their relatives in China. Relatives are defined as spouses, parents, sons, daughters, spouses of sons or daughters, brothers, sisters, grandparents, grandsons, granddaughters, and parents-in-law.

Type S1: This visa is similar to the Type Q visa above except that is is for relatives wanting to live alongside a foreigner working or studying in China long term.

There are also other specialty visas issued for certain situations and occupations as well as short term versions of the X1, Q1, & S1 visas listed above.

These long term visas are issued for a stay of thirty days. Thirty days gives the applicant enough time upon arriving in China to apply for a temporary residence permit. This permit is required and requires a physical exam along with other paperwork and usually an interview. This permit is usually good for the duration of the study time or work contract. In the case of a work contract, the maximum time allowed is five years.

Paperwork Involved

It depends on the visa, but you will always need a current passport, passport photo, filled out visa application, payment for visa, and related trip documents (flight itinerary for tourist visa, letter of invitation for business visa, etc).

How much does a visa cost? How Often Does It Need To Get Renewed?

Visa Fees

The fee table for common visas is as follows per the chart below:

  • Number of Entries | U.S. Citizen | Non-U.S. Citizen*
  • Single Entry |$140 |$30
  • Double Entries | $140 | $45
  • Multiple Entries for 6 Months | $140 | $60
  • Multiple Entries for 12 Months or more | $140 | $90

There is an additional fee for express and rush services. Regular service takes four days to issue the visa if all the documents are in order. Express service cuts the time down to two to three days, and rush service takes only one day. Visas must be paid for by a company or cashiers check, credit card, or money order. Cash is not accepted. You can apply for the visa yourself at a local consulate or use a visa processing company and apply by mail.

Visa Renewal

Many of the short stay visas are now good for ten years for U.S citizens although the validity of the visa is always subject to the consular officer`s decision. A temporary stay permit obtained after obtaining a long stay visa is usually valid for the length of the study course or work contract. You can enter the country up until the day the visa expires and then stay as long as your visa duration is (30, 60, 90days, etc.) even though your visa is out of date. That is why the expiration date is called an enter before date and not an expiration date. Short term visas can sometimes be extended in China at the local public security bureau. Once a short term visa is expired a new visa will need to be applied for. Long term temporary resident permits can be renewed before their expiration date comes up. The work contract or study enrollment would also have to be renewed in order for the temporary resident permit to be renewed.


Sources Used In Writing This Article: