Chinese Visa Overview

A Chinese visa is an official permit issued by the People's Republic of China to foreign citizens who wish to visit, study, work or reside in China.

There are eight categories of China visas, including L visa for tourists, X for students, Z for workers and D for permanent residents. These visas will be briefly described below. For more information, please visit each visa's designated page (coming soon).

Foreign citizens can apply for a visa through a Chinese embassy, consulate, or visa office authorized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If you are already in China and need to change your visa type or extend your stay, you may have to apply through a local office that belongs to a different agency, such as the Exit-and-Entry Department of the Public Security Bureau.

Although there are fewer visa types and the application procedures are not nearly as complicated as the U.S. visa system, obtaining a Chinese visa can be challenging in its unique ways. First and foremost, it is difficult to find clear and detailed instructions from official government sources. Secondly, there is hardly any consistency in term of application procedure and documentation requirements. This is especially true with local offices that don't handle a large volume of visa related matters. However, once you "sort things out," usually after a couple round trips to the office, the process itself will be smooth and straightforward in most cases.

If you are applying for a visa at an overseas visa office, oftentimes you don't have to appear in person for the interview. You can designate a friend, a colleague, or a travel/visa agent to do it for you. This is very convenient for people who don't have the time or desire to travel just for the visa. E-filing or application by mail are not available.

A Chinese visa contains a validity period and the number of entries allowed while the visa being valid. Number of entries may be one, two or multiple. The duration of stay will be granted at a port-of-entry such as an airport.

The information below is accurate at time of publication. However, visa policies and application procedures may change from time to time. It is strongly recommended that you contact the exact Chinese Embassy, Consulate or Visa Office where you will be applying for a visa for up-to-date information.


Chinese Visa Overview
Visa Type Visa Name Chinese Name Brief Description

L Visa

Tourist Visa 旅游签证 (Lvyou)

L visa is for tourism, visiting family or friends, or other personal purposes in China.

L visa may have one, two or multiple entries with a validity period of 6 or 12 months. A U.S. citizen whose spouse or parent is a Chinese citizen is eligible to apply for a 24-month multi-entry L visa. A visa holder may enter China at any time as long as the visa is still valid and there is at least one entry left. Duration of stay will be determined when the visa holder enters China.

X Visa Student Visa 学习签证 (Xuexi)

X visa is issued to foreign citizens who come to China for studying or job-related training that will last six months or more.

X visa is usually valid for three months, with only one entry allowed. However, X visa holders are eligible and encouraged to apply for a Residence Permit (not a permanent resident visa) within 30 days of entering China. The permit would allow the bearer unlimited re-entries without the need to apply for or renew a visa.

D Visa Resident Visa 定居签证 (Dingju) D visa is for permanent residence in China, aka China's green card. An eligible foreign citizen may apply in person, or through a designated relative, with the Exit-Entry Department of China's Public Security Bureau in the city or county where s/he intends to reside.
Z Visa Work Visa 职业签证 (Zhiye)

Z visa is for employment/work authorization. To apply for a D visa, a person must first secure an Employment License of the People's Republic of China for Foreigners through the employer.

Z visa is usually good for one entry with a three-month validity period. Just like X visa, a person holding a Z visa is expected to register and obtain a Residence Permit within 30 days of entering China. The residence permit is different from the D (permanent resident) visa, but does allow unlimited entries into China within its authorized duration of stay.

F Visa Business Visa 访问签证 (Fangwen)

F visa is issued to business travelers who come to China for academic lectures, conferences, business meetings, cultural exchange programs, etc. L visa may also be used for short courses or job-related training that will be completed in less than six months.

F visa may come with one entry, double or multiple entries and is typically valid for 6 or 12 months. If an applicant is able to provide documents that show investment made in China, or a formal collaboration with a Chinese business, or the fact that the person has been issued at least two F visas in two years, such applicant will be eligible for a multi-entry F visa valid for 24 months.

J-1 Visa Long-term Media Visa 常驻记者签证 (Jizhe) J-1 visa is issued to foreign media correspondents who are residing in China for a long period of time. J-1 visa holders should apply for a Residence Permit within 30 days of entering China.
J-2 Visa Short-term Media Visa 临时记者签证 (Jizhe) J-2 visa is issued to foreign media correspondents who enter China temporarily for short-term news coverage.
C Visa Crew Visa 乘务签证 (Chengwu) C visa is issued to crew members including flight/train attendants and seamen operating international services, and to their accompanying family members.
G Visa Transit Visa 过境签证 (Guojing) G visa is for foreign nationals who transit through China as a passenger of an international flight, train or ship. Also see visa-free transit below.
Visa-Free Entry for Visitors: Visas are not required for citizens of Singapore, Brunei or Japan who have regular passports and are visiting China for up to 15 days for business, tourism or visiting family/friends. Certain nationals visiting the Pearl River Delta region or Hainan Province may be exempt from tourist visas if they join a pre-approved tour group.
Visa-Free Transit: Visas are not required for airline passengers in transit, who are staying inside a transit airport within China for less than 24 hours. The limit may be extended to 48 hours for certain transit passengers through Shanghai Pudong or Hongqiao Airport.
Permanent Residence Card (a.k.a Residence Permit): Foreign students, workers or journalists may be eligible to apply for a Permanent Residence Card that will allow unlimited re-entries during the card's validity period, without the need to renew or apply for a new visa every time. The card must be applied at local public security authorities within 30 days of entry into China.
Travel Permit: A child of Chinese descent who was born in the US to both Chinese citizen parents is eligible to apply for a travel permit, which is valid for two years and usually bears a lower cost. However, if either parent is a U.S. green card holder or citizen, the child must apply for a regular visa to enter China.

See also:

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