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China Visa 

The PRC follows the international system and issues visas according to its laws and regulations which may be modified from time to time.  The information provided on this page is about entry to the PRC mainland only: it does not include entry rules for Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan. In some limited situations visa is not required, but most foreign travelers need one. Generally, travelers requiring one must obtain it prior to travel, but there are a few exceptions.

Foreign travelers holding connecting tickets to pass through China are exempt from visa requirements provided they stay in the transit area of the airport for a no longer than 24 hours.

Some can only be applied for outside China, some both, and one 'visa equivalent' – the temporary residence permit - can only be obtained inside China.

The regulations include a number of factors such as your nationality, whether you have family in China, and whether you were previously a Chinese citizen, and of course which type you are applying for, as well as that, each issuing office has some discretion in how they implement the regulations.  This makes it impossible to explain here exactly what will happen, or to provide any certainties. However, these guidelines will be relevant to most situations.

The regulations are not normally applied to their fullest extent but at any time the government may issue a directive to apply the regulations more rigorously against an individual, to applicants from certain nations, or when special events are taking place such as the Olympic Games.  Thus, at any time you might be asked to supply full travel bookings, show a minimum amount of funds, or have invitations from Chinese persons or organizations.

Visas can be issued for various durations; immediate or later start dates, and allow one, two (dual), or multiple entries.  Any exit from the mainland of the PRC, including to Hong Kong and Macau will require that you have a valid entry to the mainland to permit you to re-enter.  Otherwise you will need to apply for a new one at a consulate (or equivalent in Hong Kong) before entry is permitted.

The Chinese visa is usually a paper sheet glued into your passport but it can occasionally be a rubber stamp.

Nationality Makes a Difference

Depending on the nationality of your passport, the rules vary.  Here, we try to provide some guidelines but as always, if you have any doubts contact the appropriate office.

Like most countries, China applies has stricter regulations than it actually applies most of the time. It may be that nationals of some countries have been found to overstay more frequently than others, or have a higher incidence of crime, or be nations associated with terror, or simply ones where diplomatic relations are currently strained. It seems that at present, applicants from certain Asian countries are being required to get invitations and show adequate funds.
Visa fees also vary considerably according to nationality.

Number of Entries / Validity/ Duration of Each Stay

China issues visas that allow one entry, double or multiple, the last two allowing you to exit from the Chinese mainland and re-enter on the same visa. 
Validity shown as "enter before" refers to the time limit of visa. The holders must use it to enter mainland of PRC before 24:00 on the exact day of expiration, otherwise, it expires after time limit and cannot be extended no matter whether there is number of entry left, and reapplication is required. The validity is 3 months, 6 months, one year and two years. It is suggested to check the validity to assure it is good to be used. Duration of stay refers to the maximum number of days the holder is permitted to stay in the Mainland of PRC each time, which is counted from the date of entry. If extension of the duration of stay is needed, applicants should apply for a new one at the exit & enter department of local public security authorities before it expires. Overstaying is against the Chinese laws and regulations, punishments such as fines or even expulsion will be made, therefore, it is suggested to check visa to avoid overstaying. 


From the 1st January 2013, passport holders of following 45 countries and regions can be granted a visa-free stay of up to 72 hours while in transit via Beijing Capital Airport (PEK) and Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) & Hongqiao International Airport (SHA). From June of 2013, Guangzhou will also adopt this new policy for passengers transiting via Guangzhou Baiyun Airport (CAN):

Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States. 

Please refer to 72-hour Visa-Free Transit for more details.

There are a very few situations where no visa is required or you can obtain one on arrival. The following paragraphs explain the main exemptions. You should also be familiar with airline regulations.

1. For Diplomatic, Service or Official Passport Holders 
China has mutual visa-free agreements with some foreign countries, but they are mainly for diplomatic, service or official passport holders and only allow the duration of stay less than 30 days.

2. For Direct Transit
The truly transit passengers by international flight who hold onward tickets do not require a visa  provided that they stay in the airport transit area and depart within 24 hours.

3. For Nationals of Singapore, Brunei and Japan
Ordinary passport holders of Singapore, Brunei and Japan are allowed to enter China without visas for up to 15 days for tourism, including visiting family or friends, or minor business purposes provided they enter through nominated international ports.
For nationals of these three countries, a visa is required under following circumstance:
(1) Ordinary passport holder visits for tourism, business, visiting friends and relatives and stay for more than 15 days. 
(2) Ordinary passport holder visits for the purposes of study, work, official visit, settling down and interview.
(3) Diplomatic and Official passport holder.

4. For Holder of Aliens' Residence Permit
foreign nationals who visit for the purposes of study or work and resident foreign journalists shall apply for Aliens' Residence Permit at local public security authorities within 30 days after entry.
Within the period of the validity of the Residence Card, the holder is entitled to enter and exit China for many times without applying for another visa.

