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How To Get A China Visa. Just The Real Basics.

Posted in Basics of China Business Law

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.

  • Alex

    I think you’ve got the X and F visas for study purposes mixed up, X is long term study (over 6 months) and F is short term study (6 months or less). X visa gets converted to a residence permit like a Z visa within a month after arrival, I had one issued for 14 months, but I think 12 month renewal is more common.
    Generally D visas are tough to get, with marriage to a Chinese citizen just part of the requirements. The PSB are generally happy to issue a 1 year L visa for married partners of Chinese citizens.

  • http://www.ningboguide.com/ Craig

    I’d have to disagree with you there – an F visa is not at all like an L visa. For one, they can be renewed repeatedly, subject only to the whims of the government.
    I’d also have to disagree about the D visa. If you marry a Chinese citizen, and don’t have your own visa, then the government will reluctantly issue a 1-year L visa, renewable. This allows you to remain in China but does not allow you to work. The Chinese green card is issued to foreigners who invest at least $5M USD in my province. Other foreigners who have contributed to China may get one as well, but it depends on your relationships.
    Visa agents can be rather shady. Ripoffs are not unheard of. I use Magic in Shanghai, he’s great. If he can’t get you a visa then you are well and truly stuck.

  • gregorylent

    as an artist on an L and about to make and sell some work here being legal in doing that is on my mind .. all agents i have talked to here until now give me an under-the-table feeling ..

  • Kaiwen

    “– The X Visa is to study in China for up to six months. If you want to study in China for more than six months, without having to leave the country and return, you typically will need an F visa.”
    Are you sure you don’t have these two backwards? As far as I know, the X functions the same as the Z — if you are studying in China for over 6 months, you get an entry visa which you must convert to a residency permit within 30 days. The F is for short-term study.

  • Alexander

    Internesting post, but quite different from what I would have written from my experience as a German.
    All “L” visas I had in the past were never over 30 days and the last one I got this year was exactly linked to the itinerary I had submitted, at 19 days.
    The “X” visas I had in the past also were all only valid for 30 days and required me to get a residence permit after entering China, just as described for Z visa above. I do not know of any fellow students, who at the time got a longer term X visa.
    A good souce for updated information in the past has been a blog written by an expat in Beijing at http://fxzl.blogspot.com/ .

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  • http://renaissancechambara.jp Ged Carroll

    Hi,
    I just sorted out a chinese visa on my own through the visa service attached to the Chinese embassy in London. I found the service to be courteous and helpful. Like most non-legal people I found navigating my way through the forms a bit like reading IKEA furniture instructions: you can do it, it just might take a couple of read throughs before putting pen to paper.
    Online-wise their website beyond the in-person booking system does not work with Macs. You can’t apply online unless you have access to a Windows PC.
    The only divergence from what you said was that I was advised tourist visas were single entry only, I think this maybe due to the amount of time that I have left in my passport though.

  • http://adamdanielmezei.com Adam Daniel Mezei

    @Craig | I couldn’t agree with you more. Magic in SHA is the man! Customer service is his forte…he gets back to emails in like 10 minutes flat, around the clock. Love that guy.

  • http://www.chinalawblog.com Dan

    Alex/Kaiwen,
    You are right. Mea culpa. I switched around the student visas (X and F) in the post and I have gone back and corrected that. Thanks for pointing this out.

  • Kevin

    “The D Visa is a permanent resident visa, typically issued to those who marry a Chinese citizen” – ha, I wish. More accurate to say it’s typically issued to senior Chinese officials’ children who have taken foreign citizenship, although apparently big investors can get them too.
    The spouse visa is a 1 year multi-entry L, but it gives you no rights to work, do business or pretty much anything else. The government website says you can apply for a D, but I’ve never heard of anyone being accepted.

  • http://www.thechinavisa.blogspot.com THE VISA MAN

    Best is to apply APEC business travel card. US citizens can do, Hong Kong residents even if foreign passport holder. The application procedure takes some time – but it is worth waiting. Link here:
    http://www.businessmobility.org/
    And in any case it is much cheaper than whatever any kind of L or F Visa.

  • Anonymous

    Can one work on a D visa? I’ve seen my wife on the last two issued 1 year L visa’s.

