A Chinese visa is a travel document issued by authorized government agencies to foreign citizens applying to enter, exit from or transit through the host country’s territory based on the host country’s laws and regulations. In accordance with international law and practice, any sovereign state is entitled to determine whether or not to allow a foreign citizen to enter or exit from its territory, and whether to issue a visa, decline a visa application or to cancel an issued visa in accordance with its national laws.
Chinese embassies, consulates and other institutions stationed abroad entrusted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China are visa-issuing authorities responsible for issuance of entry visas to foreigner citizens abroad, and are entitled to determine the type, number of entries, validity and duration of each stay of a visa to be issued, or to decline a visa application or revoke an issued visa, in accordance with Chinese laws and regulations. According to Chinese law, a foreign citizen may be refused entry into China even if he/she has a valid Chinese visa.
Foreign citizens must obtain a visa before entry into China, with the exception of visa-free entry based on relevant agreements or regulations. Foreign citizens that fall into categories of Article 22 of the Exit and Entry Law of the People’s Republic of China are qualified to apply for port visas from visa-issuing authorities entrusted by the Ministry of Public Security at a port of entry approved to issue port visas by the State Council.
For visit to Hong Kong SAR or Macao SAR, citizens from some countries/territories are exempted from visas for short term visit. Otherwise an entry visa must be obtained as required by the Government of HKSAR or Macao SAR. Visa applications must be made separately if the traveler wishes visit both HKSAR/Macao SAR and mainland China.
Chinese Visa Types, Validity, Number of Entries and Duration of Stay
Chinese visas fall into four types:
- Diplomatic visa
- Courtesy visa
- Service visa
- Ordinary visa
Ordinary visas are further divided into 12 sub-types or 16 categories. For more information refer to this article: Chinese Visa Types
Chinese Visa Terminology
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.
“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 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.
“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.
Residence Permit: A holder of category D, J1, Q1, S1, X1 or Z visa must apply for a residence permit at the local public security authorities within 30 days of entry into China unless the Duration of Each Stay on the visa is marked as 30 days. 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.
Chinese Visa Exemptions
A foreign citizen can enter China without a visa under any one of the following circumstances:
A foreign citizen who is transiting through China by air is exempted from a visa if he/she will stay only in the airport for no more than 24 hours and has a valid connecting ticket with confirmed seating on an international flight.
Citizens with passport or other international travel document, confirmed interline ticket and valid visa to the third country or region (if required) of the following 51 countries, can apply to stay in the transit cities without visa for 72 hours on direct transit via the following airports: PEK, PVG, SHA, CAN, CTU,CKG, SHE, DLC, XIY,HGH,KWL,KMG. (For more info, please check the airports’ websites)
Albania, Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, Montenegro, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States.
Visiting the Pearl River Delta or Hainan Island
A foreign citizen holding an ordinary passport issued by any country with diplomatic relations with China is exempted from a visa if he/she is already in HKSAR or Macao SAR and joins a tourist group 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, Zhaoqing and Huizhou) and his/her stay is no more than 6 days.
A foreign citizen holding an ordinary passport issued by any of the following countries is exempted from a visa if he/ she joins a tourist group (of 5 or more persons) organized by an international travel agency registered in Hainan with the approval of China National Tourism Administration to visit Hainan Province and his/her stay is no more than 15 days: Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, Ukraine and United States. Citizens of Germany, Republic of Korea and Russia may join an international tourist group (of 2 or more persons) and can stay up to 21 days.
Citizens of Singapore, Brunei and Japan
A citizen of Singapore, Brunei or Japan with an ordinary passport is exempted from a visa if he/she visits China’s mainland for tourism, business, or meeting with friends or relatives, and if he/she enters China through ports open to foreigners, and stays for no more than 15 days.
However, a visa is required for citizens of these three countries under any of the following circumstances: (1) An ordinary passport holder visits China for tourism, business, or meeting with friends or relatives, and stays for more than 15 days; or (2) An ordinary passport holder visits China for the purpose of study, work, permanent residency, official visits and news coverage.
Holders of Valid APEC Business Travel Card
The APEC Business Travel Card is a substitute of a multiple-entry visa valid for 3 years. A card holder who presents a valid passport whose image and biometric data exactly matches that on the APEC Business Travel Card can enter China multiple times during the validity of the card for a stay of no more than 2 months each time.
Holders of PRC Foreigner’s Permanent Residence Card
Holders of Residence Permit for Foreigners issued by PRC Ministry of Public Security
A Foreign citizen entering China on a D, Z, J1, Q1, S1 or X1 visa must apply for a residence permit at local public security authorities within 30 days of entry into China. Once approved, the permit holder is allowed to stay in China or enter/exit China multiple times for the duration of the validity of the permit. No visa renewal is necessary.
Based on bilateral agreements signed or reached between China and foreign countries, foreign citizens of some countries who meet certain requirements may visit China without a visa. Please see the List of Agreements on Visa Exemption signed between China and foreign countries for more information.