China has officially announced the resumption of all kinds of visas, including tourist visas (L Visa), from March 15th, 2023.
Usually, foreign travelers need a visa when traveling or doing business in China. This China Visa Guide will help you answer almost all the questions you need to know before applying for a China Visa.
This article includes China visa types, requirements, application, cost, visa-free transit policies, Visa on Arrival, etc.
China Visa Types
The type of visa you need to apply for depends on the main purpose of your visit to China.
There are four major categories of Chinese Visa: Chinese Diplomatic Visa, Service Visa, Courtesy Visa, and Ordinary Visa.
When speaking of China Visas, we usually refer to the Ordinary Visa types of the Chinese Mainland.
1. Ordinary Visa
- C (Crew Visa): issued to foreign crew members by means of international transportation. It includes aircraft, trains, ships, or motor vehicle drivers engaged in cross-border transport activities and their accompanying family members.
- D (Resident Visa): Issued to those who intend to reside in China permanently.
- F (Visitor Visa): issued to those who intend to go to China for exchanges, visits, study tours, and other activities.
- G (Transit Visa): Issued to those who intend to transit through China.
- J1/J2 (Journalist Visa): J1 is issued to foreign journalists of foreign news organizations stationed in China. The intended duration of stay in China exceeds 180 days. J2 is issued to foreign journalists who intend to go to China for short-term news coverage. The intended duration of stay in China is no more than 180 days.
- L (Tourist Visa): Issued to those who intend to visit China as a tourist.
- M (Business Visa): Issued to those who intend to visit China for commercial and trade activities.
- Q1/Q2 (Family Reunion Visa): Q1 is issued to those who are family members of Chinese citizens or of foreigners with Chinese permanent residence. They intend to go to China for family reunions. Q2 is issued to those who intend to visit their relatives. They are Chinese citizens residing in China or foreigners with permanent residence in China.
- S1/S2 (Private Visa): issued to family members of foreigners residing in China for work, study, etc. S1 permits a long-term duration of stay exceeding 180 days. S2 permits are short-term to no more than 180 days.
- R (Talent Visa): Issued to those who are high-level talents or whose skills are urgently needed in China.
- X1/X2 (Student Visa): X1 is issued to those who intend to study in China for a period of more than 180 days. X2 is issued to those who intend to study in China for no more than 180 days.
- Z (Work Visa): Issued to those who intend to work in China.
2. Hong Kong Visa & Macau Visa
Hong Kong and Macau, as two Special Administrative Regions (SARs) in China, are regarded as third regions from China Mainland. They have their own visa policies and a China Visa is NOT valid for visiting HK or Macau.
Ordinary passport holders from 170 countries are visa-exempted from entering Hong Kong. Read Hong Kong Visa for the full list.
Macau also provides visa exemption for passport holders from 81 countries. Read Macau Visa for the full list.
3. Visa on Arrival for Tourists – Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Xiamen, Hainan
|Visa on Arrival||Valid for||Eligible Ports of Entry||Permitted Area to Stay|
|Shenzhen||5 days||Luohu, Huanggang, Shekou and Fuyong ports||Shenzhen City|
|Zhuhai||3 days||Gongbei, Jiuzhou and Hengqin ports||Zhuhai City|
|Xiamen||5 days||Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport||Xiamen City|
|Hainan||30 days||Haikou Meilan International Airport||Chinese Mainland|
4. Tibet Travel Permit
Non-Chinese passport holders and Taiwanese have to get a Tibet Travel Permit with the help of a China-based travel agency, like China Travel, before visiting Tibet.
Foreigners are not allowed to do the application and travel in Tibet independently. You have to travel with a tour guide.
Read How to Apply for a Tibet Permit for more detailed information.
If you book the Tibet tour with us, we will make all necessary arrangements to obtain the Tibet Permit for you. Feel free to contact us and learn more details about Tibet travel requirements.
China Visa Requirements
When to Apply for China Visas
As ordinary visas are only valid for 90/180 days for single/double-entry visas from the issue date, you are suggested to apply for the visa one or two months before the intended travel.
Where to Apply for China Visas
Find out your visa type. And then submit your application to the visa office of the Chinese Embassy/Consulate General based in your country.
A travel agent or a visa agent can also help you to deal with the visa in the embassy or consulate office.
Documents for China Visa Application
- Valid Passport: valid for more than six months with at least two blank visa pages
- Visa Application Form: you need to complete it by computer, print and sign it.
- A recent passport-type photo: 33mm x 48mm
- Relevant proof according to your purpose to China: such as an invitation letter.
China Visa Fees
|Entries||U.S. Citizen||Canada Citizen||Non-U.S. Citizen|
|Single||USD 140||CAD 100||USD 30|
|Double||USD 140||CAD 100||USD 45|
|6 Months Multiple||USD 140||CAD 100||USD 60|
|12 Months Multiple||USD 140||CAD 100||USD 90|
- According to the reciprocity agreements, visa fees for some non-U.S. citizens may vary from the list above. Please check with the Visa Office.
- Express I service: pay an extra fee of USD25 for each
- Express II service: pay an extra fee of USD37 for each
Visa-Free Transit in China Mainland
|Type||24-Hour TWOV||72-Hour TWOV||144-Hour TWOV|
|Eligible Countries||Nearly all countries||53 countries||53 countries|
|Entry Ports||Most Chinese cities||Guilin, Harbin, Changsha||Beijing, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Qinhuangdao, Qingdao, Shanghai, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Jieyang, Shenyang, Dalian, Chengdu, Kunming, Xiamen, Wuhan, Xi'an/Xianyang, Chongqing|
|Means of Transport||By air, cruise, train||By air||By air, cruise, train|
|Areas Allowed to Stay||The transiting area||The transiting city||The transiting city or region|
Hainan 30-Day Visa-Free Stay
From May 1, 2018, ordinary passport holders from 59 countries can have visa-free entry to Hainan if they are received by Hainan-based travel agencies.
They must apply for a visa-free stay at least 72 hours before arrival and enter/exit from Sanya or Haikou by flight with a hotel booking confirmation voucher. They can stay and travel in the whole Hainan Province for up to 30 days without a Chinese visa.
The full list of the qualifying 59 countries are:
Russia, the UK, France, Germany, Norway, Ukraine, Italy, Austria, Finland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary,
Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania,
the US, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Monaco, and Belarus.
Check Hainan’s official tourism website for updated visa-free info and find eligible travel agencies.
Shanghai 15-Day Visa-Free Trip
Since October 1, 2016, the 15-day visa-free policy has been operating for foreign tourist groups entering China from Shanghai by cruise.
Under the 15-day visa-free policy, your group can visit and depart from any port within the designated areas, as long as you remain together on the same cruise ship. The visa-free privilege applies to specific regions, including Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, and provinces such as Liaoning, Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hainan.
During the 15-day period, the group is permitted to explore these areas without the need for a visa.
Read 15-Day Visa-Free Cruise Trip in China for more details.
Recommended China Classic Tours
- 8-Day Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai Tour
- 11-Day Beijing, Xi'an, Guilin, Yangshuo, Shanghai Tour
- 11-Day Beijing, Xi'an, Yangtze River, Shanghai Tour
We can also customize your own trip based on your group size, budget, interests, preferences, and other requirements. Please feel free to contact us, our professional travel advisors will give you recommendations.