Visa policy of China

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An L Type Chinese visa for tourists (issued in San Francisco)
Entry stamp
Exit stamp
Entry and exit stamps (port of entry and exit was Shanghai Pudong International Airport).

Visitors to the People's Republic of China must obtain a visa from one of the Chinese diplomatic missions unless they come from one of the visa exempt countries. Special administrative regions – Hong Kong and Macau – maintain independent visa regimes.[1]

A Chinese visa is a permit issued by the Chinese visa authorities (Chinese embassies, consulates, and other offices authorized by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to a foreigner, that authorizes entry into, exit from, or transit through the People's Republic of China.[2] Visa authorities may issue a Diplomatic, Courtesy, Official or Regular Visa to an alien, depending on his/her status and purpose of visit to China, and/or passport type.

The Government of the People's Republic of China allows citizens of a few specific countries (see below) to travel to the Chinese Mainland for tourism or business for up to 15 or 30 days without having to obtain a visa. However, most foreign travellers to China (travel "to" China being defined as leaving the security zone of an international airport) are required to hold a visa. Exceptions to this requirement exist in certain parts of the country, such as Shanghai and Beijing, but not in most of the entry points into China. In 2014 China announced a new policy to sign mutual visa-free travel agreements with as many countries as possible.[3]


If a foreigner (alien) intends to enter into, exit from or transit through Chinese territory, he/she must apply for a Chinese visa to the above-mentioned Chinese visa authorities, usually where they are located in countries outside China. This application does not need to be done in person, but for tourists the procurement of a Chinese visa usually requires presentation of the original "ordinary" (tourist) passport to the authority in question. The reason is that the visa document is affixed in the form of an adhesive non-removable permanent sticker to one of the ordinary passport's visa pages (i.e., usually the same pages upon which entry and exit stamps are placed in the passport by non-visa requiring countries). This process nominally requires a few days, requiring passports to be dropped off and picked up on separate days, as it cannot be done by mail. However, for an extra fee, the process may be done in many embassies and consulates in a few hours during a single working day. Since passports do not need to be presented by the holder, some third parties will provide this service. A single person in a travel group may also submit and retrieve passports to obtain visas for the others, so long as the application paperwork and signatures are in order.

China's visa policies are constantly changing, which has been the subject of both official comment and news reports.[4][5] In fact, the Australian government warns its citizens: "The Chinese authorities have put in place more stringent requirements for visa issue.... Police authorities (Public Security Bureau) have tightened regulations and are stringently enforcing regulations for the issue and renewal of visas."[5]

Eligible nationalities for visa-free entry[edit]

Visa policy of China for holders of ordinary passports

Citizens holding passports issued by the following nations are not required to obtain a visa to travel to China on a trip as long as it lasts no more than the visa waiver limit as listed below.

Ordinary passports[edit]

Country Duration of stay Effective date Remark Citation
1  San Marino 90 days 1985/7/22 Mutual visa waiver agreement signed on 1985/5/6 [6]
2  Brunei 15 days 2003/7/1 Unilateral visa waiver policy [7]
3  Singapore 15 days 2003/7/1 Unilateral visa waiver policy
Suspended from 2008/7/1 to 2008/9/19
4  Japan 15 days 2003/9/1 Unilateral visa waiver policy [10]
5  Seychelles 30 days 2013/6/26 Mutual visa waiver agreement signed on 2013/5/6 [11][12]
6  Mauritius 30 days 2013/10/31 Mutual visa waiver agreement signed on 2013/8/29 [13][14]
7  Bahamas 30 days 2014/2/12 Mutual visa waiver agreement signed on 2013/12/19 [15][16]
8  Fiji 30 days 2015/3/14 Policy under mutual visa waiver agreement [17]
9  Grenada 30 days Not yet in force Mutual visa waiver agreement signed on 2015/2/25
The agreement will be effective after legal process finishes in both countries

Ordinary passports (endorsed "for public affairs")[edit]

Diplomatic and official/service passports[edit]

Visa policy of China for holders of various categories of official passports
  Diplomatic, official, service or special passports
  Diplomatic, service or special passports
  Diplomatic, official or service passports
  Diplomatic or service passports
  Diplomatic or official passports
  Diplomatic or special passports
  Diplomatic passports

Holders of passports issued by the following countries are allowed to enter and remain in China for up to 30 days (unless otherwise noted).[41]

D — diplomatic passports
O — official passports
S — service passports
Sp — special passports

Seaman Book[edit]

Holders of Seaman Book issued to nationals of the following countries are allowed to enter with it instead of a passport.[42]

  •  Lithuania
  •  Poland
  •  Russia (in addition, holders of an identity certificate for suite stewards on international trains can enter visa-free)
  •  Ukraine

APEC Business Travel Card[edit]

Citizens of the following countries who possess an APEC Business Travel Card which states on the reverse that it is valid for travel to China can enter visa-free.[43]

APEC Business Travel Card is issued to nationals of:[44]