5. For Holder of  APEC Business Travel Card
The APEC Business Travel Card is regarded as a multiple entry visa valid for three years. With this card and relevant passport, the holder is entitled to enter China for many times within three years. The duration of each stay should be within 2 months.

6. For Tourists Visiting Hainan Province
Citizens holding the ordinary passport of the following 26 countries are exempt from visa requirements when they travel to Hainan Province as a group (at least 5 members) organised by International Travel Agencies that have been set up and registered in Hainan Province.  The stay is limited to 21 days and travelers are not allowed to leave Hainan: Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kazakstan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Singapore, Thailand, USA and Ukraine. The tours organized by travel agencies of South Korea, Germany and Russia can have two members each group.

7. For Tourists Visiting the Pearl River Delta Region
Citizens holding passports issued by the nations with diplomatic relations with China is exempted from applying for a visa if he or she joins tourist group at Hong Kong and Macao organized by registered travel agencies in Hong Kong and Macao to visit the Pearl River Delta region (Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Zhaoqing, Huzhou Municipalities) for tourism and stay up to 6 days.

72-hour Visa-free Transit

In order to facilitate the international visitors' short stay for sightseeing in Beijing, and Shanghai, they both adopt a visa-free transit policy from January 1, 2013, which allows transit passengers with passport of the following 45 countries to stay for up to 72 hours without visa on direct transit via Capital Airport, Shanghai Pudong Airport, Hongqiao Airport; 

Note: Guangzhou and Chengdu had also been approved by the State Council to carry out this free transit policy a few months later. That is to say, air passengers from those 45 countries can enjoy 72 hours free transit via  Guangzhou Baiyun Airport and Chengdu Shuangliu Airport:

Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States.

1. Confirmed interline ticket and valid visa to the third country or region (if required) are needed for entry. According to presentations by the Exit and Entry Administration of Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau (PSB), the 72 hours will be counted from the moment visitors get their transit permits, but not the time when they land at the airport. However, different airlines may have different policies regarding this free transit. For example, passengers may be denied boarding their flights if they do not have confirmed tickets for leaving within 72 hours (here the 72 hour can be simply calculated based on scheduled landing and scheduled departure of the flights). So to avoid hassles, transit passengers from said countries are suggested to book a flight ticket for leaving within 72 hours to a third country or region.

2. Visitors are required to register at a police station with their transit permits within 24 hours after entry. (Here it should be clear that the registration will be done when you check in to a hotel. So, personal registration is required only for those who stay at their friends' or family's place.)

Restrictions of the 72-hour Visa-free Transit:
1). This regulation does not apply to passengers who travel on round trip flights (e.g., Hong Kong - Beijing - Hong Kong), which means the destination and place of departure can not be the same. That is to say, only those who make transit through Beijing or Shanghai International Airport to the third country are eligible for this policy.
2). The 72-hour free stay only applies to transit via Airports. Passengers by train or any other vehicles should still apply for a transit G visa in advance.
3). For air passengers who are interested to visit Beijing/Shanghai during stopover, they should make sure put forward transit permit requests to the airlines taken in advance, so that the airlines can declare it to the airport customs before landing. 
4). Visitors are not allowed to leave Beijing/Shanghai to other cities during the 72 hours. They can only depart from the Beijing/Shanghai Airport.
5). If visitors are unable to depart on time due to unavoidable reasons, such as flight cancellation or treatment of sudden disease, they need to apply for a visa from Municipal Public Security Bureau (PSB). Otherwise, tourists cannot apply for an extension of stay.

Punishment on Violators: 
Visitors from said countries should strictly follow the restrictions above. Violators of Chinese law, shall be warned, fined or detained for a few days depending on the circumstances. Cases of gross violation shall be expelled from China and prohibited re-entry. 

Service Facilities:
Currently, the airports have already optimized the transit formalities with the Customs, the Entry-Exit Inspection & Quarantine Bureau and Frontier Inspection Station. There are service centers for transit passengers in the terminals, offering rest places with drinking water and reading materials if they do not want to leave the airport. For visa-free transit passengers, the airports also provide services for currency exchange, mobile phone rental, car rental, left luggage, as well as local souvenir shops. Tour buses are available from the terminals for the convenience of tourists.

Tips: Some goods are prohibited entry, like fresh fruits and vegetables, which shall be destroyed under the surveillance of Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau. But if passengers travel with companion animal or carry storable food, they can apply to Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau for temporary custody within the stopover period and re-export. 

