As of January 8, 2023, China has begun to relax its immigration procedures, following the reclassification of COVID-19 as a Class B infectious disease and the lifting of central quarantine measures for inbound travelers.
Author: Giulia Interesse
This article first appeared on china-briefing.com, Dezan Shira & Associates
The Chinese government has pledged to gradually restart the issuance of regular visas and residency permits for foreign nationals, as well as tourist visas exemptions for short-term visitors. With the lifting of quarantine restrictions, mainland Chinese citizens are now able to travel abroad for the first time in nearly three years since national borders were closed. China has also announced the revival of pilot outbound tours to select countries. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the resumption of visa issuance is an ongoing process.
According to recent statements made by some Chinese embassies, China has resumed accepting visa applications for most categories. However, visas for tourism and medical treatment purposes are still temporarily suspended. Individuals seeking to apply for a Chinese visa should check with their local Chinese embassy or consulate to determine the availability of the desired visa category.
This article presents the updated guidelines for obtaining a Chinese visa and outlines the unique features and necessary supporting documentation for each visa type.
Which Types of Chinese Visas are Available for Application in 2023?
According to announcements made by most Chinese embassies, the following visa categories are currently open for application:
|2023 Chinese Visa Application Guidelines|
|Visa Type||Applicable Situation||Main Features|
|M||Issued to foreigners who intend to go to China for commercial and trade activities||Invitation Letter issued by the trade partner in China|
|F||Issued to foreigners who are invited to China for non-commercial purposes, such as research, lectures, and cultural exchanges||Invitation Letter issued by a relevant entity or individual in China|
|Z||Issued to foreigners who are taking up a post or employment in China||Valid “Notification Letter of Foreigner’s Work”|
|X1||Issued to those who intend to study in China for more than 180 days||Visa Application for Study in China (original JW201 / JW202 Form) The original Admission Letter issued by a school or other entities in China|
|X2||Issued to those who intend to study in China for less than 180 days||The original Admission Notice issued by a school or other entities in China|
|S1||Issued to those who intend to go to China to visit the foreigners working** or studying*** in China to s, or to those who intend to go to China for other private affairs, and the intended duration of stay in China exceeds 180 days||Invitation Letter issued by foreigners residing in China Photocopy of the personal information page of the inviting individual’s passport and Residence Permit (or photocopy of Z visa / X1 visa application documents) The original proof of kinship between the applicant and the inviting individual (e.g., Marriage Certificate, Birth Certificate etc.) *In case of private affairs, relevant supporting documents shall be provided upon request ** the family member including spouses, parents, sons or daughters under the age of 18 or parents-in-law *** Some embassies only accept S1/S2 visa application of those who have family members who are foreigners working in China, instead of studying in China Invitation Letter issued by the Chinese citizens or permanent residents of China Photocopy of the inviting individual’s Chinese ID card or the personal information page of the foreigner’s passport and photocopy of the Chinese Permanent Residence Permit The original proof of kinship between the applicant and the inviting individual (e.g., Marriage Certificate, Birth Certificate etc.)|
|S2||Issued to those who intend to visit their family members* who are foreigners working** or studying** *in China, or to those who intend to go to China for other private affairs, and the intended duration of the S2 visa is less than 180 days|
|Q1||Issued to family members of Chinese citizens or permanent residents of China who intend to stay in China longer than 180 days|
|Q2||Issued to family members of Chinese citizens or permanent residents of China who intend to visit China temporarily|
|R||The R Visa is issued to high-end talent (refers to Tier A talents under China’s new tiered work permit classification system)||“Confirmation Letter for High-end Foreign Talents”|
|C||Issued to crewmembers on international aviation, sea navigation, and land transportation missions, and their accompanying family members||Guarantee Letter from foreign transport company or the invitation letter issued by the relevant units in China|
|D||Issued to foreigners who plan to live in China permanently (this visa is also known as “the Chinese green card” and is notoriously difficult to acquire)||The original Confirmation Form for Foreigners Permanent Residence Status|
|G||Issued to those who intend to transit through China ||An onward air (train or ship) ticket with confirmed date and seat to the destination country or region |
|J1/J2||Issued to journalist who enters the country for interview and reporting ||Invitation letter issued by domestic inviting unit * Some applications require PU/TE letter|
Additional documentation and information may be required, based on the applicant’s country of origin, the location of visa submission, and the intended destination in China.
Individuals seeking to travel to China who have questions regarding visa processes should reach out to their local Chinese embassy or consulate for personalized guidance, as regulations may differ on a case-by-case basis.
Which individuals are exempt from obtaining a visa to China?
The following categories of foreign nationals are exempt from obtaining a visa to enter China:
- Foreigners covered by reciprocal visa exemption agreements: Certain foreign nationals may enter China visa-free, based on specific bilateral agreements between China and other countries. Please refer to the updated list of visa exemption agreements signed by China for more information.
- Eligible foreigners for the 24-hour visa-free transit: Foreigners who are only transiting through China by air and will not cross the border, and have a valid connecting ticket with confirmed seating on an international aircraft, may enter China visa-free for a stay of no more than 24 hours.
- Foreigners with valid residence permits: Foreign nationals who are studying, working, or resident foreign journalists in China must apply for a residency permit from local public security authorities within 30 days of their arrival. Holders of a valid residency permit can remain in China without the need for a visa.
- APEC business travel cardholders: The APEC Business Travel Card is a valid alternative to a multiple-entry visa valid for three years. Cardholders may enter China more than once during the card’s validity, with each stay limited to a maximum of two months.
- Foreigners with Permanent Residence Certificates in China.
- Foreigners visiting cities with 72/144-hour transit visa-free policy: Some cities allow travelers to visit the province of their arrival or a specific region without a visa for a specified period of time (72 hours or 144 hours). Please refer to our article for a complete list of cities offering this policy and the eligible nationalities of foreign nationals.
Before entering China in 2023, it’s important to take the following steps:
- PCR Testing: All travelers must undergo a PCR test within 48 hours before their flight, and they can only board an aircraft if the test results are negative. The test can be done in either the city of departure or the transfer airport/city if traveling to China via a third country.
- Health Code: The application for a health code is no longer required.
For updated information on China’s COVID-19 prevention and control measures, please refer to our tracker article.
China is moving towards reopening its borders in 2023, as the National Immigration Administration (NIA) has introduced relaxed visa policies for foreigners. The IMF has raised its 2023 growth outlook for China to 5.2% due to the reopening of the country’s economy and the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. Tourism is expected to greatly benefit from these changes, as outbound tourism saw a strong recovery during the 2023 Spring Festival period. Currently, holders of 5-year or 10-year tourist visas are unable to enter China, but this restriction may be lifted soon as a sign of China’s efforts to become more open to the world.
As a professional business services provider, Dezan Shira & Associates is available to offer the support needed to keep you informed of the latest policies and status updates. If you have any requests, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
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