A visa is a travel document issued by authorized government agencies to foreign citizens applying to enter, exit from or transit through the host country's territory based on the host country's laws and regulations.
In accordance with international law and practice, any sovereign state is entitled to decide on whether or not to allow a foreign citizen to enter or exit from its territory, and whether to issue a visa, decline a visa application or to cancel an issued visa in accordance with its national laws.
Chinese consular officials are entitled to decide on the type, number of entries, validity and duration of each stay of a visa to be issued based on Chinese laws and regulations. Consular officials reserve the right to decline a visa application or revoke an issued visa.
1. Visa is required for a foreign citizen to visit China
Foreign citizens must obtain a Chinese visa before entry into China, with the exception of visa-free entry based on relevant agreements or regulations.
2. Visa Types
Chinese visas fall into four types: diplomatic visa, courtesy visa, service visa and ordinary visa. Ordinary visas are further divided into the following categories:
1) A Tourist Visa (L Visa) is issued to a foreign citizen who comes to China for a short stay for tourism, family visit or other personal affairs.
2) A Business Visa (F Visa) is issued to a foreign citizen who is invited to China for a visit, research, lecture, business, exchanges in the fields of science, technology or culture, advanced study, or internship for a period of no more than 6 months.
3) A Student Visa (X Visa) is issued to a foreign citizen who comes to China for the purpose of study, advanced study or internship for a period of more than 6 months.
4) A Work Visa (Z Visa) is issued to a foreign citizen who comes to China for the purpose of commercial performances or academic exchanges, and to his/her accompanying spouse and minor children.
5) A Crew Visa (C Visa) is issued to a crew member of an international train, airliner or vessel who is a foreign citizen and comes to China for business.
6) Journalist Visas (J-1, J-2 Visa)
A J-1 Visa is issued to a resident foreign journalist in China and his/her accompanying spouse and minor children.
A J-2 Visa is issued to a foreign journalist who visits China for temporary news coverage.
7) A Transit Visa (G Visa) is issued to a foreign citizen who is to transit through China on his/her way to a third country or region and will stay at a Chinese airport for more than 24 hours or will need to leave the airport.
8) A Permanent Resident Visa (D Visa) is issued to a foreign citizen who has been authorized to reside permanently in China.
3. Validity, Number of Entries and Duration of Each Stay of Chinese Visas
1) Visa Validity ("Enter Before") means that the visa is valid, or can be used for entry into China from the date of issue to the "Enter Before" date indicated on the visa (Beijing Time). If a visa has unused entries, the bearer can enter China before 24:00 (Beijing Time) on the expiration date.
2) "Entries" refers to the number of times the bearer is permitted to enter China during the validity of a visa.
A visa becomes invalid if there are no entries left, or there are entries left but the visa validity expires. If a visa becomes invalid, its bearer must apply for a new visa before entering China. Traveling with an invalid visa to China will result in refusal of entry.
3) "Duration of Each Stay" refers to the maximum number of days the visa bearer is permitted to stay in China each time, which is calculated from the date of entry into China.
A foreign citizen who overstays the end date of his/her authorized stay in China without going through extension formalities is subject to fines and other penalties for violation of the Law of the People's Republic of China on Control of the Entry and Exit of Aliens and its Detailed Rules for Implementation. If a visa bearer is to stay in China longer than the duration of stay allowed on the visa, approval must be obtained from local public security authorities above the county level before the duration of stay expires. Approval of an extension of stay may or may not be granted. Please check the website of the local public security authorities in China for more information. Chinese Embassies and Consulates overseas are not authorized to extend a visa.
A bearer of a Work (Z) Visa, Student (X) Visa, Permanent Resident (D) Visa, or Resident Journalist (J-1) Visa must apply for a residence permit at the local public security authorities within 30 days of entry into China. Members of foreign diplomatic or consular missions in China must apply for a residence permit at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or local foreign affairs departments within 30 days of entry into China.
4. Visa-free Entry
A foreign citizen can enter China without a visa under any one of the following circumstances:
1) Direct Transit
A foreign citizen who is transiting through China by air is exempted from a visa if he/she will stay only in the airport for no more than 24 hours and has a valid connecting ticket with confirmed seating on an international flight.
Citizens holding passports issued by the following countries are exempted from a visa if transiting through Shanghai and staying for no more than 48 hours in Shanghai. These visitors can leave the airport but must enter and exit from China via Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport or Shanghai Pudong International Airport: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States of America.
2) Visiting the Pearl River Delta or Hainan Island
A. A foreign citizen holding an ordinary passport issued by any country with diplomatic relations with China is exempted from a visa if he or she is already in Hong Kong or Macao and joins a tourist group organized by a travel agency, which is registered in Hong Kong or Macao, for a visit to the Pearl River Delta region (including Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen, Zhaoqing and Huizhou) and his/her stay is no more than 6 days.
B. A foreign citizen holding an ordinary passport issued by any of the following countries is exempted from a visa if he or she joins a tourist group (of 5 or more persons) organized by an international travel agency registered in Hainan with the approval of China National Tourism Administration to visit Hainan Province and his/her stay is no more than 15 days: Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, the U.K., Ukraine and the United States of America.
Citizens of Germany, Republic of Korea and Russia may join an international tourist group (of 2 or more persons) and can stay up to 21 days.
3) Citizens of Singapore, Brunei and Japan
A citizen of Singapore, Brunei or Japan with an ordinary passport is exempted from a visa if he/she visits China's mainland for tourism, business, or meeting with friends or relatives, and if he/she enters China through ports open to foreigners, and stays for no more than 15 days.
However, a visa is required for citizens of these three countries under any of the following circumstances:
A. An ordinary passport holder visits China for tourism, business, or meeting with friends or relatives, and stays for more than 15 days.
B. An ordinary passport holder visits China for the purpose of study, work, permanent residency, official visits and news coverage.
C. A Japanese citizen travels with a diplomatic or official passport.
4) Holders of Valid APEC Business Travel Card
The APEC Business Travel Card is a substitute of a multiple-entry visa valid for 3 years. A card holder who presents a valid passport whose image and biographic data exactly matches that on the APEC Business Travel Card can enter China multiple times during the validity of the card for a stay of no more than 2 months each time.
5) Foreigner's Permanent Residence Card Holders
6) Holders of Residence Permit for Foreigners issued by the Ministry of Public Security
Foreign citizens entering China for the purpose of study or employment or as resident foreign journalists must apply for a residence permit at local public security authorities within 30 days of entry into China. Permit holders may stay in China and enter or exit China multiple times without the need of a visa during the validity period of the permit.
7) Bilateral Agreement
Based on bilateral agreements signed or reached between China and foreign countries, foreign citizens of some countries who meet certain requirements may visit China without a visa. Please see the list of agreements on visa exemption signed between China and foreign countries for more information.