Visa policy of China

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An L Type Chinese visa for tourists (issued in San Francisco)
Chinese X1 visa for long-term (more than 6 months) study, issued in Manchester
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 (national) passport to the authority in question. The process nominally requires four days, requiring passports to be dropped off and picked up on separate days. 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.

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 [4]
2  Brunei 15 days 2003/7/1 Unilateral visa waiver policy [5]
3  Singapore 15 days 2003/7/1 Unilateral visa waiver policy
Suspended from 1 July to 19 September 2008 for the security of 2008 Beijing Olympics
4  Japan 15 days 2003/9/1 Unilateral visa waiver policy [9]
5  Seychelles 30 days 2013/6/26 Mutual visa waiver agreement signed on 2013/5/6 [10][11]
6  Mauritius 30 days 2013/10/31 Mutual visa waiver agreement signed on 2013/8/29 [12][13]
7  Bahamas 30 days 2014/2/12 Mutual visa waiver agreement signed on 2013/12/19 [14][15]
8  Fiji 30 days 2015/3/14 Mutual visa waiver agreement signed on 2014/11/12 [16]
9  Grenada 30 days 2015/6/10 Mutual visa waiver agreement signed on 2015/2/25 [17][18][19]

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 different from the rest of China and in theory, a border that separate the respective territories. However, China does not consider Chinese nationals of Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwanese citizens 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 Mainland Travel Permit for Hong Kong and Macao Residents, an ID card like pass, 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 Chinese mainland as "international" travel either. As a result, Taiwan residents should apply for a Taiwan Compatriot Entry Permit (Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents) 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 ports of entry or airports in China on arrival. The Home Return Permit (Mainland Travel Permit for Hong Kong and Macao Residents) can only be applied in Hong Kong and Macau, and the Taiwan Compatriot Pass (Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents) can be applied in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as well as at various Chinese airports and international borders. However, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan citizens, if they are overseas and not bearing the Mainland Travel Permit for Hong Kong and Macao Residents or the Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents, they can apply for a Chinese Travel Document through a Chinese embassy or consulate.

Citizens of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan can enter China Mainland using their Mainland Travel Permit for Hong Kong and Macao Residents or Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents. The Mainland Travel Permit for Hong Kong and Macao Residents is valid for 10 years unlimited entry and can have unlimited stay in China. Whereas the Taiwan Compatriot Entry Permit is valid for unlimited entry for 5 years. 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] In December 2014 it was proposed to extend the allowed stay to 96 hours and to allow all foreign visitors when they transfer via Beijing, but it has not been implemented yet.[52]

Eligible countries[edit]
Eligible airports[edit]
International airport Area permitted to stay Effective Date Reference
Beijing Capital International Airport Beijing 2013/1/1 [53]
Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport Chengdu 2013/9/1 [53]
Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport Chongqing 2013/12/30 [54]
Dalian Zhoushuizi International Airport Dalian 2014/1/1 [54]
Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport Guangdong Province 2013/8/1 [53]
Guilin Liangjiang International Airport Guilin 2014/7/2 [55]
Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport Zhejiang Province 2014/10/20 [56]
Harbin Taiping International Airport Harbin 2015/8/1[57] [58]
Kunming Changshui International Airport Kunming 2014/10/1 [59]
Nanjing Lukou International Airport Jiangsu Province 2015/9/10 [60]
Qingdao Liuting International Airport Shandong Province 2015/11/16


Shanghai Pudong International Airport Shanghai 2013/1/1 [53]
Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport Shanghai 2013/1/1 [53]
Shenyang Taoxian International Airport Shenyang 2014/1/1 [54]
Tianjin Binhai International Airport Tianjin 2015/6/8 [62]
Wuhan Tianhe International Airport Wuhan 2015/5/1 [63]
Xi'an Xianyang International Airport Xi'an & Xianyang 2014/1/6 [64]
Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport Xiamen 2015/4/1 [65]

Region-specific visa exemptions[edit]

The Chinese government has implemented visa waiver schemes for foreign nationals travelling to particular areas of Mainland China.[66]

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:[67]

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.[68]

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):[69]

# - 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.[70]

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:[75]

