Chinese visa regulations

The growing importance of China is reflected not only in the big number of Chinese companies making big investments overseas but also in the influx of foreign nationals into China. If you do business in China and plan to go on a business trip, want to visit China as a tourist or to study, you need to know basic Chinese visa regulations.

Chinese visa regulations

Previously, there were fewer types of visas: L was for tourists, F for business people, Z for working personnel, and X for students. There were many requirements to get the Z and X visas compared do F and L visas. Over the years, the list grew longer. Let’s introduce ordinary Chinese visa types.

Note! The following ordinary Chinese visas are valid for Mainland China. If you have a single-entry China visa and plan to travel to Hong Kong/Macao and then return to mainland, you have to apply for a multiple-entry visa.

First, check if you need a Chinese visa. If you do, apply for a chosen type:

Tourist visa L (旅游签证)

Visa L is granted and independent travelers and travel group members.

Crew Visa C (乘务签证)

Crew member can apply for C visa is she/he provides a letter of guarantee issued by a foreign transport company or an invitation letter issued by a relevant entity in China. Chinese crew visa is for:

  • crew member performing duties on board an international train
  • crew member performing duties on board an international aircraft
  • crew member performing duties on board an international vessel or accompanying family member
  • vehicle driver engaged in international transportation services.

Permanent Residence Visa D (定居签证)

A person coming to China to take up permanent residence has to apply for a Chinese D visa.

Visit Visa F (访问签证)

Visit Visa F is for:

  • academic exchanges
  • cultural exchanges
  • religious exchanges
  • NGO activities
  • volunteering (90 days or less)
  • foreign expert with pre-approved letters of invitation
  • geographic surveying and mapping activities.

Private Visit Visa

Supporting documents for S visa:

  • the inviter’s passport and residence permit
  • proof of kinship between the applicant and the inviter
  • an invitation letter from a foreign national who stays or resides in China holding a Z/F/M/X1 visa or related residence permit.

Long-term Private Visit Visa S1 (长期私人事务签证)

If the applicant is a family member of foreigner(s) staying or residence in China or a person who needs to come to China for personal matters, such person can apply for S1 Visa. The family member can be a spouse, parent, child under the age of 18, or parent-in-law of foreigner(s) residing in China for work, study, or other purposes who visit China for 180 days or more or a person who needs to reside in China for other personal matters.

Short-term Private Visit Visa S2 (短期私人事务签证)

The identity of the person applying for S2 is the same as for S1. The difference is that S2 enables one to stay in China for less than 180 days. You should apply for this visa if you stay in China for other personal matters, such as handling litigation, inheritance, real estate, or medical treatment.

Journalist Visa

Long-term Journalist Visa J1 (常驻记者签证)

J1 visa is for a resident foreign journalist of permanent office of a foreign news agency in China.

Short-term Journalist Visa J2 (临时记者签证)

J2 visa is granted for a foreign journalist visiting China for short-term news coverage (no more than 180 days).

Talent Visa R (人才签证)

Talent Visa R is for a foreigner of high talent or specialist needed by the State. For application, a “Confirmation Letter of High-Level Foreign Talents” is needed.

Business Visa M (商贸签证)

Business Visa M is for everyone that engages in commercial activities, trade, or takes part in a competition in China. It requires an invitation letter (for purposes like business meetings, trade fair, courses, training, and internships).

Working Visa Z (工作签证)

Working Visa Z requires an invitation letter/notification letter from a company interested in hiring the applicant. Types of applicants:

  • foreign expert working in China
  • for commercial performance
  • chief representative or representative of a foreign company
  • offshore oil operations
  • volunteering (more than 90 days)
  • a foreigner working in China with a Work Permit issued by the Chinese government.

Family Visa

Supporting documents for Q visa:

  • proof of kinship between the applicant and the inviter
  • proof of Chinese identity from the inviter (such as Chinese identity card, Chinese household registration), or foreign passport and Chinese permanent residence permit
  • an invitation letter from a Chinese citizen or a foreign citizen holding a Chinese permanent residence permit residing in China

Family Reunion Visa Q1 (家庭团聚签证)

To get a Chinese visa Q1, the applicant has to be a family member or relative of a Chinese citizen(s) or foreigner(s) with permanent residence status in China. It is also a residence visa for a child that will be fostered in China. “Family member” refers to spouses, parents, sons, daughters, spouses of sons or daughters, brothers, sisters, grandparents, grandsons, granddaughters and parents-in-law.

Family Visit Visa Q2 (探亲签证)

The applicant status is the same as for the Q1 visa, but the Q2 visa allows the person to stay in China for less than 180 days.

Study Visa

Short-term Study Visa, Student Visa X2 (短期学习签证)

S2 is for students that plan to study in China for no more than 180 days. A short-term student visa to China requires a visa application and an enrollment certificate.

Long-term Study Visa, Student Visa X1 (长期学习签证)

A long-term student visa is for those who intend to study in China for more than 180 days.

Transit Visa G (过境签证)

If you transit through China, you need a G visa. To get transit visa G, you need to provide a valid visa to the target country and a valid ticket.

Documents required for Chinese Visa Application

  • passport with at least six months of remaining validity and blank visa pages, and a photocopy of the passport’s data page and the photo page if it is separate.
  • Visa Application Form and photo
  • proof of legal stay or residence status (applicable to those not applying for the visa in their country of citizenship)
  • photocopy of previous Chinese passports or previous Chinese visas, if any
  • supporting documents.

Additional resources:

Chinese Visa Application Center website:

Chinese embassies:

Chinese consulates-general: