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Types of Visa in the People’s Republic of China

The Chinese visa is stamp or endorsement placed by the officials of People’s Republic of China on a passport that allows the bearers to visit China.

Here is a guide from BSW to help you in the process of applying and obtaining a visa (business/tourist/student/talent) for the People’s Republic of China.

What is a Chinese Visa?

The Chinese visa is stamp or endorsement placed by the officials of People’s Republic of China on a passport that allows the bearers to visit China. It is a travel document issued by the government of the People’s Republic of China (the official name of China) for the applied foreign citizens to enter, exit from or transit through the host country’s territory based on the host country’s laws and regulations. The visit can be further termed as an entry, business, tourist or transitory.

In accordance with international law and practice, each country has the right to exercise its own laws and any sovereign state is entitled the right to determine whether allow or not allow a foreign citizen to enter or exit from its territory, right to issue or decline the visa application, or to cancel an issued visa in accordance with the sovereign nations laws.

How to Obtain a Chinese Visa?

The Chinese visa applications are obtained through the Chinese embassies, consulates and other institutions stationed in several countries around the world entrusted under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs visa-issuing authorities are responsible for the issuance of the visa in accordance with the Chinese laws and regulations. According to Chinese law, a foreign citizen may be refused entry into China or Chinese territories even if he/she has a valid Chinese visa.

All the foreign citizens must obtain a visa before entry to China with the exception of visa-free entry based on the agreements or treaties that other countries have with the Government of China, accordingly the passport holders of certain countries can avail the benefit of visa on arrival in the major Chinese airports.

For foreign citizens visiting Hong Kong SAR or Macao SAR, although citizens from some countries/territories are exempted from visas for short-term visits. If any other kind of entry is required that the foreign citizens must apply for an entry visa to the Government of HKSAR or Macao SAR. The visa applications must be made separately for HKSAR/Macao SAR and Mainland China if the traveler wishes to visit all the regions.

What are the Types of Chinese Visa?

The People’s Republic of China offers 12 different categories of visa for foreign citizens according to the purpose of the visit, the Chinese visas are generally classified into four types

  • Diplomatic visa
  • Courtesy visa
  • Service visa
  • Ordinary visa

Categories of Chinese Visa

L Category Visa (Tourist Visa)

China tourist visa is issued to foreign citizens who intend to go to China for touring and sightseeing. Proof of travel such as flight confirmation, hotel reservation, and travel itinerary is required. The duration of stay (each visit) is normally 30-60 days. A multiple-entry visa valid up to 10 years is issued to US & Canadian passport holders.

  • L visa - Single entry
  • L visa - Double entry
  • L visa - Multiple entries (for certain nationality passports only)

M Category Visa (Business Visa)

Business Category M visa is issued to foreign applicants who intend to travel to China for commercial and trade activities. The duration of the stay is normally 30-60 days based on the assigned Chinese consulate. The China business visa or M visas can be issued up to 10 years for certain nationalities.

  • M visa - Single entry
  • M visa - Double entry
  • M visa - Multiple entries (for certain nationality passports only)

F Category Visa (Visa for exchanges and Visits)

The F category visa was previously used for the business visit before the M visa was introduced. The F category visa is applied for the non-commercial visit for foreign nationals who intend to go to China for research, lecture, scientific, cultural exchange, and study tour. F category visa is normally issued for non-trade and non-commerce purposes. Normally the duration of stay (each visit) is 30-90 days.

Z Category Visa (Work Visa)

The Z category visa is issued to foreign citizens who have been selected for/ obtained employment in China. For obtaining this China work visa a government-issued working permit or employment license is required. Z visa issued for single entry only as the holders of the Z visa must register and apply for the residence permit in the Public Security Bureau (Police Station) within 30 days from the date of entry. The residence permit of the Z visa holder has multiple entry advantages.

X Category Visa (Chinese Student Visa)

The X category visa is issued to foreign students admitted to a Chinese college or university. The student visa is further sub-divided into two categories

  • X-1 Chinese Student Visa is issued to foreign students who intend to come to China for study for more than 6 months, these visas can also be issued with multiple entries and with a validity of up to 5 years.
  • X-2 Chinese Student Visa is issued to foreign students who intend to come to China for study for less than 6 months duration, these visas are issued only for single entry only.

G Category Visa (Transit Visa)

The G category visa is issued for the foreign applicant who intends to transit through China and the requirements for this visa is similar to the tourist visa of L category but with certain restrictions.

C Category Visa (Crew Visa)

The C category visa is issued to foreign crew members utilizing the means of international transportation including aircraft, trains, ships, and motor vehicle drivers engaging in cross-border transport and cargo hauling activities. This visa is also issued to accompanying family members of the crew members. The Multiple-entries valid up to 5 years is issued for certain nationalities.

D Category Visa (Resident Visa)

The D category visa is issued for foreign citizens who intend to permanently reside in China based on business, or job or other professions. Usually, the applicants with job offers in China come inside the country through the Z category visa and change them into D category in China by applying locally through the Chinese Public Security Bureau (State Police).

