Entry Visas

Information about the different types of visas available to foreigners coming to China to live...

Before applying for residency, foreigners intending to live in China must have an entry visa to enter the country. The visa should be applied for through an overseas embassy, and the applicant needs to have sponsorship from an approved employer or educational institution.

The Entry-Exit Administration Law of the PRC, which came into force on 1 July 2013, specifies that immigration officials may collect biometric information about people leaving and entering China. This includes, but is not limited to, fingerprint records. Foreigners must also provide a health certificate when applying for a residence permit valid for more than a year.

Work visa (Z visa)

This is a single-entry visa granted to those who have taken a job in China or are giving a commercial performance.. Applicants need to supply:

  • Application form (with photo)
  • Passport
  • Work permit or foreign expert's licence (provided by the employer)
  • Official letter of invitation from the employer
  • Marriage certificate and/or children's birth certificates, if travelling with a family

Student visa (X visa)

This visa is granted to overseas students studying in China or to those on training courses in the country, and is broken down into two categories:

  • X-1: for foreigners coming to study in China for more than 180 days
  • X-2: for foreigners coming to study in China for less than or equal to 180 days

Applicants need to supply:

  • Application form (with photo)
  • Passport
  • Educational application form JW201 or JW202 from the educational institution
  • Enrolment letter of invitation from the educational institution

Long-stay journalist visa (J visa)

This visa entitles foreign correspondents to come into the country. Visits of 180 days or more require a J1 visa, while a J2 is needed for a shorter visit. Applicants need to supply:

  • Application form (with photo)
  • Passport
  • Invitation letter from the employer
  • Foreign Affairs Office letter

Resident visa (D visa)

This is an entry visa for investors or others planning to gain long-term or permanent residency. Applicants need to supply:

  • Application form (with photo)
  • Passport
  • Residence Approval Certificate, supplied by the Public Security Bureau (PSB)

Professional visa (R visa)

This visa is issued to highly-skilled workers, or those whose skills are urgently needed in China. What this constitutes has not yet been specified.

Family reunion visas (Q and S visas)

Both Q ans S visas are for family reunions. A Q visa allows Chinese people based overseas to visit their relatives in China, and an S visa allows relatives of foreign residents in China to visit. A Q1 or S1 is for visits longer than 180 days, and a Q2 or S2 is for visits shorter than 180 days.

Non-commercial visa (F visa)

A non-commercial visa is designed for short visits on cultural exchanges, study, internships and observation trips. Applicants need to supply:

  • Full personal details
  • Information on the purpose and duration of their visit, along with proof of adequate funds
  • Invitation letter and full information (name, address, etc.) of the person or entity who has invited them to China. This should include official stamps and the signature of the legal representative or the inviting individual

Under pre-2013 rules, the F visa was a commercial visa. The new category for commercial visas is M.

Trade visa (M visa)

An M visa permits the holder to enter China for commercial purposes. Applicants must supply a letter from a trade fair or trade partner detailing:

  • Full personal details
  • Information on the purpose and duration of their visit, along with proof of adequate funds
  • Full information (name, address, etc.) of the person or entity who has invited them to China

Processing Information

Times for processing visas vary, depending on the embassy. For example, the Chinese embassy in the USA takes four working days and charges a fee of US$130 to US citizens. The process can be speeded up by paying express fees. Some embassies require applications in person, others permit online or postal applications.

Further Information