Here you'll find information on types of China visas, what you need to apply for your China visa, where to apply for your China visa, and special cases related to visa with regard to Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Beijing, and Shanghai.
Types of China Visas
- C visa. For flight attendants.
- D visa. For foreigners who are residents of China.
- F visa. For businessmen, scientists, scholars, short-term students, etc.
- G visa. For travelers who transit through China.
- J visa. For journalists (J-1 for journalists staying for long terms and their family members; J-2 for journalists who visit for short terms).
- L visa. For tourists or those who visit families.
- X visa. For students who will study in China for over 6 months.
- Z visa. For those who will work in China.
Holders of D, J-1, X, or Z visas should convert their visas into residence permits after arriving in China. They should do so within 30 days after their arrival, at the local Public Security Bureau.
Most of those who travel to China will likely get L visa. On your visa you’ll see the following.
- Visa Number.
- Visa Category. E.g., “L”.
- Enter Before. Date before which you must enter China.
- Date of Issuance. The date your get your visa. Generally the period between “Date of Issuance” and “Enter Before” is 6 months. In other words, you must enter China within 6 months after you have been issued your visa; otherwise your visa becomes invalid.
- Name. Name of the visa bearer.
- Date of Birth. Birth date of the visa bearer.
- Entries. Number of times you can enter China with the current visa. You may have a singlge-entry, double-entry, or multiple-entry visa. For example, with a double-entry you can enter, exit, and enter again. With a single-entry visa, once your exit, you need another visa to re-enter. This applies to those who enter mainland China from Hong Kong or Macau.
- Duration for Each Stay. With a standard L visa a visitor can stay in China for up to 30 days.
- Place of Issuance. The city where your visa is issued to you.
- Number of your passport.
- Your name again and control number.
What You Need to Apply for Your China Visa
Generally, to apply for a China visa, you’ll need the following:
- Your passport. There should be at least 6 months remaining on it before its expiration date; this is to prevent the situation where a visa appears on an invalid passport.
- A completed visa application form. You can get a form from a Chinese embassy/consulate or download one from the internet. It is called “Visa Application Form of the People’s Republic of China”.
- One color photo glued to the space provided on the visa application form. The photo should be 48mm by 33 mm in size. It should be a recent, frontal, full-face view of yourself, with no headgear. The background in the photo should be plain, of a light color.
- If you’re a third-country citizen applying for a China visa in your country of residency, you may be required to provide proof of residency.
- If you had China visas before and they are on an old passport, you should provide photocopies of the relevant pages in your old passport (passport info and China visa pages).
- Documents particular to the type of visa that your are applying for. For example, for an L visa, you may be required one of the following, a letter from a travel agency, an invitation letter from a Chinese individual or organization, or your roundtrip plane tickets.
Where to Apply for Your China Visa
You can apply for your visa at a Chinese embassy or consulate that is close to you. In the United States, several Chinese consulates general have jurisdiction over certain states.
Visa application should be in person and cannot be done by mail. However, it does not have to be the applicant himself/herself. One can entrust someone to go to the embassy/consulate to apply on his/her behalf.
Travelers can also apply for China visa after they have arrived in Hong Kong. They can do so through the offices of the company China Travel Service (CTS) or the Chinese foreign ministry’s office in Hong Kong.
Time needed to get a visa range from 1 to 4 days. You pay extra fees for express services (e.g., pick-up on the same day or next day).
Visa-Free Visit to Hong Kong and Macau
Citizens of many countries can visit Hong Kong for up to 90 days with no visa (180 days for UK citizens). Citizens of many countries can visit Macau with no visa for periods ranging from 30 to 90 days. For long stays, these travelers should apply for visa, but they can do so upon landing in Macau. The landing visa rule does not apply to citizens of some countries; citizens of these countries must apply for their visas to enter Macau before they go on their trips.
Landing Visa for Shenzhen and Zhuhai
Shenzhen and Zhuhai are the two cities in mainland China that borders Hong Kong and Macau respectively. Citizens of many countries can apply for visa-upon-arrival to visit these cities. The visa they get at border-cross check-points enable them to stay in Shenzhen for up to 5 days or in the case of Zhuhai, for up to 3 days. This type of visa is specific to Shenzhen and Zhuhai; visitors are expected to stay in the particular city covered by their landing visa.
Stay in Shanghai and Beijing with No Visa in the While Transiting
Travelers who make international flight connections at an airport in Beijing and Shanghai can stay in the city of their transit for up to 72 hours. To be eligible for the visa-free stay, travelers must have valid visa for their final destination and purchased plane ticket.