J Category Visa (Journalist Visa)

The J category visa is issued only to foreign resident journalists who intend to travel to China for journalism purposes. The J category is sub-divided into two they are

  • J-1 Journalist Visa is issued only to the foreign resident journalists or correspondents in China and the intended duration of stay in China exceeds 180 days
  • J-2 Journalist Visa is issued to foreign correspondents or journalists who intend to travel to China on temporary interview mission and the intended duration of stay in China not more than 180 days

R Category Visa (Talent Visa)

The R category visa is issued only for foreign high-level talents, personnel or those whose skills are urgently needed in China. Special procedures are carried out for issuing this type of visa. Usually, they can get a multiple-entry talent visa with the validity of five or ten years, and their relative, spouse or children can obtain a relative visa

S Category Visa (Visa for Private visits)

The S category visa is issued to foreign nationals those who intend to move to China to live with an immediate family member working or studying in China, or to those who intend to go to China for other private affairs.

The immediate family members refer to spouses, parents, sons, or daughters under the age of 18 or parents-in-law. Original proof of kinship is compulsory when applying for this visa. There are two types of S category private visit visa.

  • Private Visa S1 (Long Term) The intended duration of stay in China exceeds 180 days. Moreover, the holders of S1 visa can visit the Public Security Bureau (Police Station) within 30 days of entry and register, then apply for the residence permit in China which allows for multiple entries.
  • Private Visa S2 (Short Term) The intended duration of stay is normally 30-90 days per visit. These are issued along the similar terms of S category visa for who intend to go to China for other private matters such as visiting friends, divorce, inheritance, marriage, adoption or medical services. The S2 visa usually has multiple-entry and certain nationalities are issued S2 multiple-entries with 10-year validity.

Q Category Visa (Family Visa)

The Q category visa is designated for Chinese descendants or foreigners who are spouses of Chinese citizens. They are issued only to those whose family members are Chinese citizens or foreigners with Chinese permanent residence and intend to travel to China for the family reunion, or foster care.

The term “Family members” refer to the spouses, parents, sons, daughters, spouses of sons or daughters, brothers, sisters, grandparents, grandsons, granddaughters and parents-in-law.

The Q category visa is sub-divided into two sub-divisions

  • Q-1 (Long Term) visa is issued for single-entry only where the holders of Q-1 visa can, register and apply for the permanent residence permit in Public Security Bureau (Police Station) from within 30 days from the date of entry. Additionally, the residence permit provides you with multiple entries. The intended duration of stay in China exceeds 180 days.
  • Q-2 (Short Term) visa is issued to foreign nationals who have the intention of visiting their relatives who are Chinese citizens residing in China or foreigners with permanent residence in China. The Q-2 visa usually has multiple entries, while normally the intended duration of stay is up to 120 days per visit.

Z Category Visa (Temporary Work Visa)

The Z category visa is issued to foreign nationals who intend to travel to China for a paid job offer for a short time or to undertake commercial entertainment performances in China such as music concert, magic show etc. The duration of the China temporary work visa can be a minimum of 90 days to a maximum of 5 years.

Group Visa

A group visa is a special type of visa that is issued to a tourist group which comprises of at least five members with each member having a valid passport and must travel together in China. Group visa is usually issued in a separate sheet instead of individual passports. For obtaining a group visa one official visa notification letter from any head office of the China Travel Service (CTS), China Travel Service (CITS), or China Youth Travel Service (CYTS) or Chinese National Tourism Bureau is required.

Port Visa

In certain situations, port visas can be applied on arrival at certain entry ports authorized by the Chinese government. The entry port visas are offered in ports of Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Guilin, Haikou, Hangzhou, Heihe, Jinan, Kunming, Manchuria, Nanjing, Qingdao, Sanya, Shanghai, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Suifenhe, Tianjin, Wuhan, Xiamen, Xi’an, Weihai, Yantai, and Zhuhai.

Visa Exemptions

A foreign citizen can enter China without a visa under any one of the following circumstances

  1. Direct Transit

A foreign citizen transiting through the air in China is exempted from a visa if he/she stays only in the airport transit area for no more than 24 hours and has a valid connecting flight ticket with proper information on confirmed seating.

  1. Visiting the Pearl River Delta or Hainan Island

A foreign citizen holding ordinary passport issued by any country with diplomatic relations with China is exempted from visa if he/she has already obtained visa in Hong Kong SAR or Macao SAR and joins any tour organized by a travel agency which is registered in HKSAR or Macao SAR, for a visit to the Pearl River Delta region (including Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen, Zhao Qing, and Huizhou) and his/her stay is no more than 6 days.

  1. Citizens of Singapore, Brunei, and Japan

A citizen of Singapore, Brunei, and Japan with a valid ordinary passport are exempted from a visa if he/she visits China Mainland for tourism, business, or meeting with friends or relatives, and if he/she enters through ports open to foreigners, and stays for no more than 15 days.

  1. Holders of Valid APEC Business Card
  2. Holders of PRC Foreigner’s Permanent Residence Card
  3. Holders of Residence Permit for Foreigners issued by PRC Ministry of Public Security
  4. Bilateral Agreements

Now you are aware of the various types of visas in the People’s Republic of China. The process can be complicated and time-consuming at the same time. It is advisable to take help from a consultant who knows anything and everything related to visa services in China. We at Business Setup Worldwide are here to help you in obtaining the visa in China. We have the experience and know-how to ensure that you meet all the right visa requirements and that the correct visa is quickly and smoothly processed and issued. At the same time, we can help with other requirements related to company formation in China, registration, accounting & bookkeeping, and company secretarial services in China. Contact us today to get more information about obtaining a visa for the People’s Republic of China.