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For full information about Chinese visa types, see ’’Visas and travel regulations’’ in our Visiting China section.

Under Chinese law, foreigners may only engage in paid work if they hold one of the following types of visa:

• Z visa - this allows the holder to work full-time for an employer in China or enter China as the accompanying family member of a Z visa holder. It is only issued to people formally taking up a paid position with a company or Chinese government agency.

• J visa - accredited journalists assigned to China for more than a year are issued with a J visa. J-2 visas are issued for short-term assignments.

• Diplomatic / service visa - For members of diplomatic missions, foreign governments or the United Nations.

In order to obtain a Z visa, a foreigner needs a visa notification issued by the inviting organization - a Chinese or foreign company, a school, a university, a Chinese government agency etc. If the entity is a company, it must have a specified minimum of registered capital and be authorized to employ foreigners. Applicants also need a work permit issued by the Labor Ministry or Foreign Expert Bureau. In order for an application for a work permit to be approved, the applicant needs to convince the Labor Ministry or Foreign Expert Bureau that (s)he holds the appropriate qualifications and has the required professional background. The applicant also has to pass a medical examination.

Only with visa notification and work permit in hand can the applicant approach the authorities for a resident’s permit and work visa.

Holders of F visas - issued for short-term purposes like giving a lecture, conducting research or carrying out business - are not allowed to do paid work under the conditions of the visa, except in the sense that carrying out business may be financially profitable.

Until the approach of the Olympics in 2008 led to a tightening up of visa regulations, the reality on the ground in China was considerably more relaxed than the letter of the law suggested. Large numbers of F and L (travel) visa holders were employed in one capacity or another - a situation that kept the wheels turning in a number of industries, including the English teaching sector, where many of the smaller schools were unable to meet the registered capital requirements that would have permitted them to issue visa notifications. Other areas that benefited from a loose interpretation of regulations on visas and work included bars, clubs and restaurants.

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  1. Should I apply for a visa to visit the mainland China?
    Aliens to visit China are generally required to apply for visas in advance, but the following aliens are exceptions:

    1) Ordinary passport holders from Singapore, Brunei and Japan can gain access to China without applying for visas for up to 15 days for business, sightseeing, visiting relatives and friends, or transit. They can enter and exit from the ports that are open to foreigners.
    The following citizens of Singapore, Brunei and Japan are also required to apply for visas before they enter into China:
    1) Ordinary passport holders intending to stay in China for more than 15 days;
    2) Ordinary passport holders intending to study, work, reside or gather news;
    3) Diplomatic passport or Official passport holders.

    2) British citizens in transit China to other countries or regions may stay inside the airport (not enter into border control) for less than 24 hours without applying for visas.

    2. Where can I apply for a visa?
     For entry into China, aliens shall apply for visas from Chinese diplomatic missions, consular posts or other resident agencies abroad authorized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, such as Chinese Embassies or Consulates. Each Embassy or consulate has its own consular districts. Usually, applicants are required to apply for visas from the relevant Embassy or Consulate. Applicants also can apply for visas at the nearest Embassy or Consulate.
    Applicants who reside or travel away from the country of his or her nationality can apply for visas at a local Chinese Embassy or Consulate.
    Aliens who are already in China can apply for an extension of duration at a local county level Public Security Bureau.

    3. Can I apply for a visa at the port of entry?
    No. British citizens should applied visas before they enter into China.

    4. For what type of visa should I apply?
    It is your interest to ensure that you are fully prepared before submitting your application. Consuls will base their decision on the documents you provided, and your purpose in China.

    5. What documents should I submit when I apply for a visa?
    Visa applicants are generally required to submit:1) One completely filled out Visa Application Form of the P. R. China ; 2) One recently taken 2*2 in. photo showing entire face and without a hat on. 3) Original passport with at least 2 blank visa pages and valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of application; 4) Other documents in accordance with your application (refer to relevant instructions please).