Entry using Home Return Permit or Taiwan Compatriot Entry Permit[edit]

Although Hong Kong and Macau are SAR of China, they have their own immigration entity that are separated from the rest of China and in theory, an "international" border that separate the respective territories. However, China does not consider Chinese nationals of Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan travelling to China as "international" travels, and hence neither their respective passports nor visas are entertained when entering China. Therefore, residents of Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR who hold a Hong Kong SAR passport or Macau SAR passport should apply for a Home Return Permit in order to visit Mainland China, regardless of whether arriving from Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan or from overseas. This permit is valid for 10 years regardless of the entry status, be it tourism or employment, and can be applied for through the China Travel Service in Hong Kong and Macau respectively. China does not recognise the "Republic of China", and consider Taiwan as part of its own territory, and therefore, does not consider travelling between Taiwan and China as "international" travel either. As a result, Taiwan residents should apply for a Taiwanese Compatriot Pass and a visa endorsement (different from the normal visa held by foreigners) when visiting Mainland China. Visa endorsement as well as a one time compatriot pass can also be obtained from various port of entry or international airport in China on arrival. The Home Return Permit can only be applied in Hong Kong and Macau, and the Taiwan Compatriot Pass can be applied in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as well as at various international airports and international borders. However, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan citizens, if they are overseas and not bearing the Home Return Permit or the Taiwan Compatriot Pass, they can apply for a China Travel Document through a Chinese embassy or consulate.

The following Chinese Nationals can enter China using their Home Return Permit or Taiwan Compatriot Entry Permit. The Home Return Permit is valid for 10 years multiple entry and can have unlimited stay in China. Whereas the Taiwan Compatriot Entry Permit is valid for multiple entry for 1,2 or 3 years or it can be single entry for 3 months. Their passports are not valid for entry into China as China do not consider these Chinese nationals travelling to China as "international" travels.

Other visa-free arrangements[edit]

Chinese Visa Waiver Programs

Visa-free transit through international airports[edit]

24-hour transit[edit]

Visas are not required of any foreign passport holders who:

  • hold air tickets to a final destination outside China and who have booked seats on international airlines flying directly through China;
  • stay in the transit airport for less than 24 hours;
  • do not leave the transit airport.[48]

72-hour stay[edit]

Holders of passports issued by the following 51 countries do not need a visa for a 72 hour visit if they are transiting through the following airports provided they hold valid passports, visas for the onward countries (if required), final destination tickets and have booked onward flight seats, and they visit only that city, municipality or province (Guangdong Province and Zhejiang Province).[49][50][51] Countries were included on the list based on the number of visitors to China, and excluded where the governments are of "low quality" or "badly behaved".[52] In December 2014 it was proposed to extend the allowed stay to 96 hours and to allow all foreign visitors.[53]

Eligible countries[edit]
Eligible airports[edit]
International airport Area permitted to stay Effective Date Reference
Beijing Capital International Airport Beijing 2013/1/1 [54]
Shanghai Pudong International Airport Shanghai 2013/1/1 [54]
Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport Shanghai 2013/1/1 [54]
Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport Guangdong Province 2013/8/1 [54]
Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport Chengdu 2013/9/1 [54]
Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport Chongqing 2013/12/30 [55]
Shenyang Taoxian International Airport Shenyang 2014/1/1 [55]
Dalian Zhoushuizi International Airport Dalian 2014/1/1 [55]
Xi'an Xianyang International Airport Xi'an & Xianyang 2014/1/6 [56]
Guilin Liangjiang International Airport Guilin 2014/7/2 [57]
Kunming Changshui International Airport Kunming 2014/10/1 [58]
Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport Zhejiang Province 2014/10/20 [59]
Wuhan Tianhe International Airport Wuhan 2015/3/1 [60]
Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport Xiamen 2015/4/1 [61]
Harbin Taiping International Airport Harbin TBA [62]

Region-specific visa exemptions[edit]

The Chinese government has implemented visa waiver schemes for foreign nationals travelling to particular areas of Mainland China.[63]

Pearl River Delta[edit]

All visitors to Hong Kong and/or Macao are able to visit the surrounding Pearl River Delta visa-free as long as the following conditions are fulfilled:[64]

Special Economic Zone Visa[edit]

Visitors from most countries may obtain a five-day entry visa when travelling to Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Xiamen. Visits are limited to visa's issue city. The visa can be obtained only upon arrival at Lo Wu border crossing, Huanggang Port Control Point or Shekou Port for Shenzhen, Gongbei Port of Entry or Jiuzhou Port for Zhuhai and Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport for Xiamen.[65]

Hainan Province[edit]

Group Tour Visa Waiver[edit]

Nationals from the following countries can visit Hainan Island visa-free for at most 15 days or less and they are visiting as part of a tour group organised by a National Tourism Administration of China-approved travel agency based in Hainan with 5 or more people (unless special remark):[66]

# - Citizens of those countries can enter Hainan Island for at most 21 days with a tourist group with 2 people or more.

Visa on Arrival[edit]

