(Last updated on: 24/11/2020)
Chances are, you probably need a visa to enter China. Whether you are planning to visit on a holiday, as part of a gap year, to work or to accompany family members who will be working, you will most likely need a visa for China.
I’ve travelled a lot. And I can safely say that obtaining a visa for China was one of the most challenging of all countries. Complicated paperwork, repetitive and confusing questions and in-person visits to a visa centre make for a difficult application process.
In this article I will give you a brief overview of the Chinese visa application process, with lots of helpful tips on how to make the process go as smooth as possible.
- Types of visa for China
- Who can travel to China without a visa?
- My tips for getting a visa for China
I have been through the visa for China process more times than I wish to count. I have spent countless hours of my life completing these arduous and complicated forms.
Here is a list of all of the times I have had to do this in less than TWO YEARS!
- Tourist visa for my husband’s job interview Jan 2019
- Work visa for my husband June 2019
- Dependent visa for me June 2019
- Dependent visa for my eldest daughter June 2019
- Dependent visa for my youngest daughter June 2019
- Tourist visa for my mother-in-law September 2019
- Dependent visa for me July 2020
- Dependent visa for my eldest daughter July 2020
- Dependent visa for my youngest daughter July 2020
I honestly have no idea how I seem to have become the visa person in my household, but it total I have gone through the process for three different types of visas a total of nine times!
Trust me when I say that the application process can be complicated and long. This is why many people choose to use an agency to help. Agencies such as Byevisa.com can help to ensure that you complete the paperwork correctly and take away the stress and hassle.
Types of visa for China
The type of visa for China that you must apply for depends on your reason for travelling to China.
In total, there are 16 different types of visas that you can apply for. The main types of visas are:
- L (tourist visa): For general tourism, visiting friends and relatives and other personal affairs.
- M (business visa): For those travelling for businesses purposes.
- F (visa for exchanges and visits): For those who are invited to China for an exchange, visit, study tour, and other activities.
- Z (work visa): For people who are due to take up employment in China.
- X (student visa): For students.
- G (transit visa): For those travelling through China.
- C (crew visa): Issued to crew members who work in aviation, land transportation or maritime.
- D (resident visa): For people who are residing permanently in China.
- J (journalist visa): For those working in the field of journalism who are either based in China or who are visiting China for work.
- R (talent visa): Issued to high-level talents or those whose skills are urgently needed in China.
- S (visa for private visits): For dependents of those who reside or work in China.
- Q (family reunion visa): For relatives of Chinese citizens or foreigners with permanent residence permits residing in China.
Who can travel to China without a visa?
Although most people will need a visa for China to enter the country, some nationalities are exempt for a period of 14-90 days. This includes:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- San Marino
- United Arab Emirates
The rest of us need to do the paperwork to be allowed to enter China.
My tips for getting a visa for China
As I said before, the process of obtaining a visa for China can be time consuming and complicated. Based on my experience, I have put together some tips for you.
#1 Get your documents in order
Before you start to complete the visa application form, get all of the required documents together. It is likely that you will need lots of paperwork and it might take you some time to gather it all together.
#2 Use a photo editing app
Before you can complete your visa for China application you will be required to upload a photo into the online system. The system is very particular and it is common for photos to be rejected.
One of the main issues for photos being rejected is because the background is not the correct shade of white. I recommended that you download a passport photo app to help edit your photo to the correct standard. There are lots of apps that do this and it will save you a lot of time (I learnt the hard way!).
#3 Get paper photos too
Sometimes they will also ask for a physical photo at the visa centre as well.
Alongside this, you will likely require physical photos when you transfer your visa into a work permit or residence permit on arrival (if you are planning to reside in China). Therefore, it is really handy to have the photos in your pocket and ready to go.
#4 Take physical copies of everything
In China they just LOVE paper. Yes, they are a super modern nation and technology is everywhere… but so is paper.
When you attend your visa appointment and also when you travel to China, I recommend that you have a paper copy of all of your documents.
We didn’t have a photocopy of our passports on one trip and were sent to the local library to get some. That wasn’t ideal…
#5 Take digital copies of everything
Whilst only paper will do sometimes, it is also handy to have a digital copy of all of your documents too. I recommend that you keep a copy in your email inbox so that it can be accessed from anywhere anytime. (*Note- you will require a VPN to use Gmail).
#6 Leave the kids at home
If you are heading to China with kids, you will need to attend a visa appointment on their behalf. The queues can be long and it isn’t much fun for children. As they don’t need to be physically there, I recommend you do the trip to the visa centre without them.
# 7 Get someone to proofread
The Chinese are very strict on detail. If there are errors in your application, then it is likely that they will send you home and make you amend it.
I recommend that you either use an agency to help with your visa for China application or you get a friend to check through it for you.
#8 Don’t apply too early
I know it is tempting to be organised and get your visa for China as early as possible, but I recommend that you wait until a couple of weeks before your trip.
Once you receive your visa for China you may be given a date by which you must enter the country. If you do not travel by this time then your visa will become invalid and you will need to apply again.
Visa for China: Further reading
China is a fantastic country to live and travel in! If you are thinking about travelling to China, you might find some of my other articles helpful.
- Becoming an expat in Hangzhou, China: Everything you need to know
- A fascinating overview of Chinese religion
- China with kids: 10 things you NEED to know
- Things to do in Chengdu
- The Yellow Mountains: A comprehensive guide
- Things to do in Sanya, the ‘Hawaii of China’
- Hiking in Yunnan: Everything you need to know
- 35 things to do in Shanghai with kids
- 10 cool things to do at The Bund, Shanghai