    6. How far in advance before my planned trip to China should I apply for a visa?
    If you apply for the visa too late, you may not have enough time for the application. If you apply for the visa too early, the visa may become invalid before you depart for China. Single-entry visas are generally valid for 3 months from the date of issuance.

    7. How long will the visa process take? Do you have express service?
    If your application meets all requirements, you may pick up the visa on the fourth working day after you submit your application for regular pickup..

    Applicants should come to pick up the visas on time by presenting the pickup form. Those who can not come on the pickup date should pick up the visas no later than 7 days after the pickup date.

    We have express service, but no same day service.

    8. Can I apply for the visa by mail or via email? Could you mail the visa back to me after I submit the application in person?
    No visa application can be done through mail or any express delivery service. Visa applications should be submitted and picked up by the applicant or someone else entrusted.

    We do not have the service to mail your visa back and do not accept any applications via email or through internet.

    9. I am far away from the Consulate General, how can I apply for the visa?
    Applicants may entrust someone else (relative, friend or travel agent) to submit the application. The entrusted should appear in person.

    Due to market competition of visa agents, it is improper for the Consulate General to provide any information or list of travel agents. Please be noticed that the applicants should hold all responsibilities.

    10. What is Entries? What should I do if the entries permitted becomes invalid?
     Entries means the number of entries permitted during the period the visa is valid. Visas become invalid after the applicants fully use the Entries permitted. Entries permitted can not be added or changed. Applicants should apply for another visa after that. Visa becomes invalid if it goes beyond the date of Enter before even if there are some Entries left. Applicants should check if there are valid Entries permitted before they depart for China.

    11. I am an British citizen. I intend to visit Beijing and then Hong Kong for a short trip. After that I want to go back to Guangzhou. How many entries is suitable for my tour?
    British citizens do not need a visa to Hong Kong for a short trip less than 90 days. British citizens should have a valid visa for the mainland China. From U.K. to Beijing is one entry, and from Hong Kong to Guangzhou is another entry. So you should apply for a double-entry visa. If you have applied for a single entry visa, you may apply for another visa at the Consular Department of the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong.

    12. What is Enter before? What should I do if the visa becomes invalid?
    Enter before means that you may use the visa to enter into China before 12:00am on the date printed on the visa if the visa has valid Entries permitted. Visas become invalid and can not be extended after the date of Enter Before even if there are Entries left. You should apply for another visa. All visas come into effect on the date of issuance. Applicants should take all responsibility if they decide to change their journey and the visas become invalid. Applicants should check the Enter before on their visas before they depart for China.

    13. What is Duration of Each Stay after Entry? What should I do if I want to stay in China longer than the duration?
    Duration of Each Stay after Entry means the longest period the applicants are permitted to stay in China. Duration of Each Stay is counted from the date of entry. Applicants should apply for an extension of the duration at a local county level Public Security Bureau if he or she stays in China longer than the Duration of Each Stay printed on the visa .

    Z, J-1, D AND X visa holders should apply for resident permit at a local Public Security Bureau no later than 30 days after they enter into China lest they become an illegal resident.

    Visa holders should frequently check the duration during the time they are in China.

    14. Can I apply for renewal of my visa at the Consulate General?
    Chinese visas are printed and can not be renewed. Applicants should arrange their journeys before they apply for visas and fill out the application forms completely and truthfully. Applicants have the responsibility to check their visa when picking it up.

A work visa is required for persons wanting to work in China for pay and their accompanying family members.  This type of visa is also issued to aliens who come to China for commercial entertainment performance. The Z visa is only granted if you and the employer meet certain requirements.  First, the organisation must be accredited to employ foreigners.  You must meet the requirements as a ‘foreign expert’ and the employer must obtain a certificate stating that you comply.  The most common employment is teaching English for which the minimum qualifications are stated as having English as a first language and having at least a Bachelors degree.  However, there is some flexibility in these requirements so if you can find a willing employer they still have a chance of obtaining approvals for you.

