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The Beginner's Guide to your Chinese Visa

Are you thinking of going to China and have realized that you need first to apply for a visa? Maybe you knew you needed a visa all along and are fully prepared for the unusual lengthy process. Nevertheless, this guide will get you started on obtaining your visa so you can get on that plane and eat some of the best dumplings of your life. Applying for a Chinese Visa outside of your home country? Well, we have done that too and talk about it over here.


A small confession, about 60% of my travel decisions are based on food.


1. What is a TRAVEL VISA?


"A travel visa is a stamp or sticker placed by officials of a foreign country on a passport that allows the bearer to visit that country.  Visas are obtained from the proper embassy or local consulates of the country to be visited.  "Visit" is further defined as the reason for entry, usually business, tourist or transitory.  There are over 270 countries that offer travel visas and literally thousands of different types of visas available based upon country, type of visit, and length of visit."


China is one of those countries that makes just about everyone have a visa. Here is a list of mutual visa exceptions here. As you can see, you probably will need a visa if you plan on staying in China for any time.


Note: You do not need a visa for the purpose of Direct Transit through China.

Direct Transit

"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 documents, 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."


For Example: If you hold a US Passport and are traveling from Chicago to Penang, Malaysia with a layover in Shanghai you would not need to obtain a visa.


2. Which Chinese Visa do I need?


Now we understand what a visa is and when we need it. Next is determining which Chinese visa you should apply for. Here are the most common ones.

  • Tourist Visa (L) - Foreigners who intend to go to China as a tourist.

  • Business Visa (M) - Foreigners who intend to go to China for commercial and trade activities.

  • Work Visa (Z) -Foreigners who intend to work in China.

  • Study Visa (X1/X2) - X1 -Foreigners who intend to study in China for a period of more than 180 days. X2 Foreigners who intend to study in China for a period of no more than 180 days.

Here is the link to the Chinese Embassy Website that details all of the different Chinese visas, duration, etc.


I stayed in China for over a year on a one-year visa tourist visa (L) with multiple entries. Please note I am not an immigration lawyer, and if you have legal questions, you should contact the Chinese Embassy or an immigration lawyer.

3. Visa Application


Now you know what type of visa you should apply for and are ready to apply! Yay! Are you excited? You are a few steps closer to eating those dumplings!


  • Fill out your Visa Application here along with all of your necessary supporting documents.

  • Submit your application to the Visa Office of the Chinese Embassy/ Consulate General based on your State of residence (Locate a Visa Office that serves your state)

  • Pay the visa application fee at the Visa Office and pick up your visa. (Click to check fees and payments)

Here are some commonly asked questions.


When should I apply for a visa?

You can apply for your Chinese visa within 90 days from the entry date. The best time to apply for your Chinese visa is 30-60 days before your departure.


How long is the visa valid for?

A single entry Chinese visa is valid for 10 years from issuance for US passport.


How long can I stay in China?

The duration of stay is specified on the Chinese visa. Duration of stay for regular China tourist or business visa is 30 days from the date of your entrance. However, the duration of stay for 60 or 90 days is also available upon request.


What is the number of entries?

Chinese visa are multiple entries for US passport. Multiple entries visa has no limit of entry.


Do I need a visa for Hong Kong and Macao?

U.S. passport holder doesn't need a visa for Hong Kong and Macao.


Do I need to give them my physical passport?

Yes. You must send your actual passport. The Chinese consulate needs your passport in order to process your application and affix or stamp your visa onto it.


I'm going to China on July 1, and my visa will expire on July 10. Can I still stay in China for 30 days?

Yes. A single entry Chinese visa is good for 90 days from the date of the issue, which means, you can enter China Within 90 days; and the duration of stay is 30 days, which means from the date of your entrance, you can stay in China for 30 days.


4. Timing Your Chinese Visa


I recommend calling your Chinese Embassy/Consulate to ask about timing. At the moment the Chinese Embassy's website says.

  • Regular Service - 4 Business Days

  • Express Service - 2-3 Business Days

  • Rush Service - 1 Business Day and only available under extreme circumstances

Reference this link for up to date information.


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