This post is part of our new Basics of China Business Law series, where we discuss, usually in a bare bones sort of way, the basics of what it takes to do business in China legally. This post focuses on the different sorts of visas one can use to get into/stay in China.
My law firm almost never involves itself in Chinese visa issues because it typically does not make sense for our clients to pay law firm rates for us to do so. Chinese visa matters are typically better handled internally or by a reputable visa assistance company. My law firm and I usually use a visa company to secure our visas to China because we find it easier to do so and because the company we use has been coming through for us for more than a decade (and not just with China, but with many other countries as well) and it definitely seems to have a very good relationship with the Chinese consulate in SFO.
China visa information will always be at least somewhat dependent on the country in which you are seeking to secure your China visa, the country of your own citizenship, and even things such as the particular Chinese consulate or embassy from which you are seeking the visa, the visa service you are using, and even general political conditions at the very moment your visa shows up for approval.
The following are the most commonly secured visas
— The L visa is the tourist visa and it is typically issued to someone who is coming to China for tourism or to visit with friends or relatives. These are typically for 3 to 6 months.
— The F Visa is the business visa and its length and entry limits typically track that of the L visa. They are typically issued for 6 months with a single-entry, or for 6 months or longer with multiple-entry. My goal is always to go for a multiple-entry visa for as long as possible.
— The Z Visa is given to foreigners (and typically their accompanying family members as well) entering China to work. These visas typically are for 30 days only and require the holder to go through various residential formalities with the public security department within thirty days upon entry into China to secure a residence permit that typically lasts for 12 months.
— The X Visa is to study in China for more than six months.
— The D Visa is a permanent resident visa, typically issued to those who marry a Chinese citizen.
If you have the time and the experience, it is definitely possible to get a Chinese visa on your own (I have gotten a bunch of mine at the Chinese Embassy in Seoul and never had a problem, including the time I begged them to give me one within an hour!), but generally, it is easier to have someone who does nothing but visas do it for you, especially since there are plenty of good and inexpensive such people/companies out there both within China and outside of it.