The employer will send you a government issued Employment Permit and Visa Notification Letter which you must submit with a photocopies with your application.  Family members accompanying an applicant may also apply for a Z visa submitting a ‘proof of relationship’ instead  i.e. their marriage certificate for a spouse, or birth certificate for a child.

The visa is valid for only 30 days from the date of arrival during which time you and your employer must seek a Temporary Residence Permit for the duration of your contract, to a maximum of 12 months.

1. Applicant’s valid actual passport with at least six months validity left before expiration and at least one blank visa page left in it.
2. One truly completed Visa Application Form (Form V2011A). If you are applying to work in China, or if someone else travelling with you shares the same passport, or if you are applying for a visa in a country or territory other than the country of your current nationality, you should fill out the Supplementary Visa Application Form (Form V2011B)
3. One recent passport standard photo affixed on the Visa Application Form.
4. “Invitation Letter of Duly Authorized Unit” or “Confirmation Letter of Invitation”
5. Work Permit (one of the following work permits):
Foreign experts, scholars, teachers or managers to be working in Mainland of China should provide the Confirmation Letter for Foreign Experts from the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs of the People’s Republic of China

Chief Representative of the permanent office of foreign enterprise in China should provide the Registration Certificate from the local Administration for Industry and Commerce

Foreigners engaged in offshore petroleum operations in China should provide an Invitation Letter issued by China National Offshore Oil Corporation;

Foreigners to be engaged in commercial entertainment performance in China should provide the temporary commercial entertainment performance permit from the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China. If the band has not more than five members, only the Visa Notification from the Foreign Affairs Office of province, autonomous region or municipality is required.

Other foreigners who comes to china for employment should provide the Employment Certificate for Foreigners (Work Permit) issued by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security of the PRC

6. For the accompanying family members, they are not required to provide a Visa Notification Form or a Working Permit; they should provide Proof of Relative Relationship e.g. Marriage Certificate, Birth Certificate, etc

How to Apply
You can go to the Chinese embassy, consulates or other diplomatic missions in person for visa application. You can also entrust your friends, a travel agency or visa agency to act on your behalf. There is no need to make an appointment. Mailed applications are not acceptable.

Processing Time
It usually takes 4 working days for processing. For example, you submit application on Monday and then you can pick up your visa on Thursday. Additional US$ 30 is charged for 1 working day processing, and US$ 20 for 2-3 working day processing.

Visa Fees
The fee for Z visa is as same as the fee for other types of Chinese visa. Generally speaking, Chinese embassy or consulate only issue single entry Z Visa to aliens. If you apply for Z visa in the United States of America, US$140 for American citizens, US$30 for other citizens.

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The required documentation to support your application differs according to the visa you are seeking.  Here we explain some of the requirements though it is not your responsibility to organize all of them, the organisation you will be dealing with will need to arrange the ones special to your visa type, except for tourist visas, of course.  Naturally, you should assist where required by providing information.  Preparing the documents can take some time, from a couple of weeks to months, as many bureaucratic procedures are involved.  It is a good idea, however, to keep checking back with them that they are getting on with it as sometimes matters can slip.

China Business Visa (F)
A business visa is required if you intend to participate for up to 6 months in business activities as an employee of an overseas organisation; investigating & establishing a business activity; lecture, study, or attend training (including internships).  In some situations overseas businessmen with a need to travel frequently in and out of China over a longer period may be granted a 12 month visa.

To obtain an F visa you must have an invitation letter from a Chinese organisation that you will be dealing with or a reference letter from your employer explaining the purpose of the visit.   The inviter should check that their invitation complies with all regulations.

The business visa (F) has over the years been used as a ‘catch all’ option.  Visa issuing offices seem to have been willing to issue them relatively easily and often for longer durations than a tourist visa. It is not permitted to work as an employee of a Chinese business in China while on an F visa (there are a few exceptions such as working for a company funded from overseas), but many people have done so, often with the full knowledge of local officials, but on the other hand some people have been expelled!

