In the past two decades, China has become one of the favorite destinations globally for travelling, business, study, or employment. Unsurprisingly, this huge demand means strict regulations in order to control the massive influx of foreigners trying to enter the country. There are many types of visas to suit every purpose, and each has a unique set of requirements needed for application.
These requirements tend to be a bit overwhelming for first-time applicants, so we at China Highlights we have gathered all the information you need.
As there are so many different types of visas, there are also many different requirements for each. No matter what visa you are applying for, however, there are four basic requirements that will always be needed:
- A valid passport with at least 6 months left and at least 1 empty visa-page left.
- Photocopies of the passport main-page (information page), and of any other pages containing previous Chinese visas or entry-stamps (if applicable).
- A completed and signed Visa Application Form (which can be downloaded from the Chinese embassy website or from our website).
- 2 x passport-style photos on a white background (see full specifications here)
Now that the main four requirements are out of the way, let's examine all the other requirements you may need for different visa types.
The scope of additional required documents for each type of visa varies with the purpose of your desired visit. Below you can find summaries of the requirements for each, along with links for the major visa-types that will lead you to more detailed, in-depth explanations.
Note that the following requirements are with regards to applying from your home-country. For further requirements needed when applying from other locations, scroll down to the "Applying from Abroad" header.
Travel/Tourism (L) Visa
As this visa is intended strictly for travel, you will need to provide all the documents detailing your trip. This includes travel itinerary (hotel/accommodation reservations, flight bookings, travel plan, etc.). You may also be required to provide an invitation letter
Family Reunion Visa (Q1/Q2)
A bit similar to travel visa, as the purpose of your trip does not allow for any form of business transactions or employment. This visa is aimed at foreigners seeking to visit family members (foreign or Chinese) legally residing in China. You will need to further provide:
- An invitation letter from the sponsor (inviter) detailing their relationship to you, and their means of supporting your accommodation and expenses.
- Documented (and notarized) proof of your relationship, such as birth certificates (if visiting parents/siblings), marriage certificates (if visiting a spouse), and so on. A notarized certification of kinship can be acquired from the local Public Security Bureau of the city in question.
- The invitee will be required to send over copies of their IDs/Passports/visas, and a copy of their Permanent Residence Permit in China (for foreigners)
Business Visa (M)
- An invitation letter from the sponsor (inviter) detailing their relationship to you.
- Other documents detailing the commercial activity, issued by a trade partner in China (if applicable).
- Formal invitations to trade fairs or similar events (if applicable) issued by relevant entities.
Non-Business Visa (F)
- An invitation letter from the sponsor (inviter) detailing their relationship to you, and the reason for your visit.
Study Visa (X)
- Formal Admissions Letter provided by the school/institute (original and photocopy).
- Form JW201 or JW202 – "Visa Application for Study", available from official Chinese Consulate website.
- Previous study records (diplomas, certificates, transcripts) may be needed, depending on the nature of your study.
Work Visa (Z)
As this is probably the most difficult China visa to acquire, it will require the biggest amount of supporting material, and may take significantly longer time to achieve.
In essence, on the day of application, you will only need to provide only one of the following supporting forms (which are provided by the prospective employer in China):
- Foreigners Employment Permit issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security of the PRC.
- Registration Certificate of Resident Representative Offices of enterprises of foreign countries (regions) issued by Chinese authorities of industrial and commercial administration.
- Approval document for commercial performances issued by Chinese government authorities for cultural affairs.
- Invitation Letter to Foreigners for Offshore Petroleum Operations issued by National Offshore Oil Corporation.
HOWEVER! In order to acquire most of these forms, you will first need to provide several important documents to your prospective employer, so that your Notice of Work Permit can be processed before the visa-application. Click the Work Visa (Z) title to see the full requirements.
Applying from Abroad
It is not uncommon for foreigners to apply for China visas from other countries that are not their home-countries, or even from within China. Many foreigners, for example, choose to go to Hong Kong for a China "visa-run".
Be advised that applying for visas from any country that is not your own, although possible, will drastically decrease the chance of approval, and can many times be declined. There is a lot of ambiguity concerning this issue, and many factors come into play, such as your nationality, the third-country you are applying from, and your visa status in that country.
Applying from China
There are some options of transferring specific visa types to other ones within China (depending on circumstances). For this, you will be required to bring an original and photocopy of your Temporary/Permanent Residence Permit Form. You may need any other additional forms documenting the purpose of your current stay.
Applying from a Third Country
Any visa, permit, or other proof of legal stay you have in the third-country will be needed, and you may also be required to have a self-written (printed) explanation of the reason for your application from the specific third-country.
China visa applications can be very strict at times, and there are many applicants who find this out the hard way. It is therefore crucial to be prepared and have a lot of foresight. Below are some extra tips to help you pass the application smoothly.
- Make (and bring) at least two photocopies of every single document you will be presenting or handing over. You can never have too many photocopies, and they could come in handy in many situations during the application. Keep them all organized in a binder or folder, and bring all of them on the day of application.
- While on the topic of photocopies; do not rely only on a photocopy to be sufficient. It may be scary to hand over original diplomas, marriage or birth certificates, or other important documents, but many times you will be required to at least show the original during the application (and let the consular officers keep the copies).
- Never underestimate the importance of details. Things like travel itineraries, invitation letters, and most of all – the Visa Application Form, need to be filled out accurately, and include all the information you can.
- Give yourself enough time in advance to get all your affairs in order, especially when dealing with work/business-related visas. Some of the requirements may take longer to obtain than expected.
- Do extra research thoroughly regarding the place and worktimes of the specific location you will be applying at. Consider working hours, holidays, or other unexpected scenarios that could create unpleasant surprises.
- Don't trust hearsay from others regarding things such as application, payment, delivery options, or any other steps in the application process. The process can go very differently every time, so always choose the safe way rather than the convenient one.
- There are always reports of people successfully applying through mail or fax, paying with credit/debit cards, not needing certain documents, and other similar claims. While some may be true, in order to ensure success, follow the procedure described here. Submit the application yourself in person, take extra cash, and follow the instructions of the officers in the embassy/consulate.
- Be polite, respectful, and honest when addressing the consulate-officers! The fate of your visa is in their hands!