  • Kara

    This post makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the helpful information. It is not that easy to find reliable information on Chinese visas.

  • jen

    This is a great article and I am so happy I found it since I am looking into getting visa over the summer.Thanks for taking the time to put this together Dan!

  • Jon the Bateest

    Thanks for enumerating and classifying the different types of visas for China. This will be a great help.

  • J

    Hello
    I was born and raised in China, I moved to the US for a long time…now I’m back and I would love to live here again. I’m no longer a Chinese citizen. So now….what should I do?
    Can I apply for a D-visa??
    Or do I have to do what every other “expat” does…go the Z-Visa route?
    All my relatives are Chinese citizens in China.

  • http://www.foorrum.com babahusam

    This post makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the helpful information. It is not that easy to find reliable information on Chinese visas.

  • kral4434

    Best is to apply APEC business travel card. US citizens can do, Hong Kong residents even if foreign passport holder. The application procedure takes some time – but it is worth waiting.

  • thiet ke Web

    I liked this article.Thank for you for this post.

  • http://www.frmcb.com Tekno

    Nice… Thanks for enumerating and classifying the different types of visas for China. This will be a great help.

  • orhun

    Thanks. Very helpful. There is so much misinformation out there on China visas; it is good even to just get the “basics” done right.

  • THaNGa

    The spouse visa is a 1 year multi-entry L,refinance mortgage but it gives you no rights to work, do business or pretty much anything else. The government website says you can apply for a D, but I’ve never heard of anyone being accepted.

  • Toto

    Getting a visa in China is getting more difficult day by day due to security measures.But I don’t think this is a problem in China.Still then due to some other influential factors,China is following strict rules for issuing Visa.

  • http://www.duzcem.net düzce haber

    This is a great article and I am so happy I found it since I am looking into getting visa over the summer.Thanks for taking the time to put this together Dan!

  • http://www.princevisa.com China visa

    @Craig | I couldn’t agree with you more. Magic in SHA is the man! Customer service is his forte…he gets back to emails in like 10 minutes flat, around the clock. Love that guy.

  • Charles L.

    This very nicely describes what needs to be done to get a China visa. I know because I just got one!

  • Rakhi

    Thanks a lot for this, I am planning to go to China and this will help a lot

  • Visa Searching

    Should I use a lawyer, a service, or do it myself?

  • Strategy Man

    Dan,
    You should do a piece sometime on exactly what the requirements and logistics are for a Z visa.

  • Nanatingting

    Thanks for this helpful post.

  • Emel T.

    Thank you for this post. I am from Turkey and I find it very helpful.

  • Seth The Barbarian

    What do I do when China refuses to let me in even though I have a visa?

  • Barb

    Thanks for this info, nicely explained.

  • jack hooper

    I am a student and this post is very helpful for me.

  • AAW

    I am hearing that things are really tightening up again for Americans getting visas and I would bet Hillary Clinton’s strong comments are not going to help matters one bit either.

  • Danb

    Has any of this changed since you wrote this article?

  • tabela

    I have found the same thing. China just does not mess with the Z visa even when it is messing with everything else. Is it because those visas go to a different, less politicized department?

  • Isfar Ahmad Sifat

    Hi, I’m from Bangladesh. What are the steps to get a china visa for me ?

  • Patric

    I have just realised that my visa is a D visa!
    I have been married to a nanjing chick for almost 4 years but the D visa was issued to me last September. Previously I had been on the L visa. I have no idea how I got the D visa. Normally I just leave the visa stuff to the wife and she takes care of it. Also, I am not an expert in any field that China recognises so I’m wondering how I got it.
    Any ideas?
    Can’t ask the wife as she is not talking to me:))

  • Lee

    Much appreciated thank you for the content.
    -Lee

  • Cek magdurlari

    This is a great article and I am so happy I found it since I am looking into getting visa over the summer.

  • Jill Rizza

    This post makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the helpful information. It is not that easy to find reliable information on Chinese visas.

  • http://www.celicg.com/ Celi Cebu

    I really need this kind of information for the visa china. Thanks for sharing dan..Cleverlearn Caregiving School | Live-in Caregiver