How to apply China Visa

Application in Your Own Country 
Ideally, complete an application form supplied by the office where you are applying as there may be variations from place to place.  Complete as much of the form as possible though some questions might not be relevant to your situation.  One problem for many travelers is answering the question on where they will be staying.  You should simply list some cities you might visit.  For tourist L, many nationalities will not need to provide contact information, but if you have any then certainly enter them.  If you are seeking dual or multiple entry, indicate the countries or SARs (HK, Macau) you plan to visit to show why you need multiple entry. 

Naturally, you should answer questions honestly and risk failing in your application, not being admitted on arrival at the border, being expelled after entry.  One hot topic is what happens if you declare that you have a criminal record.  You will not be automatically denied a visa, but if you have committed a serious crime then you may have a problem.  In some countries persons may receive fixed penalty fines, perhaps for littering, or have a 'no conviction recorded' and bound over not to re-offend, or had restraining orders placed on them: these are not of concern and need not be stated on the application.  Other minor offences such as are called 'summary' in Britain or 'misdemeanour' in the USA should be stated to comply with Chinese law, but it is known that many applicants do not declare them.

If you want one with a long duration or dual or multiple entry, indicate it on you application.  It will not always be granted.  However, do not limit your application based on what may have happened to others.  US citizens (only) might as well seek the maximum length with multiple entry as the fee is the same. 

The normal processing time is four working days including the day you submitted the application and the day you collect. Remember there might be additional non working days for Chinese public holidays.  By paying an additional fee you can usually have yours processed faster.  It is normally possible to have your application processed overnight, for collection the following afternoon, though some offices might offer a same day service if you arrive in the office soon after opening. In general try to apply for it well in advance to allow for any delays. Visas granted outside China normally allow first entry at least three months after the date of issue.

If you have any doubts about your situation you should enquire at a Chinese Consulate or at a Public Security Bureau Entry and Exit Administration office within mainland PRC. Any postal or couriered applications from individuals are not accepted.

Application in China (Renewals and Extensions) 
I t is not possible to renew, extend a visa or change into another type. However, if you want to spend more time here, want a multiple entry, or need to have a different type, you can - in many circumstances – apply within China. The procedure is very similar to applying outside through Chinese embassy, but you must go to the Public Security Bureau (PSM) Exit and Entry Administration office for the municipality where you will be 'resident' on the night following the submission of the application. Smaller centers might not have good English speakers so it is a good idea to take a Chinese friend with you if you can. Ask at international hotels if you are not sure where the PSB Exit and Entry Administration office is.

The new visa runs from the date of issue (a small difference compared with those issued outside China which do not start until entry) and the old one is cancelled at that time. So, you cannot have two concurrent visas such as a student X and a work Z. It is a good idea not to apply until the old one is about to expire as you lose any unused time on the old one. Do not be concerned that you may have a gap between visas while the new one is being processed – if you apply just before a week long closure of the PSB office such as Spring Festival, you might get up to 10 days 'for free'!

Always make sure you apply by the last day of validity of the old one, earlier, if the expiry is on a non-working day, and that you have all the required documentation. If you are late applying, you have overstayed and are subject to a fine and possible expulsion. 

If you run into difficulties when at the PSB, it is a waste of time getting irate or trying to bluster your way through, it simply doesn't work. Stay cool and you will generally find the officials help and explain all they can.

Currently, it seems that one month is the standard period for regular tourist L issued in PRC. Longer ones are available in some situations such as for persons married to Chinese nationals.

Complete the application form from the PSB Exit and Entry Administration office for the locality where you are registered as residing the night of the application, (ie AFTER you apply). It is probably easiest to take the application in yourself. If you have a friend submit your application there are additional regulations.

The section what you must submit for application explains what you need to get together before you apply. One point is that you must include 'photocopies of your passport id page, your current visa, and your last entry stamp; and a residency registration'. The residency registration comes from the regulation that all foreigners must register their accommodation details within 24 hours of arriving (48 hours in remote areas) – as explained below.

If you are staying in a hotel certified to accommodate foreigners - this excludes most budget hotels, but youth hostels affiliated to the Chinese YHA are ok – they can provide you with a hotel accommodation registration slip, (旅馆住宿登记 lü guan zhu su deng ji) for the night of the date you are making the application, not the one before! If you are not staying in a hotel, you must obtain an accommodation registration printout from the police station for the area you are living - and where you should already have registered. So if you are staying in a non accredited hotel or with friends or in an apartment but have not registered, you should either register or stay in an accredited hotel for one night in order to get the slip. 

If you are applying in a country or territory other than the country of your current nationality, you should fill out the Supplementary Visa Application Form besides the Visa Application Form.

You could be applying for a visa either in your own country, within China or in a third country.  If you have any doubts about your situation you should enquire at a Chinese Consulate or at a Public Security Bureau Entry and Exit Administration office in China.