1. Applicant’s passport with blank visa pages and at least 6 months validity left before expiration.
2. One truly completed Visa Application Form (Form V2011A). If someone else travelling with you shares the same passport, or if you are appling for a visa in a country or territory other than the country of your current nationality, you should fill out the Supplementary Visa Application Form (Form V2011B)
3. One recent passport-size color photo stuck on the visa application form
4. An “Invitation Letter of Duly Authorized Unit” or “Confirmation Letter of Invitation” prescribing the visa validity, number of entries and stay period.
5. Under some circumstances, the applicants may be required to submit a copy of Chinese hotel reservation, return air ticket booking and financial proof.

How to Apply
You can submit your application to the visa office of Chinese embassies or consulates  (e.g. Chinese Embassy in Sydney, Australia) by yourself, or ask someone else (such as your friends, relatives) or entrust a visa agency to do so on your behalf. The power of attorney is not required. No appointment is required.

Processing Time
It regularly takes 4 working days for processing visa application. However, the express service and rush service are also available if you want to pick up your visa earlier. Extra US$ 30 for the same-day collection; and additional US$20 for the second or third day collection.

Visa Fees
The visa fees vary according to your nationality and number of entries. Generally speaking, the fee is higher if the number of entries is more. The below table is the fee for applying Chinese Visa at Chinese Embassy in Paris, France.

The tourist (L) and transit (G) visas are the only ones that you can apply for without assistance from a business, government or academic institution.

Most visitors to China will only require a tourist visa which will allow them to travel freely in most parts of China as tourists or to visit or accompany Chinese family members.  If your situation is not described by one of the other visa types, then this should be the visa you need.  If you marry a Chinese person and want to live in China, unless you are eligible for another visa type, you are normally granted a tourist visa with a longer validity.

If you are travelling in an organised tour group you might not have an individual visa in your passport.  Instead, the tour leader will have a general one for the whole group.  In such situations you will supply your details to the organiser before you travel and then you have no further concerns.   If you are travelling to Hainan province in an organised group you might also find that no visa is required.

1. Applicant’ passport with at least 6 months remaining validity and available blank pages for visa;
2. One truly completed Visa Application Form (Form V2011A). If someone else travelling with you shares the same passport, or if you are applying for a visa in a country or territory other than the country of your current nationality, you should fill out the Supplementary Visa Application Form (Form V2011B) Please fill in every column of the visa application form, using “N/A” if not applicable. If the visa application form is not filled out truly, completely and legibly, this can cause a delay in processing or refusal of the requested visa.
3. A recent passport-size color photo with white background stuck on the visa application form

For tourism, applicants also need provide the below required documents.
4. Under some situations, the original and copy of Chinese Hotel Booking and Return Air Ticket are required.
5. For applicants who will travel into Tibet, they must obtain a Tibet Travel Permit. This can either be obtained by joining a group or by obtaining the permit from Tourism Bureau of Tibet Autonomous Region (Tel +86 891 6834313 or Fax +86 891 6834632).

For family visit, applicants should provide the following documents besides the first three items listed above:
6. Proof of Relationship, such as Marriage License, however, the applicants who were born in China (including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) as shown on the passport are exempt from this proof.

How to Apply
You can come to the Chinese Embassies, Consulates and other Chinese diplomatic missions to submit application in person; if you can’t come personally, you can entrust someone else, a travel agency or a visa agency to act on your behalf. Applications by mailing are not acceptable and will be refused at most of Chinese embassies or consulates. No appointment is required.

Processing Time
It regularly takes 4 working days for processing. For express service, additional fees of US$ 20 will be charged per visa for second or third working day releasing. For rush service, additional fees of US$30 per visa will be charged for the same working day releasing.

Visa Fees
The visa fees vary enormously depending on your nationality and number of entries. However, according to the Visa Fee Abolition Agreement, the nationals of following seven countries are free of Chinese visa fees, but they need pay for the express service, rush service or mail service: Pakistan, Maldives, Bulgaria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Poland, Yugoslavia and Slovakia. Visa application by mailing is accepted at some Chinese embassies or consulates, such as China Embassy in Canberra, Australia.