In addition, citizens of countries which have diplomatic or official trade relationships with China can get a visa on arrival when entering Hainan and can stay for at most 15 days.[67]

Border area[edit]

Tour groups[edit]

Citizens of following countries may visit China without a visa for up to 30 days if traveling as part of a tour group that is accompanied by a representative of a tour operator registered in both countries:[72]

Types of Chinese Visa[edit]

Chinese X1 visa for long-term (more than 6 months) study, issued in Manchester

There are different kinds of Chinese Visa which use Hanyu Pinyin signs.[73]

  • C Visa (Crew Visa)
  • D Visa (Residence Visa)
  • F Visa (Non-Commercial Visa)
  • G Visa (Transit Visa)
  • J Visa (Journalist Visa)
    • J-1 Visa (Resident Journalist Visa)
    • J-2 Visa (Temporary Journalist Visa)
  • L Visa (Tourist Visa)
  • M Visa (Commercial Visa)
  • Q Visa (Family Visa)
    • Q-1 Visa (Family Reunion/Foster Care Visa)
    • Q-2 Visa (Visiting Relatives Visa)
  • R Visa (Talent Visa)
  • S Visa (Private Visit Visa)
    • S-1 Visa (Immediate Family Visa)
    • S-2 Visa (Family Visa)
  • X Visa (Student Visa)
  • Z Visa (Employment Visa)

Validity, Number of Entries and Duration of Each Stay of Chinese Visas[edit]

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 if 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 D, Q1, J1, S1, X1 and Z 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.

Region-specific visa restrictions[edit]

Tibet Autonomous Region[edit]

Foreign Passport holders entering Tibet must have a Tibet Travel Permit, issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau. This permit will be checked when going on board any buses, trains or airlines that bound for the TAR. However, the only way to obtain a Tibet Travel Permit is to arrange a tour operated by a Tibet travel agent which at least includes hotels and transportation. Foreigners are also not permitted to travel by public buses across Tibet and are only allowed to travel by private transportation as organised in the tour. Moreover, if entering Tibet from Nepal, one must also joined a group tour and be only allowed on a group visa. The Tibet Travel Permit has to be handed in to the tour guide upon arrival in the airport or train station, and to tour guide will keep the permit until the traveler left the TAR. The Tibet Travel Permit is also required by Taiwanese holding a Taiwan Compatriot Pass, but it is not required for Chinese citizens from Hong Kong or Macao holding a Home Return Permit.[74]

Visa application procedures for foreign nationals (aliens)[edit]

Chinese L type 60-day visa affixed to a stamp page in a U.S. passport (issued in Los Angeles)

In the majority of cases, visa nationals (persons not citizens of China) are required to apply for a Chinese visa in their home country at the Chinese foreign mission (embassy or consulate) or through an appointed visa agent, prior to entry into China. In the U.S., this requires presentation of a physical passport to the embassy, where the visa sticker is affixed. This process requires four days but may be done in a single working day for an extra fee. It cannot be done by mail, and cash and personal checks are not accepted as payment.

In some scenarios, it is possible to arrange for a visa upon entry into China.

There are currently four main categories of visas available: L (tourist), F (short term business/study), X (study) and residence permits, also called work (Z) visas.

There are also visa categories for spouses and children, though these are more complex to obtain and rarely granted (letters of invitation are required for all types). L-visas are issued for any time between 14 – 90 days and can be extended in China twice for 30 days. F-visas are issued for either 1, 3, or 6 months, X-visas for 6 or 12 months and Z-visas for 12 months. As of 2014, a mutual agreement between the United States and China provides for an extended 10 year visa good for multiple entries over that time period.[75] Since March 2012 invitation letters are need for all types of visa, including Tourist (L) at almost all Chinese embassies when applying for a visa. For tourist (L) visas a copy of both sides of the inviting person's Chinese ID card or passport is needed. In some countries a return flight ticket, travel itinerary and accommodation bookings might also be required. Non PRC nationals can only issue invitations if they hold a residence permit (Z visa).[76][77]

Visa-on-arrival procedures[edit]


Visa nationals are able to obtain a visa-on-arrival at the following airports as long as arrangements have been made prior to arrival into China and confirmation has been received from the Entry and Exit Division of the local Public Security Bureau that a visa will be issued on arrival.

Mainland China Visa for Hong Kong Non-Chinese Residents[edit]

Residents of Hong Kong who are not Chinese citizens require a visa to visit the mainland. Hong Kong Permanent Residents may apply for a 3-year multi-entry visa. Hong Kong Residents can apply for a 1-year multi entry visa. In most cases the length of stay for each individual trip is one month. For non Chinese Citizens, currently it is not possible to apply for a resident visa for mainland China based on the applicant's status as a Hong Kong Permanent Resident.

See also[edit]



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  68. ^ Where Amur connects Russia and China
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  73. ^ 申请办理中华人民共和国签证须知
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