Application in a Third Country & Regions
Travelers often need to obtain visas while en route, in another country, for example, you are Austrians, you can also apply at Chinese Embassy in Berlin, Germany. While it is possible to obtain one in this situation it has become more difficult recently.  Some offices do not accept applications from persons who are not resident in the country concerned.  In some cases having a visa for that country is considered OK, but this might be of no help if you are in a country where you do not require one.

There is no simple answer to this issue, nor is it clear exactly why this rule exists.  The first option is to try at every Chinese Consulate that you pass in the hope that one will grant one.  Another possibility is that if you can manage without your passport for a couple of weeks, you express mail or courier your passport and application to a friend or agent in your own country and have it sent back to you after it has been issued.

Hong Kong and Macau are considered as foreign territory on this regard so they are 'third countries' in this context.   Hong Kong has traditionally been liberal in its application of visa regulations but this has changed since the Olympics. Now nationals of 33 countries are banned from applying for a Chinese visa in Hong Kong or Macau unless they are working or living in Hong Kong or Macau: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Congo, Egypt, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Malaysia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Saudi Arab, Sierra Leone, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey and Uzbekistan. However, this policy is subject to change at any time in the actual operation of visa office. Other nationals who can most easily apply in their home country should still be able to obtain them in Hong Kong, but maybe for lesser durations than was the case in the past.

Now it is not worth applying a Chinese tourist L in Hong Kong because it takes 3 – 4 days and costs HK$ 200 – 2,000 or more that differs from countries. If you want to get it within 1-3 days, you have to apply for rush service or express service by paying extra HK$ 300 or HK$ 200 besides the regular fee. The previous method of reaching to Hong Kong and immediately getting one no longer exist. You have to burden the expense hotel bills in Hong Kong till your application is approved. The office in Macau is less crowded and the hotel is cheaper, but it also takes a long time. Generally speaking, you can only get single or double entry one if you are visitors in Hong Kong without HK ID Card; if you have previous entries into Mainland or you are Hong Kong student/work visa holders, you possibly get a multiple-entry one to Mainland.

Hereunder is the contact information of Commissioner's Officer of Foreign Affairs Ministry of PRC in Hong Kong and Macau:
Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC in Hong Kong SAR,
Address: 3rd Floor, China Resources Building, 26 Harbour Road, Wanchai.Open 09:00 - 12:00, and 14:00 - 17:00, Monday - Friday (except Hong Kong public holidays)
Do not take large baggage as you are not allowed to take it inside. Enquiry ServiceTel- Enquiry24 hour Automatic Answering Telephone: 852-34132300 Live Answering Telephone: 852-34132424 (available at 10:00-11:00, 15:00-16:00 on workdays)
Fax: 852-34132312
The office in Macao is quite small and some travelers suggest is less generous than the Hong Kong office.  
Address: No.992 Luo Li Ji Bo Shi Da Ma Lu (In Portuguese, the address is No. 992, Avenida do Dr. Rodrigo Rodrigues, Macao SAR, PRC) 
Tel: +853-87915106/87915126
Fax: +853-87915102
Offices hours: 1. Monday - Friday,  09:00-12:00, 14:30-16:00
2. 14:30-16:30, FRIDAY is open only for Pick-up. 
3. Office is closed on Saturday, Sunday & Macau Public Holidays.

Requirements of Application

You must include the following in your application: 
1. Your passport with at least one pair of blank facing pages and at least 3 months validity beyond the duration of the visa you are applying for and in any case a minimum of 6 months.  If you don't have this you will need to get a new passport first. If you are entering on a visa that will be converted to a Temporary Residence Permit, it would be wise to have at least two pairs of blank facing pages. 
2. A passport photo – if you buy one from a recognized passport photo retailer you will ensure that you get photos of the correct dimension and background color.
3. The application fee.
4. When applying within China, photocopies of your passport id page, your current visa, and your last entry stamp; and a residency registration
As explained in visa types, for types other than tourist and transit, additional documentation must be submitted. The Chinese organization that you are involved with will need to organize these for you.
   Additional proofs are sometimes asked for such as for the period around the Olympic Games though they can be asked for at any time at the discretion of the PSB office.  Some nationalities may be asked for these proofs, others not. Generally, you do not need to undergo a physical examination (medical) for Z, X, or F visas, however, there does seem to be a provision whereby this can be required.   You might be required to show that you have sufficient funds for the duration of the visit at the rate of US$100 a day; hotel bookings or other accommodation arrangements for the full period of the visit; onward travel arrangements out of China; an invitation letter.  In these circumstances, if you are planning a budget trip, pre-book some youth hostels and any travel you can to show that you will need less money than US$100 a day.  If you have friends or business acquaintances, get invitations.  Of course, there are no guarantees.
If your application is accepted for processing you will be given a receipt.  If you want someone else to collect you passport you must give them this.  Should you lose the receipt only you can collect your passport and you will need some other photo-id.

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