information for global expats

Visas and Passports in China

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: August 2013

Firstly, note that the Special Administrative Region (SAR) of Hong Kong, though politically deemed to be part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), issues its own visas and passports, as does the other SAR, Macau. This page therefore refers only to visas and passports required to enter the area of the PRC minus the two SARs, hereinafter called ‘Mainland China.’ 


To enter Mainland China from outside, including entering from Hong Kong and Macau, you will need a valid passport, or an equivalent travel document if you are a stateless person or refugee. Passports and other travel documents must be valid for at least six months after your date of arrival.

Visa Requirements

In addition to a valid passport, you almost always need a visa if you want to stay in Mainland China for longer than 72 hours. The main exception is that if you are from Japan, Singapore or Brunei and want to enter Mainland China as a tourist for 15 days or less, you will not need a visa. There are a couple of other minor exceptions, but generally, if you enter China without the correct, valid visa, you will be punished: you may be fined and immediately deported.

If you are a Hong Kong or Macau resident with Chinese nationality you do not need a visa to enter Mainland China. Instead you need to obtain a Hong Kong & Macau Resident Entry Permit. Similarly, Taiwanese residents (who, despite Taiwan's de facto independence, are regarded by the PRC government as Chinese) need to obtain a Taiwanese Resident Entry Permit.

Visa Application

To apply for a visa, you will first need to visit your country’s nearest Chinese embassy or consulate in person to obtain the correct application form. Whichever visa you apply for, you will need the following documents:

  • Valid passport (with at least one blank page)
  • Passport-sized photo
  • Payment of visa fee
  • Proof of the purpose of your visit

Once the form is filled in and all the documents are copied and signed in, the Chinese embassy will process your application. Note that visa fees vary greatly from country to country. Although there is no charge in a handful of countries, in others prices can go up to 900 RMB.

Visa Types

As of 1 September 2013, there are twelve different types of visa. The main types, together with the additional documents they require, are as follows:

  • D - Permanent Residence visa. Also requires: a residence confirmation form, issued by the correct local authority, and biometric data (new).
  • F (changed) – Non-Commercial visa. For non-commercial exchanges and certain visits.
  • L – Tourist visa. Also requires: return air tickets and hotel pre-booking may be required; other documents may also be required for special excursions, for example, to Tibet. Separate visas, Q1 and Q2, now exist for people visiting relatives.
  • M (new) – Business visa. Also requires: an invitation letter from a company you are doing business with.
  • R (new) – Skilled Professional visa. For experienced professionals whose skills are urgently required in China.
  • X – Student visa. Now divided into X1 for short courses (six months or less) and X2 for longer ones. Also requires: notice of admission into the educational institution.
  • Z – Work visa. This is issued if you have taken up employment in China, and to any family members you bring with you. Also requires: employment licence obtained by your new employer in China, clean criminal record. Other documents may be required depending on the position you are applying for.

Note that if you are planning on staying for more than six months, or are applying for the X2 visa, you will need to apply for a residence permit as well. See the ‘Settlement, Residence and Citizenship’ section for more details on residence permits.

Chinese visa laws are also undergoing changes. Foreigners on tourist or business visas who are suspected of entering China to perform activities not allowed on the given visa may be denied entry. Conversely, foreign employers who have not kept up-to-date with employee payments may not be allowed to leave China.

Overstaying your visa will meet with harsh punishment. You could be given a fine of up to RMB10,000 and 5 to 15 days detention. You may also be deported and even banned from re-entry into China for a number of years.




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