Types of Chinese Visa[edit]

There are different kinds of Chinese Visa which use Hanyu Pinyin signs.[76][77]

Code Type Note
C Crew Visa
Issued to foreign crew members of means of international transportation, including aircraft, trains and ships, or motor vehicle drivers engaged in cross-border transport activities, or to the accompanying family members[Note 1] of the crew members of the above-mentioned ships.
D Permanent Residence Visa
Issued to those who intend to reside in China permanently. Chinese government starts to implement new permanent residency policy for foreigners to attract and introduce technical talents and experts since 2014/8/15.[78]
F Visit Visa
Issued to those who intend to go to China for exchanges, visits, study tours and other activities.
G Transit Visa
Issued to those who intend to transit through China.
J1 Long-term Journalist Visa
Issued to resident foreign journalists of foreign news organizations stationed in China. The intended duration of stay in China exceeds 180 days.
J2 Short-term Journalist Visa
Issued to foreign journalists who intend to go to China for short-term news coverage. The intended duration of stay in China is no more than 180 days.
L Tourist Visa
Issued to those who intend to go to China as a tourist.
M Business Visa
Issued to those who intend to go to China for commercial and trade activities.
Q1 Family Reunion Visa
Issued to those who are family members[Note 1] of Chinese citizens or of foreigners with Chinese permanent residence and intend to go to China for family reunion, or to those who intend to go to China for the purpose of foster care. The intended duration of stay in China exceeds 180 days.
Q2 Family Visit Visa
Issued to those who intend to visit their relatives who are Chinese citizens residing in China or foreigners with permanent residence in China. The intended duration of stay in China is no more than 180 days.
R Talent Visa
Issued to those who are high-level talents or whose skills are urgently needed in China.
S1 Long-term Private Visit Visa
Issued to those who intend to go to China to visit the foreigners working or studying in China to whom they are spouses, parents, sons or daughters under the age of 18 or parents-in-law, or to those who intend to go to China for other private affairs. The intended duration of stay in China exceeds 180 days.
S2 Short-term Private Visit Visa
Issued to those who intend to visit their family members[Note 1] who are foreigners working or studying in China, or to those who intend to go to China for other private matters. The intended duration of stay in China is no more than 180 days.
X1 Long-term Study Visa
Issued to those who intend to study in China for a period of more than 180 days.
X2 Short-term Study Visa
Issued to those who intend to study in China for a period of no more than 180 days.
Z Working Visa
Issued to those who intend to work in China.

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. Although any travel between Tibet and other party of mainland China is considered domestic travel and hence no immigration procedures take place (unlike Hong Kong and Macau where formal immigration procedures take place like crossing between two countries), this permit will be checked for all non-Chinese when going on board any buses, trains or airlines that are bound for the TAR. 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 join 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 at the airport or train station, and the tour guide will keep the permit until the traveler leaves the TAR. The Tibet Travel Permit is also required by Taiwanese holding a Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents, but it is not required for Chinese citizens from Hong Kong or Macao holding a Mainland Travel Permit for Hong Kong and Macao Residents.[79]

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)

Visa nationals (persons not citizens of China) are required to apply for a Chinese visa at the Chinese foreign mission (embassy or consulate) or through an appointed visa agent, prior to entry into China. Nationals of Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey must hold a visa issued in their home country. If visa is issued in a third country, a residence visa or working permit is also required. Holders of normal passports issued to nationals of Sri Lanka must hold a visa issued in their home country. If visa is issued in a third country, a residence visa or working permit is also required.

In the U.S., visa application requires presentation of a physical passport to the embassy, where the visa sticker is affixed. This process requires four days or so but may be done in a single working day for an extra fee. 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. 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. In addition, only Q-visas need letters of invitation (from applicants' relatives in China).

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.[80] In early 2015, China announced that multiple entry visa with the validity for up to nine years and 11 months (not exceeding the life of the passport) would be issued to Canadian citizens.

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]


  1. ^ a b c "Family members" refers to spouses, parents, sons, daughters, spouses of sons or daughters, brothers, sisters, grandparents, grandsons, granddaughters and parents-in-law.


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